AOC’s blowout win, last-minute voting in Kentucky and other key takeaways from Tuesday’s primary

WASHINGTON – Once again, coronavirus proved that elections during a pandemic are not business as usual.

Over the past several months, voters have faced long lines and fewer in-person polling locations due to safety protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic and a related decrease in the number of people willing to work the polls. Even in Kentucky, where bipartisan changes were made in an attempt to expand access to the polls, there were still issues.

In Louisville, Kentucky, some voters were stuck waiting to park their cars outside the Kentucky Exposition Center, causing them to miss the deadline to get in line when polls closed at 6 p.m. The center was the only site open in Louisville and Jefferson County due to changes made because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Videos showed voters locked outside the center, some running to the doors or pounding on the glass windows in hopes of being let in. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker secured a court order that opened the doors and extended the poll hours to 6:30 p.m. And waits of over an hour had been reported earlier in the day in Lexington.

Kentucky is one of several states that have expanded access to absentee voting, and officials expected a record turnout of over 1 million people voting in the primary. Full results will likely not be released until June 30, Secretary of State Michael Adams said, according to the Louisville Courier Journal

People wait to vote at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

That meant the winner in of key race, the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, was not expected Tuesday night. Amy McGrath, who has the backing of Democratic Party establishment, and Booker, who recently gained national attention for protesting after the death of Breonna Taylor and has been endorsed by key progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, are in a tight race to be the candidate who will go on to face Sen. Mitch McConnell in November.

Here are other key takeaways from Tuesday’s primary:

Ocasio-Cortez holds her seat against primary challengers

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a blowout win in her district’s Democratic primary.

Ocasio-Cortez warded off three Democratic primary challengers in New York’s 14th Congressional District. The freshman lawmaker noted on social media Tuesday evening that her surprise upset in 2018 was not a “fluke.”

Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist, shocked political pundits after defeating 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley during the 2018 midterms. 

“Our win was treated as an aberration, or (because) my opponent ‘didn’t try,’” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet. “So from the start, tonight’s race was important to me. Tonight we are proving that the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It‘s a mandate.”

Republican newcomer wins N.C. runoff election for Mark Meadows’ seat

Newcomer Madison Cawthorn bested Republican Lynda Bennett, who was endorsed by Trump, in a runoff election to fill former Rep. Mark Meadows’ House seat. 

Trump wrote in a tweet in June that Bennett “ is strong on Crime, Borders, Military, our Great Vets & 2A. She will be a great help to me in DC.” Despite that endorsement, Cawthorn, 24, won roughly two-thirds of the vote.

“I do not believe this election has been a referendum on the president’s influence,” Cawthorn wrote in a statement on election night. “The people of western North Carolina are wise and discerning. You observed both candidates and simply made the choice you believed is best for our district.”

Meadows was appointed White House Chief of Staff earlier this year.

In this June 28, 2013, file photo, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., attends a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Kentucky’s Massie declared winner after testy primary

Rep. Thomas Massie was declared the winner of the Republican primary in Kentucky 4th Congressional District Tuesday evening.

The victory comes after President Donald Trump called for Massie’s removal from the Republican Party after the congressman’s efforts to fight a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Massie faced one primary challenger, Todd McMurtry. This was the first time Massie had to face a primary challenger since his first congressional campaign eight years ago. Massie is vying for a fifth term.

Although the full results will likely not be in until next week, Massie claimed 88% of the early and unofficial vote, according to election data, which included just in-person votes cast Tuesday. McMurtry also conceded Tuesday evening, writing on Twitter: “I congratulate Thomas Massie on a strong race and wish him success in the November election.  I want to thank everyone who supported me. I am eternally grateful to everyone who helped me with this journey.”

New York incumbents try to hold on to seats against progressive challengers

Rep. Eliot Engel is facing tough competition New York’s 16th Congressional District from challenger Jamaal Bowman, who has gained national attention over the past several weeks. Bowman, who is backed by progressives like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, was leading the 16-term congressman in early returns by roughly 25 points. But a winner had not yet been declared as of early Wednesday. 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney is locked in an even tighter race with challenger Suraj Patel in New York’s 12th Congressional District Democratic primary. It is a rematch of the 2018 midterm election, where Patel won more than 40 percent of the vote.

Maloney, 74, is in her 14th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Patel, 36, released a statement Tuesday evening declaring an early victory, though no official winner declared. The candidates were nearly tied with about 80% of the vote counted Wednesday morning.

Contributing: William Cummings, USA TODAY; Morgan Watkins, Matt Mencarini and Ben Tobin, Louisville Courier Journal; Paul Moon, Asheville Citizen Times; Julia Fair and Ian McKenzie, Cincinnati Enquirer.

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