Now that Democrats have a nominee in the Kentucky Senate race, a highly contentious general election contest is sure to follow between GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic opponent, Amy McGrath.
As Republicans aggressively fight to hold on to their narrow 53-47 majority in the Senate, 23 Republican incumbents are up for reelection this year, and McConnell’s seat is a most coveted one.
Here’s what to know about the Kentucky Senate race:
Who are the candidates?
McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has since been reelected five times, making him the longest-serving senator from Kentucky. Before becoming majority leader when Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, McConnell served as majority whip and Senate minority leader.
The Senate, under McConnell’s leadership, is known for its record-setting judicial appointments, recently confirming President Trump’s 200th judicial nominee.
McConnell himself served as Jefferson County Judge and Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Gerald Ford before running for Congress.
McConnell has embraced his nickname of “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, where the whims of Democrats under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi go to die. “Think of me as the Grim Reaper: the guy who is going to make sure that socialism doesn’t land on the president’s desk,” McConnell once said.
Former Marine Corps fighter pilot McGrath has earned heavy backing from the Democratic establishment, putting her neck-and-neck funding-wise with the longtime incumbent.
McGrath faced a last-minute competitive challenge from her progressive opponent Charles Booker and narrowly won her primary. Booker, a state representative, had embraced ideas from the far-left like free college and Medicare-for-all, while McGrath distanced herself from such ideas. She’s positioned herself as a moderate Democrat in heavily red Kentucky, calling herself a “fiscal conservative” in 2017.
AMY MCGRATH WINS KENTUCKY DEM SENATE PRIMARY, SETTING UP GENERAL ELECTION BATTLE WITH MCCONNELL
During her 20-year tenure, McGrath was the first woman to fly a combat mission for the Marines and subsequently flew 88 more. After her retirement from the service in 2017, McGrath was the Democratic nominee for Kentucky’s sixth congressional district before narrowly losing to Republican incumbent Andy Barr.
McConnell hits McGrath for being “too far left” for Kentucky. McConnell’s campaign often releases ads saying McGrath “doesn’t want you to find out about her far-left record.”
His team points to her support of President Trump’s impeachment, her opposition to the border wall and her record on abortion. A recent McConnell ad claimed McGrath supports abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy, based on comments she made during her 2018 race for the House. McGrath’s campaign has since said she respects the current law, which has restrictions and bans abortion after 20 weeks unless medically necessary.
McGrath, for her part, paints McConnell as a Washington insider who represents “special interests.”
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She has accused McConnell of spending too much time on tax cuts for the wealthy and not enough time on affordable health care, hitting his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Who has the edge?
The Kentucky Senate race is rated likely Republican, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball.