The majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, defeated Democrat Amy McGrath and won re-election in Kentucky.
The Associated Press called the race for McConnell on Tuesday at 20:01 ET – a victory that puts him in the upper chamber for the seventh consecutive time. The state also chose President Donald Trump, just moments after the polls closed.
“The people of Kentucky had a clear choice and they sent a clear message: Tonight Kentuckians said that challenging times need proven leadership,” McConnell said in an election night speech.
He added, “Tonight Kentucky said we will keep our front row seat in the Senate.
McConnell fought off competition from McGrath, a former fighter pilot who raised nearly $90 million in donations in her candidacy against him. She was one of the Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, but the funds were still not sufficient to dethrone McConnell. McGrath spent more than $73 million on the race, while McConnell spent almost $44 million.
First polls showed a close race between the two. A survey of prospective voters, conducted shortly after McGrath announced their campaign in August 2019, revealed that they were only one point behind McConnell.
But McGrath was slightly tarnished by an unexpectedly competitive Democratic primary. McGrath was long considered a sure winner, but at the last minute she was forced to fend off a serious wave of state legislator Charles Booker. In the end she won the primary by only three points.
McGrath then made several changes in her campaign, including the appointment of a new campaign manager and the redirection of her efforts to travel across the state to meet with leaders and voters. Nevertheless, the polls continued to widen, and just weeks before the election, she dropped 10 points in a Cygnal poll of prospective voters.
McConnell spent much of the campaign claiming that McGrath was too liberal for Kentuckians. During the first debate, the Republican claimed that McGrath would fill the Supreme Court with more judges and add new states to the union if elected.
“In short, there is not the slightest difference between my opponent and all the national Democrats you have observed. If you give them control of the government, they will do just that,” McConnell said.
In a tense exchange of views later in the debate, McConnell highlighted his top job at the head of the Senate as an asset to Kentuckians and fired back at McGrath’s attacks on his legislative acts.
“I think her entire campaign is: She’s a Marine, she’s a mom, and I’ve been in it too long,” McConnell said.