Using a skill learned in the Marines, Amy McGrath is flying herself around Kentucky
in her campaign to defeat Senator Mitch McConnell.
Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath isn't letting up in her race to unseat long serving Senator Mitch McConnell. In the waning days of the campaign, McGrath, who struggled to find her voice during the primary, is showing the moxie it took her to become a fighter pilot.
In an unconscious reference to the candidates' age differences, McGrath tells of writing to her Kentucky senators as a high school student seeking assistance to become an aviator.
One of her senators was Mitch McConnell. He didn't respond to her letter.
McGrath is flying her plane into airports around the Commonwealth reaching out to voters far from the center of the state.
When asked about the condition of the airports she lands in, she said most have been well maintained, but could use improvement. Flying into West Paducah for the Mayfield event, she said "There could be some improvement on the paint.' Then she laughed and said "I'm getting into the weeds here" on a subject her eyes light up when discussing. "It's part of something I talk about - roads, bridges, dams" advocating using "good union labor" to do needed repair and construction.
McGrath was in Murray on Tuesday and Mayfield the week before. She will be at Kenlake Resort Park in Marshall County this Saturday at 4:30 central time for a get out the vote event with local Democratic candidates.
While audiences have been small, outdoors, masked and socially distanced, those who show up come away enthusiastic.
Clinton resident, Elizabeth Jewell, drove to Murray on Tuesday to see McGrath. "I had a few doubts about Amy at first but seeing her at the debate and in person, I had no doubt--she could be a powerful new voice in the senate" she said.
(Photo at right by Elizabeth Jewell used with permission)
McGrath's stump speech, given without notes and more often than not without a microphone, is well organized and passionate. She moves easily from point to point, interspersing her policy recommendations with personal anecdotes. In the two meetings we attended, she stayed long after to talk to voters. She listens carefully to questions and stories. In Mayfield, a first time voter, married to a fire fighter, begged for recognition for the job he does and a change in the low pay and poor equipment he endures.
Since her appearance in the Purchase in early September McGrath visits Paducah, she's polished and sharpened her attack on McConnell.
She focuses on inequities that have become worse since Mitch McConnell was elected thirty six years ago.
McGrath believes that infrastructure, real and virtual, is a major component to attracting good jobs to the Commonwealth. "No company will come to a town that doesn't have high speed internet access" she says. Students and teachers are hampered in distance learning because of a lack of internet access or slow speeds that won't accommodate the visuals used in virtual classrooms.
- The gap between what one observer calls "the 2% and the rest of us" has widened from roadside ditch to Grand Canyon.
- Corporate CEO pay is 320 times higher than workers. There's a $20 billion dollar gap between spending on majority black and majority white schools.
- Minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has been unchanged for years. McGrath tells crowds that "we can't even debate what the minimum wage should be" because Senate Majority Leader McConnell won't allow a bill on the floor.
- Kentucky's ability to compete for jobs lags behind other states.
She talks about the lack of safe and available drinking water, citing Martin County, Kentucky "where you turn on the faucet and can't get water. Here. In Kentucky. We can do better."
Amy McGrath has found her sense of humor, which seemed to be missing in the primary. When asked if her husband, whom she describes as "a proud Republican," would be voting for her, she joked that he would if he knows what's good for him.
While McGrath barnstorms, McConnell is busy in Washington shepherding his Party's candidate, Amy Coney Barrett, through the Senate confirmation process to fill a seat on the US Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, McConnell took time to scuttle a bill that would have provided another round of $1200 to Americans and provided relief for states and local governments whose budgets have been gutted by the pandemic.
In the weeks before November 3rd, voters will have little more have television ads, news clips and McGrath appearances to use in selecting a candidate.
There was only one debate on a central Kentucky television station, picked up by others around the state and broadcast online. There will be no more.
KET, unlike in years past, didn't schedule a candidates' debate for this office. Since Republican Senate incumbents have been ditching the appearance for the last few cycles, beginning with Jim Bunning, that shouldn't come as a surprise.
Those who watched were in agreement that McGrath handled herself well. Senator McConnell's attempts to brand her as a leftist fell flat. She is certainly more progressive than her opponent, but she was criticized during a primary she almost lost for being to the right of opponents Charles Booker and Mike Broier.
Bill Bryant, moderator of the October 12th debate, gave each candidate an additional 30 seconds to make their closing argument. We quote them in the order they were presented.
McGrath: "I would simply say to my fellow Americans, all you just heard, how's it working out for you right now? How's Kentucky looking? Are you better off than you were six years ago? Are you better off than you were 36 years ago? I mean, we have the leader of a Senate right now that is so dysfunctional and so partisan that even in the middle of a national crisis, they can't get things done for Kentucky. You want more of that? I don't. I want change. I know that our country is better than this."
McConnell: "Do you want somebody from New York to be setting the agenda for America and not terribly interested in Kentucky? Or do you want to continue to have one of the four congressional leaders from our state looking out for Kentucky, giving Kentucky an opportunity to punch above its weight, providing extra assistance for Kentucky? That's the question. She will transfer all of that to New York. I will keep it in Kentucky.
The 2020 McConnell vs McGrath may turn out to be a Yogi Berra déjà vu all over again.
McConnell's emphasis on his Washington power recalls for old timers his first Senate race when the relatively unknown county judge from Jefferson defeated Senator Dee Huddleston who relied on his DC statusto impress voters. McConnell's now famous hunting dogs questing for Dee could be updated to look for the Senator who's been in Washington since McGrath primary opponent Charles Booker was born.
Predictably, McConnell leads McGrath in the polls.
But retired Lt. Colonel McGrath isn't giving up. As long as there's a race, she'll be flying all over Kentucky looking for voters.