Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, former Marine fighter pilot, Amy McGrath says her message of putting country above political party sets her apart from other candidates who have tried, and failed, to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McGrath stopped in Paducah on Monday as part of a campaign tour across the region. Matt Markgraf sat down with McGrath outside a local coffee shop to talk about her positions on big issues and how she believes she can beat McConnell in 2020.
During the 2016 elections, Amy McGrath and her husband decided there needed to be better leaders in the country and not 10 or 20 years from now, but today. She said they looked at each other and agreed if one can make a difference and can stand up and be the leaders the country needs, then it’s worth giving it a shot. That’s how she described her motivation to run in a recent interview with WKMS News outside a coffeeshop in Paducah.
When asked what sets her apart from others who have attempted to unseat McConnell and failed, McGrath said, McConnell is not well liked “because he hasn’t done much for Kentucky. He’s been the single point of failure for the dysfunction in our country and in our government. There’s an opening there.”
She said she’s different because she has a message of ‘putting country above political party.’ “Let’s get leaders into office who are not bought off by special interests - who have proven they have served the country - to step up and be the leaders that we all want to see in Washington,” she said, adding that she believes in doing what’s right for Kentucky. “And I will work with any president whether he or she wears a red shirt or a blue shirt to do what’s right for Kentucky and at the same time I will stand up, I will have the courage to stand up, when it’s right for Kentucky. And I just don’t see that in Mitch McConnell.”
Healthcare affordability is one of the big issues she said she’s hearing from voters. She said people are worried McConnell will “throw people with pre-existing conditions off their healthcare.” She criticized McConnell for not lowering prescription drug prices, for not adequately tackling the opioid crisis in Kentucky and for not facilitating an economy that works for everyone instead of the ‘one-percent.’ She said, “the average Kentuckian must start seeing the benefit of this growing economy. The average Kentuckian hasn’t seen wages increase in 20 years. So, as long as you’ve got Mitch McConnell in office these things are not going to change.”
On other issues brought up during the Paducah meet-and-greet, McGrath said she believes climate change “is a fact” and described rising ocean levels impacting military bases. “It’s a problem. It’s a national security concern. It’s a global concern,” she said. She said the country needs people in Washington to lead the country by a 21st Century standard, “not guys like Mitch McConnell who have just operated in the Washington swamp for the last 35 years. You need people that get it. And I get it.”
On voter apathy, McGrath said voter turnout can increase by having authentic candidates who speak to the real needs of Kentuckians, “And I think people are very cynical about politics. Look, I am too. Guys like Mitch McConnell made it that way.”
On the issue of gun rights and gun control, McGrath described herself as pro-second amendment. She said she’s a gun owner and described her experience with guns while serving as a Marine. “I’m used to weapons,” she said. “I’m somebody who believes in the Second Amendment. At the same time I’m the mother of three small kids. And I believe gun violence is an epidemic. I’m worried about school shootings. My seven-year-old has to do school shooter trainings. I mean -- What? Where are we going?” She said she supports reasonable solutions, such as better background checks. When asked if she supports banning assault-type weapons, McGrath said she doesn’t believe in banning or taking away guns from law-abiding citizens. “If you’re a law abiding citizen, you should have no problem with background checks. It’s gotta keep guns out of the hands of people who will do our children harm,” she said.
Regarding a recent story by The Intercept that alleges McGrath’s campaign manager was responsible for firing Matt Jones from his TV show Hey Kentucky!, McGrath said to ask the TV station that airs the program, WLEX, why they fired him, “because I don’t have that kind of power to fire somebody.” Jones, a popular sports radio host, has been mulling whether to enter the Democratic race for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. When asked whether the Intercept report was accurate, McGrath said she didn’t know what the article was talking about. She said anyone can get into the race, that it’s a democracy and that’s what she fought to defend in her military career. “For me, I’m not sure where this is all coming from,” she said, regarding the issue with Jones. LEX18 reports that their parent company E.W. Scripps said Jones’ dismissal “was made independently, without any influence form political campaigns.”
On reaching progressive Democrats, McGrath said she stands for issues like accessible, affordable healthcare, better jobs and that everyone should have equal opportunity when it comes to marriage, starting a business and being a woman.
On reaching conservative Democrats who may have voted for President Trump in 2016, McGrath said many voted for him to shake up a dysfunctional system. “Guess who built that system?” she asked. “Mitch McConnell.” She suggested McConnell has stymied progress attempted by Trump such as lowering drug prices, having drugs imported from Canada and infrastructure projects. “You cannot drain the swamp - you cannot change Washington until you change the people you see there. And you’ve got to get out Mitch McConnell,” she said.
There’s another big race in 2020: the presidential election. McGrath said it’s too early to name her top candidates in the Democratic race. She said she’s focused on her own race, “because I feel like, look, we can change the trajectory of the country for the better no matter who wins the White House if we get rid of Mitch McConnell.”
McGrath said it’s important to remember while campaigning that it’s not always about one’s message, but rather listening. “So I’m trying to meet as many people and hearing their concerns as possible and I plan to come back as much as I can,” she said. After the interview, McGrath said she was heading towards Henderson, Owensboro and Bowling Green.