The Kentucky primary election will take place Tuesday, and the race for the Democratic nomination for Kentucky senator is beginning to heat up. The race will be closely watched, as the winner will face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell come November.
Right now, there are two candidates who are poised to battle it out for the nomination: former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath and Kentucky Representative Charles Booker. Polls show the two within striking distance of each other, and Booker has picked up a number of major endorsements from figures such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
While both Booker and McGrath would be a large improvement over McConnell, Booker, with his deep connection to Kentucky and its constituents, as well as his progressive platform, is the better choice to face McConnell.
Amy McGrath first ran for office in 2018. She was chosen as the Democratic nominee for Kentucky’s 6th congressional district, but ultimately lost the race to incumbent Rep. Andy Barr. She has marketed herself as a pro-Trump Democrat and rejects policies that have become increasingly popular among Democratic voters, such as Medicare for All.
One particularly disturbing facet of McGrath’s campaign is where her money comes from. Only 3.6% of donations to her campaign come from people residing in Kentucky. One can’t help but look at this figure and wonder if McGrath is truly the candidate that the people of Kentucky should rally behind, given that she is sustained primarily through support from other states.
Booker’s candidacy is an entirely different story. A Louisville native, Booker has deep ties to the state of Kentucky. Unlike McGrath, he has served in office there before. In 2014, he served as director of personnel and administrative services for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, and in 2018 he became a Kentucky state representative. The source of Booker’s donations is also notable, as 46% of them come from in-state donors.
This leads to another one of Booker’s strengths: many high-ranking Democratic officials in Kentucky, such as Rep. Joni Jenkins, the minority leader of Kentucky’s House of Representatives, have lined up behind him.
To many progressives, this may come as a surprise, as more left-leaning candidates are often shunned by establishment Democrats. In this case, however, Booker’s fellow Kentucky representatives, along with other Kentucky Democrats, are choosing to stand with him over McGrath.
This, along with Booker’s more notable support from actual Kentuckians, signifies Booker’s strong ties to his state and ability to sway voters who are not convinced by McGrath or her ideas.
Most important of all, however, is Booker’s platform. One only needs to look at his website, which lists stances on issues such as health care and climate change, to realize that the representative has embraced progressive policies. He is in support of the increasingly popular policy Medicare For All, as well the newer idea of a Universal Basic Income.
He is also a proponent of criminal justice reform, a subject that has received much attention due to the recent nationwide protests against police brutality. Booker supports ideas such as ending cash bail and addressing racial bias in risk assessments, the process by which police determine how much risk they are facing in a given situation.
In the end, both Booker and McGrath are improvements uponMcConnell, and I hope whoever wins the Democratic nomination goes on to defeat him in November. Right now, however, voters are allowed to be picky. As the primary rolls around, Kentucky voters ought to consider which candidate has their best interests at heart.
Booker rejects the presence of corporate money in politics. He has a history of supporting the working people of Kentucky, as evidenced by his support of bipartisan legislation that allows for easier access to insulin in emergency situations. If he wins the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, his legislative record, deep ties to his state and progressive platform will give him the edge he needs to defeat McConnell.
Molly Hayes (she/her) is a junior studying English. She plans to earn a Master of Library Science.