Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky last year, will try to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020.
Much to the delight of Democratic groups that have been furiously recruiting McGrath for months, the likely Democratic nominee announced her decision to run Tuesday morning with a video slamming McConnell as someone who has “turned Washington into something we all despise.”
Notorious for rejecting bills passed by the Democratic-led House, McConnell has become the boogeyman for Democratic candidates and groups alike. Democratic presidential candidates cited the Republican leader as the ultimate roadblock on the debate stage last month, while liberal groups prominently feature McConnell in solicitations and attack ads.
McGrath narrowly lost to Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) in 2018 despite outraising the incumbent Republican by more than $3 million. She collected a whopping $8.5 million, 25 percent of which came from contributions of less than $200. The majority of her money, $5.3 million, came from out-of-state donors.
The former marine lost the typically red 6th Congressional District, which went to President Donald Trump by 15 points in 2016, by just 3 points last November. Conservative super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund spent $3.5 million hitting McGrath with negative ads, attacking her as “too liberal” for the Bluegrass State.
With so much Democratic focus on defeating McConnell, McGrath will likely find substantial financial support again in 2020. Ditch Mitch, a PAC solely dedicated to beating the Republican leader that raised $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2019, released a statement Tuesday that it was “all in” on McGrath’s Senate bid. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will likely spend heavily on the race, given that Democratic leaders encouraged McGrath to run.
McConnell will not be strapped for cash either. The Senate majority leader raised $5.3 million during the first quarter of 2019 alone and had nearly $5.6 million on hand at the end of March. He raised more than $21 million when he won reelection in 2014, garnering 56 percent of the vote over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Between 2013 and 2018, 77 percent of McConnell’s fundraising came from out-of-state donors.
The McConnell campaign wasted no time welcoming its likely opponent Tuesday, releasing an ad featuring McGrath’s attacks on Trump, who remains popular in Kentucky after winning 62.5 percent of the vote there in 2016.
McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1985. Kentucky has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992, when former Sen. Wendell Ford won his last term. Still, liberal groups believe McConnell is beatable, citing his 33 percent approval rate in his home state.
Former state Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, a Republican, has also announced that he will challenge McConnell. Two Democrats have filed to run in addition to McGrath, but neither has previously held public office.