The Note: Progressive challengers rewrite rules for new political era

Elections testing emerging politics of COVID-19 and race could bring upsets.

June 23, 2020, 5:58 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Tuesday’s long-delayed series of primaries matter not at all in the presidential race that many progressives once hoped would be dominated by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or a person of color.

But something of a disappointing political year for the left could still make its share of stars. The first contests to fully test the emerging politics of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement could bring some of the biggest upsets of the cycle, with establishment favorites and even a few incumbents in real danger of losing.

New York features a range of fascinating and complicated races that could defeat House Democrats who represent districts that were ravaged by the coronavirus and rocked by protests against police brutality. House Foreign Relations Chairman Eliot Engel is atop of the list of possible Joe Crowleys, with Jamaal Bowman as his potential Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

PHOTO: Voting stations are set up for the primary election at the Kentucky Exposition Center, June 22, 2020, in Louisville, Ky.
Voting stations are set up for the primary election at the Kentucky Exposition Center, June 22, 2020, in Louisville, Ky.
Piper Blackburn/AP

And in Kentucky, 35-year-old Charles Booker -- the state’s youngest Black lawmaker -- has seen the racial justice movement provide late campaign momentum in the primary to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Our story is being made in real time,” Booker told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce on Monday. “And by just standing up and shining our light, we're helping to put the whole country on alert.”

The favorite in that race has long been Amy McGrath -- a 45-year-old former Marine fighter pilot and mother of three, who just two years ago was billed as the face of a new generation of leaders. She could be the first candidate in a decade to lose a primary despite the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The big races at stake on Tuesday look vastly different than they would have if the primaries took place before the COVID-19 outbreak or absent the police-involved killings that have galvanized action. The challengers may not all win, but the candidates are rewriting the rules for what could be a new era in politics.

There’s another way Tuesday’s contests could portend the political future: There’s almost no way the most competitive races will be settled on primary day itself.

Officials in both Kentucky and New York said that the influx of mail-in votes will mean results will likely take at least a week -- if not more -- to be finalized. The same is possible -- if not likely -- in November.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

President Donald Trump heads to Arizona on Tuesday for another campaign event though he and his team are still managing the fallout from their rather disastrous rally over the weekend.

Although cases in Arizona are spiking, Trump said Monday that he is not worried about potentially putting the lives of Americans at risk by holding more of these indoor events.

More, he can’t seem to agree with his team about whether his astounding and almost maniacal statement Saturday -- about asking his team to slow testing -- was a joke or not.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla.
Evan Vucci/AP

The idea that Trump could have been, at best, disinterested in the extent of the virus and, at worst, sabotaging efforts to help patients and families during this time is all tough a pill to swallow.

Even his own military has yet to lift most travel restrictions for men and women in uniform.

Now as Americans from Florida to California grapple with new COVID-19 cases, it is once again as apparent as ever how necessary wide-scale rapid testing will be to reopen businesses, jump-start summer travel and help families feel safe.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

LeBron James is already casting it as "SYSTEMIC RACISM" AND "OPPRESSION." But on the ground in Kentucky, state and local leaders are telling a different story about Tuesday's election. Yes, there will be a total of 170 polling sites open on election day, a fraction of the nearly 3,700 in a non-pandemic year. And yes, long lines are expected.

But a minimum of one polling place was required in each of the state's 120 counties -- part of new guidelines set by an independent and bipartisan state board of elections, after the commonwealth's Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state, together, outlined new bipartisan rules to recalibrate the election that included an expansion of mail-in voting and reduced in-person voting.

PHOTO: The Kentucky Expo Center which is the polling site for Jefferson County, Ky.
The Kentucky Expo Center which is the polling site for Jefferson County, Ky.
Jefferson County Clerk's office

The decision to only have one polling site in Jefferson County -- which covers Louisville and where there are a total of more than 616,000 registered voters and about one in five residents are African American -- came from county officials as a response to the coronavirus and shortages of poll workers. And the move was even criticized by Secretary of State Michael Adams who said it "seems insufficient to me." But the single polling location in Jefferson County, like other larger counties in the state will be housed inside an expo center that is the size of four indoor football fields.

The new efforts to adjust don't remove the scars of a history of disenfranchisement, at least to Booker, the progressive Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. He told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce on Monday, "So many folks in Kentucky have been disenfranchised. And I know we're dealing with COVID-19. I know the governor, secretary of state, the state board are trying to do the best they can but having one polling location in Jefferson County, with hundreds of thousands of people, it's just gonna naturally disenfranchise folks." But he added, "We're gonna be ready to fight back."


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Tuesday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman, who tells us how state officials are responding as COVID-19 continues to trend in the wrong direction in many areas. Then, Maya Jones, from our partners at ESPN, brings us the latest in the investigation into the noose found in the garage of NASCAR’s only black full-time driver. And, ABC News’ Alex Stone tells us why Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone could soon become a thing of the past.

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast. The Democratic primaries in New York and Kentucky are shaping up to be a clash between the progressive and establishment parts of the Democratic Party. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the most notable contests ahead of Tuesday’s vote. They also look at the latest trends in the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and ask whether the numerous accusations of corruption against President Donald Trump are shaping how voters or Republican lawmakers view him.


  • Kentucky holds its presidential and down-ballot primaries from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • New York holds its presidential and down-ballot primaries from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Virginia holds down-ballot primaries for Senate and House races from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.
  • North Carolina holds its Republican primary runoff in the 11th Congressional District from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • South Carolina holds run-off primaries for state House and state Senate races from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Mississippi holds a run-off race for the 2nd Congressional District from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.
  • President Donald Trump travels to Yuma, Arizona, and participates in a roundtable briefing on border security at the U.S. Border Patrol Yuma Station at 11:20 a.m. MST, the president will then visit the site of a new border wall at 12:35 p.m. at San Luis, Arizona, before traveling to Phoenix to visit the Dream City Church to deliver an address at 3:40 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden will attend a virtual grassroots Biden for President finance event with President Barack Obama.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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