Leach 2

 Lt. Col. Amy McGrath (retired) speaks with retired Navy Chief Jim Mills during Operation Stand Down hosted by the Appalachian Veteran Project on Saturday, June 22 in West Liberty. Photo by Julianna Leach / The Daily Independent.

Amy McGrath knows how to get along with Republicans, she said. She is married to one, after all. 

Erik Henderson, her husband of 11 years, is a lifelong Republican.

McGrath isn’t as concerned with loyalty to a political party as she is to Kentuckians and Americans, she said. That, in a nutshell, is her campaign.

In a basketball-crazed state, the 44-year-old knows a sports analogy using jerseys of colors donned by rival schools and parties might resonate best. 

“Forget red or blue jerseys,” McGrath said during a phone interview with The Daily Independent on Wednesday. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign trail has been altered. “Most people want leaders who want to just do what’s right for the country.”

One of McGrath’s influences is Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, a Republican and a military man.

“He thought about the interstate highway system in the 1950s,” McGrath said. “Thank God Eisenhower did that. He had a vision. Mitch McConnell would’ve obstructed it … all he does is obstruct. It’s just about a win for his side.”

McGrath is one of several candidates vying for a chance to unseat McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader. McConnell assumed his Senate seat in 1985. He’s been the majority leader since 2015.

McGrath lists infrastructure near the top of her list, but her No. 1 priority is health.

“Even more so now because of the pandemic,” she said. “We see how intricately linked our health care is to our economy.”

McGrath wants to see a situation in which insurance doesn’t need to be tied to an employer. Rather, she wants everyone to have an “Uncle Sam Plan.”

“Everybody ought to be able to buy a government plan,” McGrath said. “They should have that choice.”

Infrastructure is of great importance, too, she emphasized.

McGrath said she encountered a western Kentucky woman recently who said 70% of people in her community had lost access to the internet for three days.

“I believe in 21st Century infrastructure,” she said. “Internet, broadband, cell phone coverage is all a public good.”

Infrastructure is one of many areas in which McGrath believes McConnell is disconnected. She also said she doesn’t think he’s serious about playing a role in helping prevent and treat the drug crisis.

A native Kentuckian who lives in Georgetown with Henderson and their three children, McGrath logged 20 years of service in the Marine Corps. As a pilot, she flew 89 combat missions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The retired lieutenant colonel said she is running for office because “I looked at the leadership we had in our country and I looked at the leadership I had in the military, and I saw, we don’t have very good political leaders.”

Added McGrath: “Leaders should care about things like integrity, honor and character. Right now, we don’t have that, and I think it’s going to crush us.”

McGrath said the pandemic has impacted normal campaign methods, but she is proud to play a part in the Commonwealth Common Health Initiative. Using a network of volunteers, the initiative is assisting Kentuckians in meeting basic needs.

McGrath said she’s also talking to as many people as possible to educate them on how to vote.

“This is truly a mail-in election,” she said. “… And every county is doing it differently.”

McGrath said the state is working on a website that will assist Kentucky residents. Gov. Andy Beshear said the same in his press conference on Wednesday.

The primary election is June 23.

In order to accomplish her ultimate goal of defeating McConnell, McGrath must first clear the rest of the competing candidates in the primary. They are: Mike Broihier, Charles Booker, Jimmy Ausbrooks, Maggie Joe Hilliard, Andrew Maynard, Eric Rothmuller, John Sharpensteen, Bennie Smith and Mary Ann Tobin. McGrath is widely considered the frontrunner.


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