Progressive advocacy groups are calling on Amy McGrath, running to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, to commit to dedicating millions of dollars in unspent campaign cash to defeating the powerful Republican in the general election should she lose the Democratic primary to a surging progressive challenger.
The call from the Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, Working Families Party, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and The Collective came Thursday after new polling from the progressive think tank Data for Progress showed McGrath eight points behind state Rep. Charles Booker in the primary.
The survey of 898 Kentucky voters also found Booker—who is running on a platform including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and universal basic income—performing better than McGrath in a hypothetical general election head-to-head with McConnell. McConnell beat McGrath by 20 points in the poll; his lead against Booker was narrower, at 52% to 38%.
"As the race tightens, McGrath owes her contributors an assurance that she'll use their funds to take on the obstructionist Senate Majority Leader no matter who wins on Tuesday. We hope Amy will do the right thing and take the pledge."
—Joe Dinkin, Working Families Party
McGrath was expected to be the Democratic nominee for much of 2019 after she launched her campaign last July. But since announcing his candidacy in January, Booker has inspired progressives with his message that running from the "soft center that doesn't take any positions" is not the way to defeat McConnell.
"Thousands of our members donated to Amy McGrath early on—not because they love her, but because she was assumed to be the Democratic nominee," said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which endorsed Booker last week.
The group raised $21,000 for McGrath via 2,500 donations the first month of her campaign, and was adamant that its donors contributed to McGrath's campaign for one reason: to defeat McConnell in 2020.
"Donors don't want their money going into a slush fund for McGrath’s future campaigns or to bonuses for losing consultants," said Taylor. "They don't even want their money returned. They want to defeat one of the worst senators in history, Mitch McConnell."
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McGrath currently has $19 million in unspent cash, which she could legally funnel to independent efforts to beat McConnell should she lose the primary on Tuesday.
Instead, said the Working Families Party, McGrath must pledge that the funds will be used by the Democratic nominees against McConnell—whoever that nominee is.
"As the race tightens, McGrath owes her contributors an assurance that she'll use their funds to take on the obstructionist Senate Majority Leader no matter who wins on Tuesday," said Joe Dinkin, the party's campaigns director. "We hope Amy will do the right thing and take the pledge."
The call followed numerous recent endorsements for Booker, both from progressive leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), but also from less expected supporters.
Kentucky's two largest newspapers, the Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader, both endorsed Booker in recent weeks, with the former writing, "Frankly, it's time to shake up the establishment."
Former Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes—"very much a representative of the Kentucky Democratic establishment," as journalist Krystal Ball tweeted—also announced her endorsement of Booker this week.