With 10 percent of the vote in by Wednesday morning, McGrath led Booker, 44 percent to 39.6 percent, a margin of slightly over 2,000 votes. But that tally includes only votes cast in person at the polls on Tuesday; none of the substantial number of mail-in ballots that could determine the outcome have been counted and will not be for days.
In New York, longtime Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel was in a tough fight for re-election as he tried to fend off an aggressive primary challenge from Jamaal Bowman, a progressive candidate running in his first political campaign. The race was too early to call, according to the Associated Press, Bowman had roughly 61 percent of the counted vote as of 1:00 a.m. ET Wednesday, while Engel was in second with about 36 percent.
With a huge increase in mail-in voting that slows counting, the possibly week-long lag in determining Tuesday’s primary results could be a preview of what the nation faces in the presidential contest on Nov. 3 when the outcome may not be known on election night.
New York didn’t release any mail ballots Tuesday, which could account for more than half the vote. Counties have until July 1 to start releasing the results of the mail ballots.
In a neighboring congressional district to Engel’s, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her primary, virtually guaranteeing her victory in November, while Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.. held a slight edge of less than 1,000 votes over challenger Suraj Patel in a rematch of their race two years ago.
And Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, won his primaries Tuesday in New York and Kentucky. Biden has now collected 2,380 delegates compared with Sanders 1,063, according to the NBC News delegate tracker.
In Kentucky, Democratic enthusiasm for McGrath was high when she entered the race last year, and she raised $2.5 million in her first 24 hours. The fervor cooled when she said in an interview with The Courier-Journal of Louisville that “I probably would have voted” to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who’s widely loathed by Democrats. She later tweeted that “upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.”
McGrath continued her fundraising prowess, and as of June 3 she had raised over $41 million, according to the most recent filings. She had to dip into that money for ads to fight off a late surge from Booker, who supports “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal and universal basic income and campaigned against inequality and racial injustice.
Booker, who entered the race only in January, joined protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Louisville woman who was shot dead in her apartment on March 13 by police executing a “no-knock” warrant, and netted endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ocasio-Cortez, among others.
He also made an issue of McGrath’s failure to protest — leading her to air an ad decrying the death of George Floyd. Booker noted that she didn’t mention Taylor in the ad.
McGrath was backed by several establishment Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “I believe that she’ll give McConnell a run for his money,” Schumer said last week.
In New York, Bowman’s battle with Engel in the 16th District is being compared to Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset over longtime Rep. Joe Crowley in the 14th District in 2018.
Bowman’s bid was helped by Engel, who found himself on the defensive after he was caught on a hot mic this month pleading to speak at a news event involving unrest and vandalism in his district after George Floyd’s death.
“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was heard telling Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Bowman over her congressional colleague this month.
Engel, who has represented the 16th since 1989, was backed by former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In Virginia, Republicans have picked Daniel Gade to be their nominee and face off against incumbent Mark Warner for a Senate seat later this year. Gade won a low-key primary Tuesday against two other opponents. Gade raised by far the most money and has the highest profile of the three.