After losing a congressional race last year, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath has set her sights on toppling Mitch McConnell from his seat in the U.S. Senate in 2020. And she will once again face the challenge of trying to appeal to voters in urban and rural parts of the state at the same time.
During her first interview of the campaign, McGrath revealed a new strategy for Democrats — accusing McConnell of getting in the way of President Donald Trump’s agenda.
In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, McGrath said that Kentuckians voted in favor of Trump during the 2016 election because “they wanted to drain the swamp,” and because he promised to bring back jobs and lower drug prices.
“Who stops the president from doing these things? Well, Mitch McConnell. And I think that’s really important and that’s going to be my message. That the things Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done. He’s not able to get it done because of Sen. McConnell,” McGrath said.
Trump is popular in Kentucky. He beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by 30 points during the 2016 election. A recent Morning Consult poll shows him with a 56 percent approval rating in the state.
And Trump came to the aid of McGrath’s opponent during last year’s congressional race, holding a rally on behalf of Republican Rep. Andy Barr shortly before Election Day.
During the MSNBC interview, McGrath distanced herself from some Democratic presidential hopefuls.
She characterized herself as a moderate and said she disagreed with proposals like Medicare for all and “subsidizing health insurance for illegal immigrants.”
“I think many Kentuckians feel that we have a problem with getting health insurance for many Americans, so we need to fix that first,” McGrath said.
Last year, Democrats hoped McGrath would flip Kentucky’s 6th Congressional district as part of a “blue wave” in reaction to Trump.
Her campaign focused intensely on areas outside of Lexington, the urban center of the district, setting up its headquarters in Richmond and bringing in former Vice President Joe Biden for a rally in rural Bath County.
But the plan didn’t work; Barr won reelection by about three points.
McConnell’s campaign responded to McGrath’s campaign launch on Twitter with a highlight reel showing McGrath voicing support for abortion rights and opposing Trump’s wall proposal.
During a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, McConnell said he looks forward to the race.
“It’ll be a spirited race, particularly since I’ve become leader of my party in the Senate, I’ve noticed I get more attention than I used to. And I look forward to the contest and laying out our differences to the people of Kentucky,” McConnell said.
McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984.