Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democrat and former fighter pilot who lost a House race last year, said Tuesday she’s running for Senate against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in what could be one of 2020’s most expensive races.
“Everything that’s wrong with Washington had to start someplace,” she said in a video launching her campaign.
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“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 health care and the Supreme Court are held hostage,” she said of McConnell.
McGrath is a major recruit for Democrats, but she faces a serious uphill challenge against the Kentucky Republican, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has been the Republican leader since 2007.
McConnell won his last race in 2014 by nearly 16 percentage points, and President Donald Trump carried Kentucky by nearly 30 points in 2016. But Democrats hope McGrath, who pulled in more than $8 million for her House race in 2018 and has a proven online fundraising base, will be able to raise the money and has a profile that will make her competitive against McConnell. GOP Rep. Andy Barr defeated McGrath last year, 51 percent to 48 percent, in a district Trump won by 15 percentage points in 2016.
McGrath acknowledged in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that McConnell is “formidable,” and Kentucky is “a very pro-Trump state.” But she said her message would be that “the things that Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done. He’s not able to get it done because of Sen. McConnell.”
She also immediately tried to separate herself from the 2020 Democratic presidential field, calling herself a “moderate” and saying she thought many of the presidential candidates were “pulling a little too far to the left” during the presidential debates.
McConnell’s team was ready to push back against McGrath’s launch, with a website and a video featuring quotes from McGrath during her run for Congress, including her calling herself “more progressive than anybody in the state of Kentucky” and criticizing Trump’s border wall with Mexico as “stupid.”