McGrath wins primary, talks unity, Booker questions voting; McConnell says ‘great to have you’

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Former Marine pilot Amy McGrath has overcome a bumpier-than-expected Kentucky primary to win the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.

She fended off progressive Charles Booker to set up a big-spending showdown with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the fall.

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McConnell is seeking a seventh term.

It took a week after voting ended June 23 for McGrath to be declared the winner Tuesday. The outcome seemed a certainty early in the campaign but became tenuous as Booker’s profile surged.

The Black state lawmaker highlighted protests against the deaths of African Americans in encounters with police.

In an acceptance statement, McGrath praised Booker and said the two must unite if Democrats are to unseat McConnel in November.

Meanwhile, in a statement, McConnell, who’d long since been declared the winner in his primary, took shots ad McGrath, setting the stage for what is expected to be a brutal and expensive general election campaign.

“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,” McGrath said, warming up the campaign themes she’s been using all spring.

“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,” McGrath said of Booker.

?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,” she said of fellow Democrat Mike Broihier, a progressive who finished third in the 10-person field.

“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,” McGrath stated.

McConnell’s statement was briefer.

“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.  Amy, it’s great to have you,” he said in a statement released by Senate Committee press secretary Kate Cooksey.

The state Republican Party sounded a similar ote, playig off the names that are buzz words for Republican faithful.

“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.”

Meanwhile, in a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon, Booker promised to fight to unseat McConnell, but he also questioned some of the voting process.

Booker issued the following 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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Erica joins the ABC 36 family as a Co-Anchor of Good Morning Kentucky weekday mornings from 5am-7am with Cody Adams and Good Day Kentucky weekday mornings from 9am to 10am. Erica also anchors News at Midday from 12-12:30pm. She is also a Web and Social Media Content Producer. Erica graduated in three and a half years from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and specialization in Women, Gender and Social Justice. Although she hails from Michigan, Erica has worked as a News Reporter/Sports Anchor for the CBS-affiliate in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to that, she worked for a PBS-affiliate there covering all types of news – even providing live reports for The Weather Channel during her first hurricane. She then moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana and worked as the Weekend Anchor/Reporter at KPLC, the NBC/FOX/CW affiliate. Erica comes to Lexington from the Huntington area where she worked at WSAZ, an NBC/CW affiliate in West Virginia, as a weekday evening anchor covering the tri states of Ohio and Kentucky as well. In addition to her background on TV, Erica has worked in radio, served as the PA announcer for the Class A "Lansing Lugnuts" and hosted Carnival parades in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some of her favorite hobbies include running, reading, hiking, spending time with her husband and taking pictures of their furbabies. Erica is big on community involvement, having served as a board member for Dress for Success, volunteered as a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters, worked on the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission in Lake Charles and hosted countless events. She hopes you can connect with her on Facebook: EricaBivensTV and on Twitter: @ericabivens or Instagram: erica.bivens. You can also email her at ebivens@wtvq.com. Please send all event inquiries via email. Erica is excited to explore Lexington and the outdoors and - of course - meet all of you!