Kentucky’s 2020 Senate race will be one of the most closely watched in the nation because of who currently holds the seat: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been in office since 1985.
McConnell has become a boogeyman for Democrats across the country since he became the high-profile leader of the Senate in 2015, a position that has allowed him to block one of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court, assist President Donald Trump in stacking the federal courts with judges and push for a variety of conservative priorities.
Democrats running to unseat McConnell hope outrage will reawaken progressive voters in the state, who haven’t sent a Democrat to represent them in the Senate since 1992.
According to a recent poll, McConnell does have a low approval rating among likely Kentucky voters, but he did in 2014 as well when he defeated Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes by about 15 percentage points.
This year, Democratic voters have 10 candidates to choose from when they mail in their ballots or head to the polls on June 23. Here they are:
Jimmy Ausbrooks (withdrawn)
Ausbrooks is a mental health counselor and LGBTQ advocate from Franklin. Though he will still appear on the ballot, he suspended his campaign and endorsed Mike Broihier.
Charles Booker is a first-term state representative from Louisville, a lawyer and a former administrator in the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Booker has recently been thrust into prominence after taking the stage during protests over police violence and racism in his hometown over the past weeks. Locally, he has been endorsed by statewide progressive group Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and several Democratic members of the state legislature, including House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins.
He has advocated for progressive policies like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, universal basic income and criminal justice reform.
He’s also been endorsed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and during a police violence protest in Louisville appeared with NBA player D’Angelo Russell and Louisville rapper Jack Harlow.
Last year, Booker spoke out against Republican Rep. Randy Bridges, who yelled at him to “sit down” during a debate on the House Floor.
Broihier (pronounced BROY-er) is a farmer from Lincoln County and retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in Japan, Korea, Somalia and Afghanistan.
After retiring from the Marines in 2005, he bought a farm outside of Stanford and began raising asparagus, livestock and substitute teaching during winter months. He also worked as an editor and reporter for The Interior Journal, a local weekly newspaper.
Broihier supports progressive policies like the Green New Deal, legalizing marijuana, single-payer health care, gun control and universal basic income. He has also called for repealing the 2017 federal tax bill.
Broihier was endorsed by entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, partly for his support of universal basic income, a hallmark of Yang’s campaign. He’s also been endorsed by former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.
He also was endorsed by several local chapters of Indivisible Kentucky, a progressive group.
Maggie Jo Hilliard
Hilliard is an attorney and artist from Louisville. On her website, she says that her campaign is pushing to highlight the need for health care, education, environmental cleanup, jobs, infrastructure improvements, education, workers’ rights, internet access, universal suffrage, online voting, sensible gun laws, criminal justice reforms and equality for discriminated people.
Maynard is from Georgetown. He will appear on the ballot, but has not been actively campaigning.
McGrath is a retired Marine fighter pilot who lives in Georgetown. She was the first woman to fly a combat mission in the Marine Corps and the first to pilot an F/A 18 fighter jet into combat.
After a 20 year career in the Marines, McGrath moved back to Kentucky and ran for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional district in 2018. She was defeated by incumbent Republican Andy Barr by about 3 percentage points.
McGrath has accused McConnell of undermining the Affordable Care Act and has pushed for citizens to have a “public option” — a publicly-run insurance plan. She’s called for more expansive background checks on gun sales and says that Congress need to reassume its role authorizing military actions.
McGrath has received considerable national support for her Senate run. She was actively recruited by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York to run and, as of the last reporting deadline, had raised nearly $30 million, outpacing McConnell.
McGrath has drawn criticism from some Democrats for her bumpy rollout, in which she said she would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, and then reversed her position. She has also made statements accusing McConnell of getting in the way of President Trump’s agenda.
Rothmuller is a Louisville resident who characterizes himself as a “passionate American Progressive.” On his campaign website, he says he will stand up to the pharmaceutical industry, heath industry lobbyists, gas and oil, Wall Street and big banks.
Sharpensteen is a maintenance technician from Hart County.
Bennie J. Smith
Smith is a truck driver and Louisville resident who has worked for and volunteered on several Democratic political campaigns over the years. Smith advocates for raising the minimum wage, making health care affordable, legalizing marijuana and gun safety laws like universal background checks.
Mary Ann Tobin
Tobin is a co-owner of the Broadmoor Gardens Conservancy and Wildlife Sanctuary in Meade County. She served as state auditor from 1984 to 1988 and in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1976 to 1984. Tobin says she wants to “bring back the power of state government,” bring more attention to rural parts of the state, protect wildlife, help farmers and agriculture.