Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who is attempting a second bid for political office, is elevating her experience in the military as she prepares for the uphill fight to oust Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“I’m a patriot who loves my country and my whole life has been about public service,” she said on ABC’s “The View” on Friday. “I think now more than ever, we need people to go into public service who are doing it for the right reasons, who are not just going to be just representing special interests, the wealthiest 1% and going in it for their own political power, and that is Mitch McConnell.”
In the general election, McGrath is targeting McConnell for creating a “dysfunctional” Washington, suggesting that he represents “everything that is wrong with Washington.”
“So many people are tired,” she said. “They’re tired of a dysfunctional system that is not working. So many people in Kentucky are hurting and they want change … the system is not working and he literally is the swamp – he built it.”
Late last month, McGrath narrowly toppled a progressive candidate, state Rep. Charles Booker, to capture the Democratic nomination in a campaign that became competitive in the midst of outcry over the deaths of African American people at the hands of law enforcement, including two in the state of Kentucky since mid-March.
Despite McGrath having the backing of national Democrats and a formidable war chest, Booker, 35, the youngest Black state lawmaker in Kentucky, harnessed the energy of the protests and the party’s liberal wing to offset McGrath’s advantages with grassroots momentum.
McGrath appeared to shake off concerns about her surprisingly competitive primary and what it could mean moving forward, saying, “We have got to elect leaders that put our country above their political party. We have got to elect leaders that put our country – and in my case Kentucky – above the partisanship and get things done.”
As she is now in the midst of an even tougher battle against McConnell, in a state President Donald Trump won by nearly 30 points four years ago, she argues that Kentucky is ready for change after McConnell’s 35 years in the Senate, adding that “nobody should be in office that long.”
“He’s always been able to use very partisan attacks, he’s always been able to raise a ton of money, and he has no problems going very, very low in his campaigns,” she said.
McGrath also slammed McConnell for putting his party over country.
“It is all about his party. It is all about his power. The principles are are gone, he’ll change the principles when it when it suits him,” she told the co-hosts. “That’s not what I’m about, and I think people need that right now. We need that leadership in this country.”
In a statement to ABC News after the interview, a spokesperson for McConnell’s campaign fired back at McGrath, saying she’s “living in an alternate reality narrated by talkshows.”
“McGrath is a failed candidate whose only chance to be relevant is by falsely attacking Leader McConnell’s indisputable record of delivering for Kentucky,” said Kate Cooksey, press secretary for McConnell’s re-election campaign.
McGrath has been the Democratic nominee for nearly a month, but she still has to contend with some of the criticisms she faced in the primary, such as not attending the early protests against racial injustice, especially since Louisville was thrust into the national spotlight after the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police. In defending her leadership on the issue of racial equality, McGrath said Taylor’s death “was an absolute tragedy” and that the investigation into her death has “gone on too long.”
“I think that the attorney general here should release this at this point, and so I would like to see that happen that justice can be done in this case,” she said.
As the nation continues to confront twin national crises — racial inequality and the coronavirus pandemic — that have transformed so much of the 2020 election and damaged Kentucky, McGrath aggressively criticized McConnell.
“It’s terrible, and this is a pattern with Sen. McConnell. He legislates by emergency, basically,” she said. “If you think about his response to the coronavirus from the very, very beginning it’s been pathetic.”
“He allowed an administration to basically have mixed messages, to play the threat down,” she added. With Congress working on a new coronavirus relief bill, but negotiations are stalled, McGrath took aim at McConnell for having “no urgency” as his own constituents “are hurting.”
Throughout her bids for political office (she ran for the 6th Congressional District in 2018), McGrath has proven to be a formidable fundraiser.
ABC News previously reported that roughly 96% of her contributions from this cycle came from out-of-state, but for McConnell, too, 90% of his donations in the 2020 campaign were from beyond Kentucky’s borders.
McGrath, though, said this is all part of the effort to take down the top Republican in Congress.
“Mitch McConnell gets about 95% of his money from outside Kentucky, too, and it’s over 90%,” she said. “If you’re gonna compete against the Senate majority leader, you have to raise the resources not only from Kentucky but outside … and when that veteran in Iowa is giving me $25 bucks a month over Act Blue, he’s not handing me draft legislation at the same time. He just wants better government. He wants patriots to get into office who are gonna do the right thing.”
“That’s why I’m running,” she said.