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McGrath Talks Coronavirus Relief, Confederate Monuments In First West KY Visit Since Primary Win

Dalton York

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee and retired Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath made her first visit Friday to west Kentucky since winning the right to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in last month’s primary election. 

McGrath made a public visit to the Seamen’s Church Institute, a ministry located in Paducah. She spoke with Rev. Kempton Baldridge, a former Marine and the ministry’s senior river chaplain. McGrath toured the building with Baldridge before offering her vision for western Kentucky. 

McGrath said she is staying informed on developments in negotiations for a new round of coronavirus relief under consideration by Congress. She said McConnell has failed to lead since the beginning of the pandemic.

“From the very beginning, you’ve got a senator here who has the highest levels of intelligence briefings of any member of Congress and when was the first time he even told us about this pandemic that could be? I’ll tell you when, it’s when the stock market crashed,” McGrath said. 

McGrath said McConnell’s focus is on Wall Street and corporate donors, while she said he should be focused on public health and national security. 

“As your senator, I will prioritize us, our public health, the needs of our people, not the donors in Wall Street, the stock market, and big business and corporations,” McGrath said. 

McGrath said the multi-trillion-dollar CARES Act passed by Congress earlier this year provided too much relief to large corporations and millionaires. She said the next package should include relief for local governments, public services and school districts.

“There’s a billion dollars sitting on his [McConnell’s] desk for Kentucky schools right now,” McGrath said. “We’re all talking about sending our kids back to school, and where are the resources to help them?”

After a closer-than-expected primary with State Representative Charles Booker of Louisville, McGrath used part of her Paducah visit to call for unity within the Democratic Party. Booker surged after taking a visible role in the protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, the Black woman killed in March by Louisville Metro Police Department officers serving a “no-knock” search warrant. McGrath said she appreciated the spirited primary with Booker, and said she is listening to the desires of former Booker supporters as she begins the general election campaign. 

“People came out in amazing numbers to vote in the primary. People came out in amazing numbers to vote in this primary. You know that tells me? People are fired up. They want their voices heard. They are tired of Mitch McConnell and they want change,” she explained. 

The Louisville demonstrations are part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement, with protesters across the world calling for action to reduce the racial disparities in the United States. The Trump Administration is deploying federal agents to American cities including Portland, Oregon with alleged instances of violent protesting. McGrath said the federal government is mismanaging the executive branch’s response to the BLM protests. 

“What’s happening in Portland is peaceful protesting,” McGrath said. “Unfortunately, we have federal agents being sent in that are, from what I can tell, tear-gassing peaceful protestors. The problem here is that the local communities, the local police forces, the state police forces did not ask for federal help here.”

McGrath called the deployments “un-American.” She also said she does not condone any destruction of property or violence in the demonstrations. She said local police departments are best equipped to handle any crime resulting from the protests. 

A by-product of the national discussion on race has been calls for the removal of monuments to the leaders and institutions of the Confederacy. The issue is contentious in western Kentucky, where a statue of Robert E. Lee on the grounds of the Calloway County courthouse garnered statewide attention after a Murray State University assistant football coach initially called for its removal last month. The Calloway County Fiscal Court recently passed a resolution to keep the statue in place. McGrath said she supports locals deciding the fate of monuments located in their respective communities.

“I think local communities need to make the decision on their own,” McGrath explained. “If they want to take something down, then do it the right way: run for city council and get people on your side and then you go through the procedures to do that.”

Despite her calls to leave removal decisions to individual communities, she praised Governor Andy Beshear for his decision to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis from the rotunda of the state Capitol in Frankfort. 

McGrath said she supports efforts to rename U.S. military installations named after Confederate leaders. 

“We have eight bases in this country that are named for Confederate generals. In my mind, we should be changing those. And that is something I would do as a senator,” she said.

McGrath said she wants members of the Armed Forces to be proud of the bases on which they serve. She encouraged federal policymakers to consider renaming bases in honor of Black service members including Kentucky native Charles Young.

McGrath made other stops in Paducah Friday to visit with local leaders and community members. She said she plans to return to western Kentucky throughout the course of the campaign.

McConnell and McGrath will appear on the ballot to serve as Kentucky’s U.S. senator in the election on Tuesday, November 3.

Dalton York is a Morning Edition host and reporter for WKYU in Bowling Green. He is a graduate of Murray State University, where he majored in History with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. While attending Murray State, he worked as a student reporter at WKMS. A native of Marshall County, he is a proud product of his tight-knit community.
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