Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been in office since 1985. For Amy McGrath, it's been long enough.
“Well, 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 dysfunction and chaos are political weapons, where budgets and healthcare and the Supreme Court are held hostage,” she said of McConnell, who has been the Republicans' leader in the Senate since 2007.
McGrath, the nation's first female Marine to fly an F-18 fighter jet in combat, rose to prominence after a video announcing her candidacy for U.S. Representative in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District went viral in the summer of 2017. Although she won the district's highly competitive primary, she fell short in her bid to unseat Rep. Andy Barr in the 2018 midterm election.
I’m running to replace Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate. Everything that’s wrong with Washington had to start somewhere—it started with him. With your help, we can defeat Mitch and defend democracy. Join us: https://t.co/c4b0WAp4ji pic.twitter.com/DNLjFkHGua— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) July 9, 2019
Beating McConnell looks to be an uphill battle for McGrath: Besides being one of the most high-profile Republicans in the nation, he won his seat in the 2014 midterm election by 16 percentage points. Two years later, President Donald Trump won Kentucky by nearly 30 points. Still, Democrats believe McGrath is up for the challenge and can be competitive. She raised more than $8 million for her House race. And while Barr ended up defeating her, it was only by a 3% margin in a district Trump won by 15 percentage points in 2016.
One of the reasons McGrath was able to nearly beat Barr was because she understood the needs of her district and is running on a more moderate platform than Democrats in other parts of the country. In an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday, McGrath distanced herself from the positions some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have taken on issues such as Medicare for All. She said that after watching the first presidential primary debate, she was concerned that the crop of presidential hopefuls might be proposing solutions that are too far to the left.
McGrath recognizes the obstacles ahead, calling McConnell a "formidable" opponent during the interview. But she added that Kentuckians might see through McConnell's obstructive tactics in the Senate. "The things that Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done," McGrath said. "He's not able to get it done because of Mitch McConnell."
Democrats, many of whom have long hated McConnell — the self-described "grim reaper" of progressive policies — praised McGrath for throwing her hat into the ring. Both "Go Amy" and #DitchMitch were trending on Twitter on Tuesday. Even some of the presidential candidates joined in: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the first to endorse McGrath. Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted, "@AmyMcGrathKY is a real fighter for working families in Kentucky and across the country. She inspired us in 2018, and now she’s running for the U.S. Senate. Go Amy!"