The biggest races — the Kentucky Senate primary and Rep. Eliot Engel’s bid for survival in New York — were still too close to call.
Rep. Eliot Engel votes with his wife Patricia at a school near their home in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx borough of New York City. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images
It will be at least a week until winners are known in Tuesday’s much-anticipated showdown between the progressive and establishment wings of the Democratic Party.
Voters in five states went to the polls Tuesday for primary elections, with the top races coming in Kentucky and New York.
In Kentucky, Democratic voters were choosing between party favorite Amy McGrath and state Rep. Charles Booker to face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for whom rank-and-file Democrats’ disdain rivals only that for President Donald Trump. But Tuesday night ended without a winner — and with hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots to count next week.
McGrath, who was endorsed by Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, appeared on a glide path to the nomination for most of the past year. But Booker has charged late, driven by endorsements from national progressives like Bernie Sanders and the protests over racial injustice and police misconduct in his hometown of Louisville.
The other major primaries were in New York, where insurgent liberals were challenging nearly every Democratic member of the delegation in and around New York City — two years after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory against a sitting member of Congress. No incumbent was more endangered on Tuesday than 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who ended Tuesday night trailing educator Jamaal Bowman.
Other New York City Democrats facing stiff primary challenges on Tuesday included Reps. Tom Suozzi, Gregory Meeks, Yvette Clarke, Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, with Maloney only slightly ahead of her leading opponent at the end of Tuesday night. Meeks, along with fellow Queens Reps. Grace Meng and Ocasio-Cortez, were declared winners late Tuesday night.
Elections officials in New York aren’t allowed to tabulate the large numbers of absentee ballots until a week after Tuesday’s primary, meaning these races are unlikely to be resolved until then.
In Kentucky, McGrath jumped out to an early, but far-from-safe lead as the small number of initial ballots began to be counted, though Booker appeared competitive even in some of the smaller rural counties outside his base of support. Still, no results have been released in the state’s two largest population centers in Louisville and Lexington.
In a speech to supporters, Booker said that it would take a couple days for the full count, but that they had « already won » because they « defied the odds. »
« I saw something powerful over these last few months, » Booker said. « I saw people getting uncomfortable and taking a stand that had never done it before, and getting involved in the political process that had never done it before. »
McGrath, in a statement from her campaign, said she was grateful for the due diligence to make sure every vote was counted.
« As we wait for results, I hope everyone takes a moment to get a little rest, recharge your battery, and buckle up for what’s next, » she said. « The mission to defeat Mitch McConnell and defend our democracy goes on. »
Booker’s surge came as he created a broad coalition of support: He has endorsements from around two dozen colleagues in the state legislature, plus several other prominent Kentucky Democrats.
A number of progressive organizations made late endorsements after he began to surge in the race, helping boost his fundraising down the stretch. McGrath has little support among the state’s establishment, but she does have the backing of the national party and many senators who view her as best suited to challenge McConnell in the fall.
McGrath, who demonstrated her fundraising prowess during her losing 2018 House bid, has been one of the party’s best fundraisers this cycle, thanks largely to enthusiasm from small-dollar donors eager to topple McConnell. She raised more than $41 million and has outspent McConnell by a significant margin in the race.
But some Democrats were frustrated by her campaign launch last summer — she said she would have supported Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, only to reverse herself later that day — and that has lingered throughout the race. The lack of support from the state’s Democratic leaders left her open to a potential challenge.
Internal polling by McGrath’s campaign has continued to show her leading by a comfortable margin in the closing days of the race. But the state shattered its previous turnout for a primary, and the large-scale use of absentee voting, combined with Booker’s late momentum, has most Democrats acknowledging a sense of uncertainty about a possible upset.
The marquee House race of the night was Engel’s race against Bowman, a middle school principal. Early results staked Bowman to a lead over the incumbent that continued into Wednesday morning.
Senate candidate Amy McGrath speaks to people in Pikeville, Ky., on June 22. | Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP Photo
Bowman nabbed endorsements from Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside help from progressives groups.
Many in his own party viewed Bowman as the slight favorite against Engel, who was first elected in 1988 and had a thin presence in the district as it was grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.
A massive field of Democrats were also vying to capture two open seats held by retiring Reps. José Serrano and Nita Lowey. Progressives largely united around attorney Mondaire Jones for Lowey’s seat in the northern New York City suburbs, who had a sizable lead as of Wednesday morning.
In the race to replace Serrano, Democrats were hoping they can block a victory by Ruben Diaz Sr., a reverend who opposes gay marriage and abortion but whose family has long-running ties to the Bronx. Preliminary results gave the early edge to City Councilman Ritchie Torres.
Elsewhere in the state, Democrats were picking challengers to GOP Reps. John Katko and Lee Zeldin and Republicans were nominating opponents to go up against Democratic Reps. Max Rose, Anthony Brindisi and Antonio Delgado. But these primaries were also left uncalled as of Wednesday morning.
In Virginia, Democrats nominated physician Cameron Webb to face Republican Bob Good for a sprawling district where Good, a staunch social conservative, ousted GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman in a party convention earlier this month.
And in Western North Carolina, GOP voters in former Rep. Mark Meadows’ congressional district picked his replacement. But it wasn’t Lynda Bennet, the woman Meadows, who is now White House chief of staff, endorsed to succeed him.
Instead, 24-year-old Madison Cawthorn, who was paralyzed in a car accident, won a GOP primary runoff. He’ll be the heavy favorite in November, by which time he’ll be 25, old enough to serve in the House.
News – McGrath leading, Engel in trouble after Tuesday’s primaries