How Did Charles Booker Do On Tuesday and Can He Clinch The Win?

Well, last night was pretty amazing. Not only did we notch victories in New York with Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman, we are in great positions to win many of the down ballot elections there as well. It means that our momentum is strong and that even in a 2020 election cycle that hasn’t been particularly kind to progressives, we can still win.

Now that we have those races secured, the last major question mark of June 23rd is Charles Booker. After attempts to suppress the vote by cutting polling stations, election officials pushed further yesterday. They locked the doors at the single Jefferson County voting precinct, though eventually some people were let back in. However, a judge denied Booker’s attempt to keep polls open until 9pm.

The AP currently has the race at 43.9% McGrath, 37.6% Booker. But that’s with caveats. All of the results we have are only from ballots that were cast yesterday. No mail in ballots have been counted yet. On top of that, we only have about 60% of the ballots cast yesterday. In other words, even our partial information is partial. With that in mind, the analysis I am doing is only based on limited results. However, what we have probably does reflect general patterns and approximately how the mail-in ballots will go. It’s far from perfect, but this is the only data we have to figure out if Booker is in a good position and what needs to happen for him to win.

What We Know So Far

Overall, it was a good night for Booker. He split counties across Kentucky with McGrath. The harsh regionalism of the 2019 Governor’s race isn’t as present in this election, though it still exists to a degree. Let’s take a look at how Booker and McGrath fared across Kentucky.

Northern Kentucky

Booker won yesterday’s vote in Kenton County, where the plurality of North Kentucky’s vote comes from. But he slipped in Boone and Campbell counties, places where Beshear did well. If those mail-in ballots redeem Booker’s margin, I wouldn’t be surprised but it’s not a great start in the Golden Triangle. Thankfully, the news is better in Fayette County and the surrounding areas.

Lexington-Fayette Area

Booker dominated Fayette County. Something to keep in mind here: this is a smaller fraction of Fayette than you might suspect. Of all the counties to come in so far, Fayette makes up the 8th largest vote share. That will not hold when mail-ins come in. Fayette is the second most populous county and will constitute the second largest share of the vote in this race. Fayette made up 9.3% of the vote in the 2019 Governor’s race; it’s currently only making up 3.2% of half the vote that’s been cast. That means Booker has a lot of votes still to come in there, a great sign moving forward.

Warren County and West Kentucky University

Warren County came in strong for Booker. I outlined in my first article that Warren County was a must-win. His campaign ran an effective field campaign here with the help of students at Western Kentucky University. Booker’s popularity with young voters probably played a big role in his blow out wins in Lexington (University of Kentucky) and Warren County.

Southeast Kentucky

Pike and Letcher counties still haven’t come in but Southeast Kentucky has been kind to Booker. Adkins dominated these counties and I expected McGrath to rack up big margins here. Floyd is the second largest county in the southeast, behind Pike which hasn’t come in yet. The fact that Booker is pulling even is good. My only question is whether the mail-in ballots will be as kind in the southeast. If Booker can hold the margin here, I’d call that a great performance. Also, this is the heart of Coal County; a Green New Deal can work everywhere and voters know it.

The Battleground of Western Kentucky

So far, in counties that have reported that are west of Louisville, Booker came out on top 12 times and McGrath 17 times. Daviess County broke hard for McGrath, as well as the counties that surround it. Booker won McCracken and several smaller counties in the southwest. The remainder of this battle between McGrath and Booker could help decide the final margin depending on how close things get.

What We Don’t Know

The data we have right now is limited and could be misleading. We need to see mail-in ballots and we will on Tuesday. However, we can still grade the performance so far given what we know.

With both Jefferson and Franklin County to report, we’re missing 27.2% of the vote from 2019. Both those places should heavily favor Booker and if they were to drop right now, I have no doubt Booker would take the lead. The real question is whether he can continue to hold his own in some of these rural counties that have yet to come in, as well as the remainder of the Golden Triangle. These are the largest counties outside of Jefferson and Franklin that we’re missing from each major area:

Pike (East Kentucky): 1.5% of the vote in 2019

Woodford (Golden Triangle): 1.1% of the vote in 2019

Christian (West Kentucky): 0.7% of the vote in 2019

If we had results from these counties, we’d be closer to understanding how Booker did. Even then, Jefferson dwarfs every other county in the state significantly; that is an excellent sign for Booker. A political reporter in Kentucky tweeted that Booker’s own internal poll had him at 82–16 with McGrath in Jefferson. Numbers like that would generate the result Booker needs to have won the vote from yesterday. Given that we have no results from Jefferson, I’d say Booker is in a great position moving forward. The question will be whether the turnout from mail-in ballots can match the result from yesterday and give Booker the win.



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I analyze and project congressional and senate races with progressives in them.