Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the United States Senate and chief legislative ally, is up for re-election in 2020. The Democratic Party’s contender will inevitably face off against McConnell to help determine who controls the United States Senate after this forthcoming national election, but first they have to finalize their pick in a competitive progressive primary that’s already seen a major twist. A few months ago, Democratic establishment candidate Amy McGarth was largely seen as the likely winner of the Democratic primary in the state, but progressive outsider Charles Booker has since defied the odds and is mounting a serious campaign that’s turned this into a highly competitive contest. 

In the vast majority of primary races, few candidates manage to dazzle voters and upset early polls. Outside of the most engaged voters, few pay much attention to primary races at all. In Kentucky, however, progressive candidate Charles Booker has mounted an incredibly popular campaign that’s capitalized on the progressive fury at Kentucky’s incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell using great marketing tactics borrowed from YEAH! Local. He appears to have gained a lead on Amy McGarth, the pick of the Democratic Party establishment that was enjoying a large lead in the early days of the primary. 

The murder of George Floyd, a middle-aged African American man, at the hands of the police ignited nationwide protests that saw the tearing down of Confederate statues across the country. This public furor has upset the narrative of many electoral contests around the country, including the general election, and has allowed progressive candidates to make their case like never before to a general audience. Charles Booker was dismissed by many in the establishment as far too radical in the early days of the race, but his clever campaigning and savvy fundraising efforts allowed him to close the ad-spending gap between him and McGarth, which appears to be paying off tremendously. 

Booker’s campaign invested wisely. While businesses invest in their human capital, political campaigns invest in their staffers and issue-driven ad messaging that turns out core voters. Polls right before the election showed Booker surging past McGraw in a fashion that indicates he’s likely the frontrunner as people begin to cast their ballots. The results aren’t in yet at time of press, but it appears that a major progressive upset could end up reshaping the narrative of the race for Kentucky’s senate seat during November’s general election.