A fighter pilot and a $100m battle: Inside the campaign to unseat Trump’s ‘Enabler-in-Chief’
Democrats rely on Amy McGrath to take Mitch McConnell (Getty Images) off the field
Amy McGrath says it the way she sees it.
As someone who served in the military, she likes to have a plan. And she doesn't think that Mitch McConnell, the six-year-old Senator from Kentucky and perhaps the most powerful Republican in the nation, has a plan to do anything other than help the wealthy donors who have supported him over the years.
"It's not about red or blue, conservative or liberal or left to right or anything like that. Let's have a plan to get our country going again," she says.
“And I always say to people when they say, 'Hey, Amy, I just want to get back to normal.' Normality killed us over 200,000 Americans in nine months. Normal took us to 25 million Americans on the streets demonstrated and demanded racial justice and said: Hey, things are not right and they have not been right for a long time. We have to change. That made us normal. We can't go back to that - we have to do better. "
She adds, “And does anyone think Washington DC can change if we don't change the people we send there? That's what this is about. All of this happened on his watch - 36 years. "
Kentucky is known for many things - for its bourbon and horse races, a history of sitting on the threshold of the north-south divide, and - despite very affluent neighborhoods in cities like Louisville and Lexington - poor results in terms of education and inequality. For markers like unemployment and opioid addiction, the score is way too high.
This year, it will be remembered for something else too - the most expensive Senate race in a long time. By election day, the two sides will have raised and spent more than $ 100 million, with most of that money coming from outside the state.
Ms. McGrath is currently following her opponent in double digits. Andrew Buncombe
Democrats have not had a seat in the Kentucky Senate for more than two decades, and six of the seven congressional districts are Republicans. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton here 62-32.
Still, Democrats have held the governor's mansion several times. Current Governor Andy Beshear, who was elected last year, is a Democrat, as is his father, former Governor Steve Beshear, and in Mrs. McGrath some Democrats believe they have their best chance in 40 years, that of Mr. McConnell To win place for powerful Republican leaders in the Senate. If she won, she would be the first female senator from a party that represents the state.
"He's got a real fight this time," said Brenda Abell, 69, a retired postal worker who was at Bardstown Country Club, the venue for one of several events Ms. McGrath hosted this week. “She is a real fighter. And that's the person we need. "
Ms. McGrath's résumé is certainly impressive. She is the mother of three children and their husband is a Republican. She is a former U.S. Marine fighter pilot and the first woman to fly a combat mission for the Corps. She joined politics with an offer for the 7th Congressional District of Kentucky, trying to oust Republican incumbent Andy Barr. Competition between the two was tight in November 2018, and Mr Barr held between 51 and 48.
Ms. McGrath, 45, entered this year's Democratic primary to pick a challenger to Mr. McConnell as the clear front runner, backed by Senator Chuck Schumer, the oldest Democrat in the Senate.
As it was, it faced a tough challenge from a progressive African American lawmaker, Charles Booker, backed by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. At one point during the campaign, Mr. Booker, who started Hood to the Holler to link various coalitions of workers, accused Ms. McGrath of flip-flops.
"I don't really know what position Amy McGrath is in because she goes back and forth on everything based on what advisors seem to be saying," he told Politico. "I know Kentuckians can smell BS from afar."
Mr. Booker has since endorsed Ms. McGrath, albeit in a barbed statement.
“While Amy has the urgent challenge of responding to people's cries and opposing big monetary interests, I know that voting for Amy McGrath gives us the very real chance of pushing for greater accountability in a Senate that is no longer closed by Mitch, "he said.
The reason for all the big money pouring into Kentucky from established Democrats is simple: there may be no one more despised among Democrats than 78-year-old McConnell, who is called Trump's enabler-in-chief.
While there is much disgust for Mr Trump among Democrats, many think that Mr McConnell has broken down the traditions and constitutional duties of the Senate to make things easy for the president. His obstructionism during the last two years of Barack Obama is fondly remembered, as is the way he refused to consider Democratic Supreme Court candidate Merrick Garland in an election year, but now he rushes to appoint Amy Coney Barrett
"I think, in a way, that Mitch McConnell could be ahead of Donald Trump [just because he's not liked] just because Donald Trump doesn't understand how the government works and Mitch McConnell," said Christina Greer, professor of political science at New University of York Fordham University.
Few Republicans cause more disgust among Democrats than McConnellAFP of Getty Images
“So Trump's behavior is unpredictable and selfish. Mitch McConnell is deliberate and very calculated because he has a fundamental understanding of how Congress works and what it is doing to the American people. "
Yet the Democrats' dislike of their opponent will be enough for Ms. McGrath, who will need all the help she can get. Despite all of her obvious strengths as a candidate, the latest Quinnipiac University poll put her 12 points behind Mr McConnell 53-41, indicating that his lead has grown rather than closed.
Ms. McGrath's job is made more difficult by the fact that Mr. Trump is still popular in Kentucky, much more so than Mr. McConnell. While the two men may not like each other, Mr. McConnell is more than happy to ride the president's coat tails
That was the fine line Mrs. McGrath must walk in order to get the votes of people who could support the president. She often stressed that she would work with him on issues involving Kentuckians.
During the speech at the golf club, she even got a laugh when she said Mr. McConnell's health plan was so bad, "even Donald Trump called it mean".
At the same time, she doesn't slowly criticize the president when she thinks he has done something wrong. When asked by The Independent about how it would fix Mr Trump's damage critics, he said he had influenced the nation's image internationally: "I would name all allies, allies I have fought with in places like Afghanistan. And I would fix the damage that was done. We have not treated our allies well. And I'm not sure we fully understand the implications of this. "
All in all, it remains an uphill battle, and Democrats who try to switch seats to regain control of the Senate could find better luck in places like Maine and Arizona.
"You know, it's just hard for them," said Dewey Clayton, a professor of political science at the University of Louisville.
“One thing that a lot of competitors against McConnell haven't had over the years is that it has been well funded. Every time McConnell has an ad, one follows her. And usually McConnell has an advantage because he has more money. "
Ms. McGrath discussed the fight on her hands with a military veteran who was among the two dozen masked and socially distant voters she saw at the golf club. The 86-year-old Don Moore also served with the Marines and in Vietnam at the time of the Tet Offensive of 1968, a major escalation of the war.
Mrs. McGrath bumped Mr. Moore on the elbows and thanked him for his service. At the golf club and later at a speech to teachers and educators that evening in Lexington, she presented her plan to close the gap between her and her opponent.
“For me it's always about country over party. It's always about getting things done. I think that's the only way we can move forward here in Kentucky, ”she said.
“But you have to ascend and do all you can for the next 28 days. Make phone calls, do text banking. Get on social media and duke it out. Whatever you like to do. Have these conversations with your in-laws before Thanksgiving. "
She added, “Because this is so important, do something every day for the next 28 days. This choice is the most important choice in our life. "
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