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McGrath, Owensby Win Democratic Primaries for Senate, Congress

Amy McGrath will represent the Democratic Party in its seventh attempt to defeat Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who first won the office in 1984.

McGrath received the most votes in Tuesday's primary, pushing back a late surge from State Rep. Charles Booker (D-Louisville) who appeared to garner a larger number of votes from those cast ballots in person last week.

But as Kentucky's mail-in votes were counted, McGrath pulled ahead and secured the nomination.

With most of the state's votes counted, after seven days of waiting, McGrath secured 45.4 percent to Booker's 42.6.

"I'm humbled that KY Democrats have nominated me to take on Mitch McConnell in November, and I can't wait to get started to send him into retirement. Thank you to this team. Without you, we wouldn’t be getting ready to give Mitch the fight of his political life," McGrath tweeted on Tuesday.

McGrath also thanked Booker and Mike Broihier, whose campaign finished a distant third on Tuesday.

"Thank you to every candidate who stepped up to run in this race. Like so many, I am inspired by the powerful movement Charles Booker built to fight systemic racism and injustice and rightfully demand long-overdue action and accountability from our government & institutions," McGrath said on Twitter. "I commend Mike Broihier, who has served his community & country in so many ways & was dedicated to representing every Kentuckian. I am proud to have been in this race with these candidates. I look forward to seeking their help, guidance and advice for the fight ahead of us."

Booker, in his concession statement, did not congratulate McGrath. 

“I want to be clear: this isn’t about me and Amy. I accept the results of this election, and concede this race," Booker said in a statement. 

Booker's late surge was largely credited to his grassroots organizational efforts and his vocal support for the protests around Kentucky and the nation in response to police violence against Black people. McGrath had a large fundraising advantage and was relegated to a tight primary that just a couple months ago looked to be hers to win easily.

"We’ve proven you don’t have to pretend to be a Republican to run as a Democrat in Kentucky, and that people want big, bold solutions to the enormous crises our state is facing," Booker said in a statement. 

Broihier endorsed McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who grew up in Edgewood. 

The Kentucky Democratic Party released a statement following Booker's concession.

"I want to congratulate Lt. Col. Amy McGrath on her victory today. Kentucky voters have made themselves clear, they are fired up to defeat Senator McConnell this fall -- as evident by our record turnout in this primary -- and believe Amy McGrath will send Mitch McConnell home in November," Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Ben Self said in the statement. "Lt. Col. McGrath has consistently outraised McConnell for several cycles and is statistically tied in nearly every poll that has been released. Kentucky Democrats are ready to defeat Mitch in November."

"I want to thank all the Democrats who ran for U.S. Senate in this primary. We had a diverse field, full of candidates who brought a lot to the table. I hope all of them remain engaged and continue to play a role in leading our great Commonwealth. "

The state Republican Party gloated over McConnell's easy renomination when compared to the close Democratic race.

“Chuck Schumer’s hand-picked candidate Amy McGrath, who has called herself further to the left than anyone else in Kentucky, spent tens of millions of dollars to barely win a brutal and divisive Democrat Party primary,” Republican Party of Kentucky Executive Director Sarah Van Wallaghen said. “Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, Senator McConnell, and Congressmen Hal Rogers, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie, James Comer and Andy Barr all received overwhelming support. Kentucky Republicans are excited and unified behind our state and federal candidates – and committed to working towards another round of historic victories this November.”

While Booker won big in Jefferson County (Louisville), his comparatively small margin of victory in Fayette (Lexington) was not enough to overcome McGrath's victory in most other counties, including Northern Kentucky. She won Kenton (56 - 36), Boone (59 - 33), and Campbell (55 - 37).

The Democrats in Northern Kentucky also selected Alexandra Owensby to take on Republican Congressman Thomas Massie, whose GOP challenger, local attorney Todd McMurtry, conceded the race after the in-person totals were released last week, showing him way behind.

Owensby, a nurse practitioner from Fort Thomas, defeated Shannon Fabert, in the Democratic primary, 58 to 42 percent. Owensby carried every county in the Fourth Congressional District, which includes Northern Kentucky, and stretches from the Jefferson County suburbs in the west to Ashland in the east.

“As the first numbers came in last week I was honored to become the presumptive nominee, and now I’m proud to take presumptive off that title, and begin working for the general election," Owensby said in a statement. "Getting a voice for the 4th won’t be easy, but we’ve proven countless times that we’re a viable candidate. I’m proud that
our campaign won every single county for the primary, and in some cases, we got even more votes than our Republican opponents. Democrats outvoted the Republicans totals in Boyd, Harrison, Bracken, Gallatin, Trimble, and we’re just getting started.

"The people of Kentucky’s 4th District are ready to reject extremism, and ready to elect a real representative.”

Massie, who was first elected in 2012 after serving as Lewis County judge/executive, received 81 percent of the vote to McMurtry's 19 percent. Massie had come under fire from President Donald Trump who called for him to be expelled from the GOP for what Trump viewed as holding up coronavirus relief legislation. The campaign between Massie and McMurtry often centered around who loved Trump more. 

Massie also carried every county in the district.

Owensby noted that she is the first woman to be nominated by either party to run in the district's Congressional races.

Kentucky's primary election day was moved from May to June 23, and offered voters the chance to have more access to absentee and mail-in ballots, due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

More than one million votes were cast, the bulk from mail-in ballots, for the first time in a primary in the state's history.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher