McConnell campaign complains that McGrath continues to air negative ads amid coronavirus pandemic

"During a public health crisis, [McConnell] took a long weekend instead of doing his job,” McGrath's campaign says

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 17, 2020 10:43AM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

The re-election campaign for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., complained that one of his potential Democratic opponents, former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath, continued to air negative political advertisements against him amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Amy McGrath's decision to blanket the airwaves with deceitful ads during the coronavirus outbreak is tasteless and shameful," Kevin Golden, McConnell's campaign manager, told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday. "As Kentuckians adjust their daily lives and schedules to help stem the outbreak, the last thing they need to see on TV is negative political advertising. The McGrath campaign must stop airing all of their advertisements."

Terry Sebastian, a McGrath spokesperson, responded by saying that McConnell "has a 35-year failed track record on issues like health care and jobs in Kentucky, and now — during a public health crisis — he took a long weekend instead of doing his job and working to pass a relief package immediately."

One of McGrath's ads, released earlier this month, claimed that McConnell had not responded to her when she wrote him a letter as a child saying that she wanted to become a fighter pilot. McGrath compared that to other Kentuckians who McConnell had allegedly ignored, including a disabled teacher who needed to keep her health insurance, a veteran who needed in-home care from the Department of Veterans Affairs and coal miners suffering from black lung disease.

McGrath's campaign has recently focused on McConnell's health care policies as the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened.

"McConnell has consistently voted to cut funding for medical research and immunization programs and cut funding to the very agencies (CDC and NIH) that should be prepared for an infectious disease outbreak," McGrath wrote Monday in an editorial for the Courier-Journal. "Instead of acting immediately to include provisions in an emergency bill to control the costs of vaccines and treatments being developed in response to this outbreak, he held up coronavirus funding in order to make sure Big Pharma would still be able to gouge prices."

McGrath is a former fighter pilot and the first woman to fly in an F/A-18 in a combat mission for the U.S. Marines. She received national attention in 2018 when she ran against Republican Rep. Andy Barr for his congressional seat. McGrath lost to Barr by only 3 points, a surprisingly narrow margin for the red district, prompting speculation that she would seek office in Kentucky again.

During a 2018 appearance on Salon Talks, McGrath said, "I'm continually disappointed in Mitch McConnell." She pointed to his obstruction of former President Barack Obama's policies and appointments, his attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and his support of large tax cuts for corporations.

McGrath received a record $2.5 million in donations within 24 hours of announcing her Senate campaign last year, indicating that she still has the fundraising chops displayed when she raised $8 million in her race against Barr. She has raised almost $17 million overall since then, including large contributions from technology companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Oracle. McConnell has raised slightly more than $17 million in this election cycle, with major contributors including: the financial services company Blackstone Group, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co., the energy company NextEra Energy and the shipping company United Parcels Service.

You can watch one of McGrath's recent ads below via YouTube:


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Amy Mcgrath Coronavirus Elections 2020 Kentucky Mitch Mcconnell Politics