In the Democratic primary in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, former fighter pilot Amy McGrath defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray while running up strong numbers in the district’s rural areas. Gray, initially cajoled into the contest by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, conceded the race around 8 pm on Tuesday night. .
Initially, Gray’s entry into the primary contest drew the ire of McGrath and her campaign. They viewed it as a slight for a candidate who had already created a viral ad and began raising serious money. And according to McGrath’s own campaign, he held at least a 40-point lead against her when he entered the race.
The DCCC did not add either of the candidates to its coveted “Red to Blue” which provides additional resources for Democrats seeking to flip Republican-held seats. And one aide on the committee informed The Daily Beast that they viewed either candidate as being in a strong position to take on incumbent Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY).
When the race was over, DCCC chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said “Amy has built a formidable campaign, and voters across the district have responded to her message of leadership and standing up for affordable health care. With her inspiring record of service and all of the momentum at her back, there is no question that Amy McGrath is ready to flip this key district.”
Gray, for his part, acknowledged in an interview with The Daily Beast last week that this was going to be a difficult race. “Nobody is entitled to this nomination,” he said. “We have to earn it.”
His campaign’s last minute decision to air an ad McGrath viewed as negative on Friday evening may not have helped his case either. It used her service in the Marine Corps to paint McGrath as somewhat of a carpetbagger and drew a condemnation from the campaign.
McGrath outraised Gray throughout the primary cycle and earned the support of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). His group raised over $130,000 for her and sent out over 44,000 get-out-the-vote texts on her behalf just this weekend, according to a source directly familiar.
“I think Amy is a fantastic leader and that’s what makes her a great candidate,” Moulton said in an interview on Tuesday night. “She’s someone who has the courage to stand up to the political establishment.”
Voters also went to the polls in Georgia, Texas and Arkansas on Tuesday night to select congressional and gubernatorial candidates.
In one of the nation’s most watched contests, Stacey Abrams, a former state house leader, easily won Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Abrams made history as the first African-American woman selected by a major party to be a gubernatorial nominee.
Earning the support of a wide swath of national Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen Kamala Harris (D-CA), Abrams has promised to a run a campaign focused on animating the state’s progressives.
“Team Abrams just won our primary election, and this victory belongs to you,” she said in a Facebook post. “Everyone who believed that a little Black girl who sometimes had to go without lights or running water – who grew up to become the first woman to lead in the Georgia General Assembly – could become the first woman gubernatorial nominee from either party in Georgia's history.”
The general election will be closely watched as Democrats attempt to make gains throughout the country, specifically in southern states with changing demographics. In 2016, President Trump only won Georgia by less than six points.
“This historic victory is a model for candidates all across the country for how to engage and excite black voters - her campaign prioritized grassroots community outreach and engagement in communities of color, talking to tens of thousands of voters about the issues at stake,” Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, an instrumental group in recent Democratic victories in Virginia and Alabama, said in a statement. “Stacey’s success underscores the importance of investing in early and sustained outreach to Black voters as well as the critical role that grassroots community organizations, who do this work every single day of the year, play in key elections.”
Democrats were also paying close attention to Texas, where there were three runoffs between candidates in districts the party is hoping to flip in November in districts with Republican incumbents but that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. In the state’s 23rd Congressional District, former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones won her race against Rick Treviño. Added to the DCCC’s Red to Blue program, Jones will face off against Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) in November, who has been a prime target for Democrats after narrowly winning his last two elections.
In Texas’ 32nd Congressional District, Colin Allred, a civil rights attorney and former NFL player advanced against Lillian Salerno, a former Obama administration appointee. Allred, also backed by the DCCC will face incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX).
Finally, in Texas’ 7th Congressional District, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston attorney was poised to easily defeat Laura Moser, a progressive activist and former journalist. Fletcher will face Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), allowing national Democrats to breathe a sigh of relief. They had perceived Moser as a liability in the race and released opposition research on her in an effort to derail her campaign. In ended up helping her raise money and advance to the runoff but Moser was not able to defeat Fletcher on Tuesday night.