Amy McGrath wins Kentucky U.S. Senate nomination, Charles Booker concedes

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — Polls for the Democratic Senate race have flipped back and forth between progressive candidate Charles Booker and former marine pilot Amy McGrath.

When unofficial numbers started coming in the highly-watched race seemed neck-and-neck.

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McGrath won a lot of smaller counties but Booker won the state’s two largest counties, Jefferson and Fayette.

Analysts wondered if his late surge in popularity would hurt him with so many people voting absentee this year.

He did do well based on in-person voting but as absentee results came in it wasn’t enough to put him on top.

So the big showdown in the fall will be between McGrath and long-time incumbent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in his bid for a seventh term.

McConnell’s campaign released this statement:

“Extreme Amy McGrath is lucky to have gotten out of the primary with a victory, but her reputation sustained significant damage all across Kentucky. McGrath is just another tool of the Washington Democratic establishment who has no idea what matters most to Kentuckians. It’s clear this self-proclaimed most liberal person in Kentucky who supports government-run health care and abortion even in the ninth month does not represent Kentucky values.”

McGrath also sent a statement about her victory.

“I’m humbled that Kentucky Democrats have nominated me to take on Mitch McConnell in the general election and can’t wait to get started in sending him into retirement and finally draining the toxic Washington political swamp that he built.

I want to congratulate Charles Booker for his very impressive result, and also to Mike Broihier for stepping into this arena and making his passionate voice and ideas heard. I am proud to have competed against these men and, undoubtedly, doing so made me a better candidate. I hope I can rely on them for their help, guidance and advice for the fight ahead of us.

There is no doubt that Charles tapped into and amplified the energy and anger of so many who are fed-up with the status quo and are rightfully demanding long overdue action and accountability from our government and institutions. Sadly, our system is broken. We need to elect people who will have the courage to meaningfully tackle the socio-economic, legal and educational inequities that continue to prevent true equality in our country.

And I commend Mike, who has served his country and his commonwealth in so many ways—as a Marine, a farmer, a teacher and a candidate who was dedicated to representing each and 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 bigger fight ahead of us.

While each of our experiences are unique, as a woman in the military, I had to repeatedly fight the establishment during my 20-year career. No one needs to convince me of the urgency to address the issues of equal pay and equal justice, affordable health care for all, real action on voting rights, and ending the corrosive grip that corporate special interests have on our federal government.

But there can be no removal of Mitch McConnell without unity. We must unify our Democratic family to make that happen, including those who didn’t vote for me in the primary, and I intend, immediately, to start the dialogue necessary to bring us all together in our common cause for the general election. There is far too much at stake. The differences that separate Democrats are nothing compared to the chasm that exists between us and the politics and actions of Mitch McConnell. He’s destroyed our institutions for far too long.

A year after showing the country that Kentucky won’t hesitate to replace an incompetent and unpopular incumbent Republican like Matt Bevin, let’s do it one more time.” – Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath.

Charles Booker has conceded the race. He issued this statement:

“As a poor black kid growing up in the West End of Louisville, I spent a lot of my life feeling alone and invisible. I don’t feel alone anymore. Our movement, with faith much larger than a mustard seed, went up against $40 million and the entire Washington establishment, and I think it’s safe to say we shocked the world. From the hood to the holler, we stood our ground, and went toe to toe against the big donors, pundits, and DC politicians saying it wasn’t possible to run the kind of campaign I’ve always believed Kentucky deserves.

“We’ve proven Kentuckians are hungry for a new kind of leadership, one that puts working people and their struggles before corporate special interests and the corrupt politicians who serve them. 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, whether that’s structural racism and inequity, generational poverty, climate change, or a health care system that leaves millions uninsured and uncovered. Our campaign caught fire because we did the impossible: we spoke the truth in Western Kentucky, locked arms in Eastern Kentucky, rallied for Black lives across the Commonwealth, and talked with coal miners about a Green New Deal. We stood up for teachers and labor. We inspired Kentuckians in the forgotten places to believe their voices matter, and to get involved in the political process. We fought for Medicare For All because health care is a human right, and we talked about true public safety because Breonna Taylor didn’t deserve to be killed in her own home. The tear gas burned, but we didn’t sit down; we showed the country what Kentucky is made of.

“We went from being down 50 points in the polls to falling just short of a tie. While I’m disappointed, I’m so proud of us, and I’m still hopeful. Hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians left behind by Mitch McConnell came together to demand a better future, and a better government. We’re not going anywhere, and we’ll have more news on the future of our movement in the coming days.

“While we commend Gov. Beshear and state leaders for quickly pulling together a voting system that protects public health and ballot access amidst unprecedented circumstances, I want to acknowledge that our campaign has heard from voters across the state who had trouble making their voices heard, and their votes counted. Too many Kentuckians still can’t check the status of their mail-in ballot online, and others have no idea if their ballot is among the thousands that were cancelled by election officials because of missing signatures, missing flaps, or improper sealing. We’ve explored legal remedies to those problems, and they don’t exist under current law.

“I want to be clear: this isn’t about me and Amy. I accept the results of this election, and concede this race. But we will push in the coming days to ensure transparency and accountability in our state’s electoral system, because it is essential that every single Kentuckian has faith in our democracy as we go forward.

“Lastly, let me say this: don’t ever let someone tell you what’s impossible. Don’t ever give up on your dreams for a brighter future. No matter where you are from, what color your skin is, how much money you have, who you love, what pronoun you use, whether you walk or use a wheelchair, or what you believeyou matter. You deserve a government that accounts for your humanity. From this moment on, let’s take the frustration we feel and commit to fighting for change like never before. Let’s dedicate to the work of beating Mitch, so that we can get him out of the way. Yes, I would love to be your nominee, but know I’m still by your side. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Kentucky, I love you. From the hood to the holler.”

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Christy Bollinger joined the ABC 36 news team as a reporter in March 2018. Christy comes from a little western Kentucky town called Cadiz. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in May 2017 with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Criminology. Christy is thrilled to be working at her dream job in her home state. She is passionate about storytelling and you can see her weekdays on ABC 36 News at 5 and 6 p.m. She's covered everything from visits from the sitting president and vice president, to high-profile murder cases. When not chasing stories, Christy loves nothing more than being at the beach and says life is just better with sand between your toes and waves crashing at your feet. She is also a big animal lover. She's a fur momma and her mini-Australian Shepherd, Milly, standard Australian Shepherd, Bennie, and her Maine Coon, Cheeto, are the loves of her life. Christy encourages you to send her any story ideas you may have. Find her on Facebook at Christy Bollinger ABC 36, tweet her @ChristyB_news, or email her at CBollinger@wtvq.com.