Amy McGrath Takes on ‘Grim Reaper’ McConnell

In what will surely be the biggest Senate race of 2020, Amy McGrath made the announcement on Tuesday morning that she will run against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McGrath is the former Marine fighter pilot who challenged Republican Representative Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th congressional district (R+9) during the 2018 midterm elections, losing by about three points. Her introductory ad this time around goes right to the heart of the matter.

In that video, McGrath uses the letters written by McConnell’s constituents—which he ignored—to highlight some of the issues that will be critical in this election: jobs, health care, and student debt. But then she holds McConnell responsible for turning 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. A place where ideals go to die.” The tag line under her logo at the end of the video reads: “Defeat Mitch. Defend Democracy.”

Putting McConnell in the hot seat and going after his record is something McGrath refused to do against Barr during her previous campaign. Saying that she wanted to win the “right way” meant that she refused to air negative ads, leaving her to play defense against the attacks lobbed at her by Barr and his dark money superPACs.

This time, McGrath is taking on the man who knows no limits when it comes to scurrilous attacks and lying about his opponent. He’s already started with his “welcome to the race” video.

First of all, that’s Lt. Colonel McGrath to you, Mr. Majority Leader. Obviously he thinks that he can scare Kentuckians into voting for him by painting her as some kind of extremist, when she is really a moderate Democrat. Maybe that will work for him in a state where Trump’s net approval rating stands at +15 and everyone who isn’t on board with the president gets tagged as a “socialist.” We’ll see.

But one thing is certain. McGrath has to go on the offensive about McConnell’s record if she’s going to have any chance in this race. As I wrote previously, she’ll have to “make the race a referendum on the man who has consistently put his own power over the interests of the people of Kentucky. That’s not simply about going negative. It’s about telling the truth.” McGrath’s tag line says it all: in order to defend democracy, McConnell must be defeated.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.