The first woman to fly an F-18 fighter jet in combat says she’ll run as a Democrat for the central Kentucky Congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr.
Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath flew 89 combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, worked as a congressional aide and taught classes at the U.S. Naval Academy before moving back to her native Kentucky this summer.
She released a video on Tuesday calling out Barr for his support of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“He’s Mitch McConnell’s handpicked Congressman who said he would vote ‘enthusiastically’ to take health care away from over a quarter million Kentuckians,” McGrath said in the announcement. “Some are telling me a Democrat can’t win that battle in Kentucky, that we can’t take back our country for my kids and yours. We’ll see about that.”
McGrath, a native of Kenton County, retired from her 20-year career in the Marine Corps in June and moved to Georgetown. She joins state Sen. Reggie Thomas of Lexington and Geoff Young in the race to be the Democratic nominee for the seat in 2018.
Barr has navigated through a series of contentious town halls this year in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election and Republican efforts to repeal parts of Obamacare.
Previous attempts to unseat Barr have fizzled — last year Democratic challenger Nancy Jo Kemper only got 39 percent of the vote compared to Barr’s 61 percent.
Barr was first elected to the 6th District seat in 2012 when he unseated incumbent then-Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler.
A request for comment from Barr wasn’t immediately returned.
McGrath’s candidacy is emblematic of Democrats’ efforts to recruit veterans ahead of the 2018 Congressional elections.
The ad was created by Mark Putnam, who worked on former President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
On her website, McGrath said as a child she wrote letters to members of Congress, seeking to overturn the policy prohibiting women from serving in combat roles.
She said she never received a reply from Sen. Mitch McConnell but did receive one from Colorado Rep. Patricia Schroeder, who said, “The object of a war is to win. We should, therefore, field the best-qualified military possible…I think that it is time for military service to be based on qualifications, not gender.”
(This story has been updated)