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Amy McGrath Talks Food Insecurity, COVID-19, Voting In West Ky. Campaign Stop

Liam Niemeyer

  Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Amy McGrath spoke Saturday about food insecurity, the coronavirus pandemic, and ongoing protests for racial justice in a visit to a Murray food pantry and soup kitchen, three days before an increasingly competitive primary election.


McGrath, a retired fighter pilot and first woman to fly a  F/A-18 fighter jet in combat, spoke with leadership of Soup for the Soul, a faith-based soup kitchen that received $3,000 from McGrath’s campaign earlier this year as a part a series of donations to food pantries to offset food insecurity impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.


"We started to learn that food banks were really getting overwhelmed not only because they were losing a lot of their volunteers because many of them are elderly, but because of the massive need,” McGrath said. “This is an unprecedented time of an economic collapse and at the same time a public health crisis.” 


Soup for the Soul is currently distributing food to families through a summer “Lunch and Literacy” program, and leadership showed McGrath examples of food packages they hand out. Soup for the Soul Board Chair Noraa Ransey said demand for the program has more than doubled this summer to about 250 separate recipients. 


“For someone to take the time and care and donate, no matter who you are, it means a lot to us because we need that it takes everybody to make this happen,” said Ransey, who was named Kentucky Education Association’s Teacher of the Year in May. “My own kids have rode along with me and helped bring food here and looked at it and said ‘wow Mom, is there really this many hungry kids in Calloway County?”


Some of McGrath’s campaign staff were wearing masks at the stop, but McGrath herself was not, even though she was carrying one. McGrath said her campaign wasn’t holding rallies during her campaign’s statewide tour because of coronavirus concerns. One of her primary election rivals, State Rep. Charles Booker (D-Louisville), held a rally in Lexington on Saturday with planned stops in Louisville and northern Kentucky. 


“I think when you’re going to get into an area where you can’t stay within the parameters of socially distancing you should definitely wear a mask,” McGrath said. “Anytime I go out in public where I don’t know the people I’m going to be talking to, I always wear a mask.” 


Booker has recently attacked McGrath in ads labeling her as a “pro-Trump Democrat” based on her past talking points saying that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was standing in President Donald Trump’s way of passing legislation to build infrastructure. Booker has seen a surge of support following his presence at Black Lives Matter protests in Louisville, receiving endorsements from Kentucky’s two largest newspapers, Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones, and prominent state and national Democratic leaders.


McGrath echoed her past comments in Murray, saying she’s neither for or against Trump.


“I’m not ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ any one person. I’m pro-America and pro-Kentucky,” McGrath said. “Don’t you want a senator and a leader who will work with anyone regardless of whether they wear a red jersey or a blue jersey?”


When asked about calls to take down Confederate monuments across the state and in Paducah and Murray, McGrath said she supports these efforts, citing the U.S. Marine Corps banning display of the Confederate flag.


“I was very much in agreement with Gov. [Andy] Beshear when he said ‘Hey, it’s time to take down the statue of Jefferson Davis in our Capitol,” McGrath said. “This is the right thing to do. Many of these statutes are now symbols of division and oppression.”


McGrath said she also supports requiring all law enforcement to wear body cameras, mandating independent investigations into deadly use of force by law enforcement, and banning the use of chokeholds by law enforcement. 


McGrath previously joined a federal lawsuit asking for more polling locations in more populous Kentucky counties for the upcoming primary election given COVID-19 concerns, which was ultimately rejected. Counties including Jefferson and Fayette will only have one polling location on Tuesday.


“We are working on trying to expand voting and make it available to everybody. Voting is a right, and in the middle of a pandemic, we got to make sure people can vote,” McGrath said. “There’s the ability to vote by absentee, but a lot of people don’t know how to get their ballots. And if you don’t have internet, a lot of people don’t know how to log on to get it.”


Her campaign on Saturday also planned to make stops in Cadiz and Bowling Green. See Kentucky Public Radio’s in-depth summary on all candidates in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary race. The primary election is Tuesday, June 23.


"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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