McGrath: Race for U.S. Senate About 'Country and Kentucky' Above Political Party

Aug 21, 2019

Amy McGrath speaking to WKU Public Radio.
Credit Becca Schimmel/WKU Public Radio

A Kentucky Democrat hoping to take Republican Mitch McConnell's U.S. Senate seat says the country needs stricter background checks for gun owners.

But Amy McGrath isn’t in favor of an assault weapons ban.

In comments made during an interview with WKU Public Radio, McGrath said if elected to the U.S. Senate, she’d push the chamber to take up measures she says are backed by both gunowners and those who don’t own firearms.


“What I could get behind, right off the start, is better background checks,” said McGrath, who pointed out that she owns a gun. “The House has already passed two very reasonable bills for this that most gun owners, as I’ve said, think we should do. So, I think that’s just the beginning, that’s the start of this thing.”

When asked if she would support a ban on assault weapons, McGrath said she’s “not in favor of taking guns away from people.”

“If you’re a law-abiding citizen, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about,” the retired Marine fighter pilot said. “You should be able to have the weapons—that’s part of the 2nd Amendment. I think the key is to focus on people who would do us harm. And that’s why things like red flag laws and better background checks are things that we should have done yesterday.”

The debate over the nation’s gun laws reignited following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that combined to take the lives of 31 innocent victims. One of the ideas that gained traction is a federal red flag law, which would allow police, acting with court approval, to temporarily seize weapons from people deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or others.

McGrath is seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate race that will be decided next year. It’s her second run for federal office, following a close loss last year to U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th House District.

Even though that effort came up short, McGrath insisted it had the positive impact of giving her name recognition and getting down some of the basics of running for office.

“When you play a game for the first time, you learn a lot. And I learned a lot in the last race, and we came very, very close. For a first-time candidate, that’s awesome.”

McGrath said her 2018 campaign also allowed her to create a movement based on her core message.

“Let’s put our country and Kentucky above our political party. I was an Independent for many years. I was a military officer, and I served the country first. My husband is a lifelong Republican, I’m a Democrat. My Father was a Republican, my Mother is a Democrat. I mean, that’s America. That’s Kentucky.”

McGrath raised $2.5 million in the first 24 hours after announcing her bid for the U.S. Senate. She also flip-flopped on whether or not she would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. She told Kentucky Public Radio capitol reporter Ryland Barton that the Kentucky U.S. Senate race was "tough" but "winnable". 

Here are some other excerpts McGrath made during her conversation with WKU Public Radio:

On the first thing she would want to help accomplish in the U.S. Senate that would have the biggest impact on Kentuckians:

“I think you got to get drug prices down. I think you got to look at health care, and get accessible and affordable health care. So things like having the public option, being able to buy a government insurance plan—I think that’s something we should have done years ago.”

On her feelings towards President Trump:

“This is the biggest difference between me and Mitch McConnell: I am pro-Kentucky. So this isn’t about being pro or anti-president. And what’s different about me and Mitch McConnell is I will work with any president, regardless of whether he or she where’s a red jersey or a blue jersey, to do what’s right for Kentucky and for our country.”

What things could she reach agreement on with President Trump?

“On the campaign trail, he talked a lot about doing infrastructure. I think we need to not only fix our 20th century infrastructure, we need to have 21st century infrastructure for Kentucky. There’s lots of reasons in Kentucky where, you know what? Businesses are not going to go there if they can’t talk to the modern world. That’s broadband, that’s cell phone coverage. The President has talked about this.”

A report in the online publication The Intercept said McGrath’s campaign manager privately boasted about having Matt Jones fired from his Lexington TV show on WLEX. Jones is considering a possible run for the Democratic nomination in Kentucky’s Senate race, and if he did that, would be a primary opponent of McGrath.

“WLEX just came out (Monday) and said that no campaign had anything to do with Mr. Jones’s firing, and I can tell you that we had nothing to do with Mr. Jones’s firing.”

WKU Public Radio will be extending invitations for in-studio interviews with each candidate for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat.