Mitch McConnell Wins Kentucky Senate Seat for 7th Time


Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader known for his take-no-prisoners tactics, was elected to a seventh term Tuesday, defeating Amy McGrath, a Democrat who struggled to gain ground despite an outpouring of financial support from her party’s supporters around the nation.

Mr. McConnell campaigned back home on how he had used his position as one of the most powerful figures in Washington to deliver benefits for Kentucky — a consistent theme over his decades in the Senate — and portrayed Ms. McGrath as too liberal and inexperienced for the conservative state.

“I give Kentucky the opportunity to punch above its weight and bring home big wins we would not otherwise get if we had a rookie senator,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement in the closing days of his campaign, noting that he had “steered” more than $17 billion to Kentucky projects since his last election.

His victory, as called by The Associated Press, came as Mr. McConnell fought to keep the title of majority leader, which has been under threat as Democrats push to claim control of the Senate in competitive races around the country.

Because of his fierce resistance to Democratic priorities since the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell had become a leading target of Democratic wrath, amplified anew in recent days as he pushed through the Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett just a week before the election. It followed his decision to block President Barack Obama from putting Judge Merrick B. Garland on the court months before the election in 2016, when he said voters should decide who filled the vacancy.

Ms. McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot, assailed Mr. McConnell for focusing on exerting his power in Washington, arguing that it came at the expense of taking care of Kentuckians, and for failing to deliver a pandemic relief package before Congress left for the election.

Despite raising more than $80 million, Ms. McGrath, who lost a House election bid in 2018, trailed Mr. McConnell in polls throughout the race. Some Democrats said they believed that Charles Booker, an African-American state legislator from Louisville who lost the primary to Ms. McGrath, would have made a stronger challenger, but defeating the majority leader in a year with President Trump on the ballot was always going to be difficult.

Mr. McConnell, 78, is second only to Mr. Trump as a nemesis to Democrats. Some regard him as worse than the president, since his management of the Senate has been crucial to blocking Democratic priorities for years, and then helping Mr. Trump achieve his goals, particularly installing more than 200 new federal judges, including three on the Supreme Court.

With Washington in a period of legislative gridlock, Mr. McConnell decided to emphasize confirming conservative judges since it could be done without any votes from the Democratic minority under a series of partisan Senate rules changes since 2013. The assembly-line effort succeeded beyond Mr. McConnell’s expectations when he was able to put Justice Barrett on the court. Democrats have promised to seek retribution and potentially expand the Supreme Court should they win control of the Senate.

Democrats have bested Senate Republicans in fund-raising this election, alarming some Republicans, who now say they want to take another look at fund-raising laws. Those lawmakers do not include Mr. McConnell, a longtime opponent of campaign finance restrictions, who noted he had more than one million individual donors this year. He said Republicans needed to replicate Democrats’ success.

As he tried to hold off Ms. McGrath, Mr. McConnell reminded voters that his defeat and a loss of the Senate majority would be detrimental to Kentucky.

“If elected, my opponent’s first vote would transfer the majority leader job from Kentucky to New York, putting Kentucky and our needs at the back of the line behind East Coast liberals,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader.

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