Mitch McConnell has been in the Senate since 1985, but this is the first year he will be running for reelection while holding the title of majority leader — the powerful position that allows him to set the agenda of the Senate but also makes him a lightning rod for opposition.
McConnell has drawn seven challengers in this year’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat he currently holds. And while none of the challengers have mounted very well-funded or publicized campaigns, the crowded field shows that there is more interest than ever in the outcome of this year’s race.
Candidates from both parties running to unseat McConnell have tried to paint him as an enabler of everything they think is wrong in Washington.
C. Wesley Morgan, a former state representative from Richmond, called McConnell a political opportunist on the Hey Kentucky! show in Lexington.
“Whichever way the wind is blowing is which way he goes,” Morgan said. “Mitch was totally anti-Donald Trump up until Trump wins.”
Polls show McConnell as one of the most unpopular senators in the U.S. among his constituents and with a low approval rating among likely Kentucky voters. But McConnell’s popularity was underwater in 2014 as well when he defeated Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes by about 15 percentage points.
Plus, McConnell has used his political savvy to build a Republican Party in Kentucky that hasn’t lost a Senate race since 1992 and has for the most part dominated statewide and legislative races in recent years.
Here are the eight Republicans vying for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat.
Alsager is from Campbellsville and previously ran as a Democrat for Taylor County jailer in 2018, 2014 and 2010.
Wendell K. Crow (withdrawn)
Crow withdrew from the race, but his name will still appear on the primary ballot.
Paul John Frangedakis
Frangedakis is a chiropractor from Lexington. On his website, he says he wants to improve health care in the state by increasing competition among insurance companies. He is in favor of term limits and against “right to work” laws. He is very active on his Facebook page.
Grider is a truck driver, Navy veteran and businessman from Elizabethtown. He previously ran for Hardin County Sheriff in 2018 and 2014.
On his website, Grider says he is against abortion and sanctuary cities, but supports medical marijuana and equal rights for LGBTQ people.
James is a physician and city councilman from Stanford in Lincoln County. He was awarded Kentucky’s Citizen Doctor of the Year in 2017 and is currently a member of the Kentucky Medical Association Board of Trustees. He previously ran for mayor of Stanford in 2010. In a Lincoln County Interior Journal profile, James said he wants to combat the opioid epidemic, improve race relations in the U.S. and fight for religious liberty.
Lowndes is from Wilder. He has not actively campaigned.
McConnell was first elected in 1985, making him the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history. He has led the Republican Party in the Senate since 2006, initially working as minority leader until 2014 when his party won control of the chamber and he became majority leader.
McConnell has used his position leading the Senate to confirm a record number of federal judges — including two of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court — nominated by President Donald Trump. During the previous administration, he used his position to block judicial nominations, including that of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
McConnell has also led the charge against the Affordable Care Act, calling for it to be repealed “root and branch,” and has tamped down efforts in Congress to enact gun control laws or mitigate climate change.
Throughout his career, McConnell fought against stricter campaign finance laws and was a key supporter of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.
C. Wesley Morgan
Morgan is a liquor store owner from Richmond. He is a former state representative and criminal investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Morgan made headlines in 2017 for drawing attention to sexual harassment allegations brought against former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and three other Republican lawmakers. He also was criticized for proposing bills that would benefit liquor store owners.
On his website, Morgan says he wants to secure the country’s borders, put a 10 year moratorium on all immigration to the U.S., abolish the IRS and require drug screening for welfare recipients.