McGrath comes out firing in battle for McConnell’s seat

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -- Retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath announced Tuesday she will challenge Mitch McConnell’s U.S. Senate re-election bid, becoming the first Democrat to announce for the race.

The 44-year-old McGrath made her announcement during an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday morning, while her campaign released a YouTube video of her explaining why she is entering the race.

This is the second political contest for McGrath, who lost to incumbent Republican Andy Barr in the 2018 Sixth District Congressional race by a 51-48 percent margin, with Barr receiving a last-minute boost from a visit to Richmond, Ky., by President Donald Trump in the waning days of the campaign.

In her campaign video, McGrath begins by telling the story of when she was 13, she wrote a letter to McConnell telling him she had a dream to fly fighter jets in combat, and asked the then first-term senator to overturn the Combat Exclusion Law, which kept women out of combat.

“He never wrote back,” she said. “I’ve often wondered how many other people Mitch McConnell never took the time to write back, or even think about.”

Everything that’s wrong in Washington had to start someplace, McGrath states in the video. ”It started with this man who was elected a lifetime ago, and who has, bit by bit, year by year, turned Washington into something we all despise; where chaos and dysfunction are political weapons; where budget, healthcare and the Supreme Court are held hostage; a place where ideals go to die.”

She concluded by saying, “There is a path to resetting our moral compass, where each of us is heard and we can become, once again, the moral and economic leader of a world in disarray. But to do that, we have to win this.”

Shortly after McGrath’s announcement, Team Mitch, the Twitter account supporting McConnell’s re-election bid, said “Welcome to the Race,” and posted a video with snippets of comments from McGrath such as: “I am further left, I am more progressive than anybody in the state of Kentucky,” “I think the wall is stupid,” and “Yes, I would support a move toward universal healthcare.”

The McGrath campaign also released a poll showing her starting in a strong position. Mark Ayoub of Change Research said:

“Change Research conducted a poll of 1,629 likely 2020 voters in Kentucky from June 15-16 and found that retired Marine Amy McGrath is already essentially tied with Senator Mitch McConnell in a hypothetical 2020 general election Senate matchup, despite half of Kentucky voters not even having an opinion of her yet. If the election were held today, 47% would vote for McConnell compared to 45% for McGrath, a deficit well within the margin of error.”

Ayoub added, “Senator McConnell is extremely unpopular in Kentucky, with 22% viewing him favorably and 61% viewing him unfavorably. Even among Republicans, roughly as many view him favorably (40%) as unfavorably (39%). This stands in stark contrast to other prominent Republicans like President Trump, who is overall well-liked in Kentucky (58% favorable, 40% unfavorable) and nearly universally beloved among Republicans (92% favorable, 4% unfavorable).

“Voters in Kentucky are more than ready to re-elect President Trump to a second term in similar numbers as 2016, but Kentucky Republicans clearly believe that President Trump is succeeding in spite of Senator McConnell, rather than because of Senator McConnell.”

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