Amy McGrath says she wants to be a senator who represents the people.
The 44-year-old veteran grew up in Edgewood but now resides in Georgetown with her husband and their three children.
McGrath’s 20-year career in the Marine Corps includes several combat deployments and 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. McGrath was the first woman in the Marine Corps to fly a combat mission in a F/A-18 combat jet.
McGrath has served as a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on defense and foreign policy as well as a Marine Corps’ liaison to the State Department and other agencies.
She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Johns Hopkins University and the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction’s Program for Emerging Leaders at the National Defense University.
Among her other accomplishments include being a senior instructor in political science at the U.S. Naval Academy. She’s earned eight Strike Flight Air Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, a Navy Achievement Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation and more.
Now McGrath hopes she can secure the Democratic Party nomination in the June 23 primary. She’s running for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s seat.
McConnell, the Republican incumbent, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984.
This isn’t McGrath’s first run for office. She challenged U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky. in the 2018 midterm elections and lost, getting 47.8% of the vote to Barr’s 51%.
On Monday, McGrath was interviewed by The State Journal via telephone. The following answers were edited for length and clarity.
Question: When you retired from the military, why did you choose to return to Kentucky?
Answer: Yes, I’ve lived all around the country and the world in service of the country, but I’m a Kentuckian. Kentucky is my home. When we go into the military, we don't leave our state behind. We still vote. We're still Kentuckians. We still pay taxes. This is where my family is, this is where my home is and this is where I wanted my children to grow up. For me, it was about the people. I loved growing up in Kentucky and I loved the sense of community. I loved the patriotism. And I just felt like, of all the places I wanted to go, I wanted to go home.
Q: What was the moment that made you decide to run for office?
A: I think it was the combination of the 2016 election cycle, the fake news, the divisiveness, the labeling of each other. My husband’s a lifelong Republican. I’m a Democrat. That’s America. And I was so saddened to see the country so divided. I just felt like we need better leaders, because it does start at the top. It starts with people who need to put partisanship aside and make our government and our system work. And I just wasn’t seeing that happen. For me, I looked at that and said, “We need better leaders and we need them now. We don’t need them 10 years from now … .” That’s what made me decide to be the leader (I) always wanted to see in office.
Q: City and county government leaders have called on Sen. McConnell to support federal aid for local governments. What is your stance on helping state and local governments during a crisis like the COVID-19 crisis?
A: By saying you’re not going to help the state and local governments right now is basically slapping the face of policemen, firefighters, nurses, educators and people on the front line. To me this just shows you how disconnected he is with Kentucky. The state and local governments need help. They wouldn’t be in the crisis they’re in now without the coronavirus … . I'm going to take care of a little person first. I'm gonna take care of the worker and the people on the front lines first and the big corporations second.
Q: What are the three issues that are most important to you?
A: Even beyond the issues, I think my theme is we’ve got to have leaders who put this country before their political party. And it's the opposite of Mitch McConnell. It's the opposite of a guy who only wants to win for himself and his political party, and for the interest of special interests, and his donors and you know the greediness, the shortsightedness, the corporatism — everything that he stands for. So it's yes I'm running on issues, of course…
Good lord, don’t we need better leaders in this country? And we need people who are going to represent people again and not the special interests and not try to make our country dysfunctional, which is what Mitch McConnell has done for so long … .
I think the top issues remain health care, which is the number one issue. This isn’t Amy’s issue. This is the issue of people in Kentucky. That's what I'm running on. They want a leader who is not going to take health care away from people, but fix the system that we have.
Number two it’s good-quality jobs in Kentucky. And it’s not good enough to have people have to work three jobs to make ends meet. We need 21st century infrastructure to get the good quality jobs of the future.
We need to invest in education and workforce development here, so that businesses want to come to Kentucky so that they will have a healthy and educated workforce.
Q: What is your plan to help veterans?
A: I want to focus on mental health concerns. We have some really high suicide rates in the veteran community. A lot of it is because we haven't had a real focus on mental health problems. I'm talking PTSD and other issues. And I really want to focus on that. I think it's important and it starts with leadership. I want to make sure that we bring some light to that and show people that we need to still take care of our veterans in that manner because I think it's long overdue.