McConnell, McGrath offer stark contrasts in closing pitches
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Sen. Mitch McConnell declared Monday that he is at the top of his game and ready to continue setting the national agenda as his chamber’s majority leader, making his closing pitch for a seventh term. His Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, said the country can “do so much better” with the 78-year-old Republican swept out of office.
After weeks of mail-in and early in-person voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic, more than 1.5 million Kentuckians had cast their ballots ahead of Tuesday’s actual Election Day.
The big-spending Senate race highlights a Kentucky election featuring choices for president, Congress and the state legislature. Republicans are looking to maintain their dominance in statewide politics, while Democrats hope to capitalize on suburban support to make inroads.
While McGrath accused McConnell of causing a “dysfunctional mess” in the Senate, the Republican incumbent touted his majority leader role as an invaluable benefit for Kentucky.
“I’m at the top of my game and ready for another term, to not only deliver for Kentucky but to set the agenda for the nation,” McConnell said during a campaign stop in Versailles in central Kentucky.
Whether McConnell remains majority leader, if reelected, is at stake Tuesday. Republicans are struggling to fend off Democrats vying to win control of the Senate.
McGrath continued to fault McConnell for the lack of another coronavirus-relief bill in slamming his tenure as Senate leader. McConnell has blamed Democrats for blocking a slimmed-down aid bill totaling about $500 billion, which stalled amid partisan wrangling over its size and scope.
“We can do so much better,” McGrath said while campaigning in Newport in northern Kentucky. “Policies like universal pre-K. Like paid family leave. Like making sure that we have the aid that we need right now in the middle of a coronavirus. I can’t believe that I’m standing up here talking about that. I always thought our leaders would come together and make it happen in the middle of a national security crisis.”
McConnell said that McGrath’s first vote, if she is elected, would be to make Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer the majority leader, transferring that power from Kentucky to New York.
McGrath, a retired Marine combat pilot, said the federal government has failed in its response to the pandemic and that is another reason to put the country on a different course. Ousting McConnell would go a long way toward delivering that change, she said.
“We own this seat, not him,” she said. “We do. Kentucky does. So we’ve got to take it back.”
For months, McConnell has touted his role in passing a $2 trillion economic rescue package early in the fight against the pandemic. Kentucky’s share of the aid was more than $13 billion.
On Monday, McConnell stressed his role in confirming more than 200 judges nominated by President Donald Trump. The wave of new judges is expected to put a conservative imprint on the federal judiciary for decades, including Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court last week.
McConnell praised the new judges for believing “in the quaint notion that maybe the job of a judge is actually to follow the law.” McGrath countered that McConnell brought the Senate to a “screeching halt” to take up Barrett’s confirmation process. “The only thing it does now is push through unqualified judges,” she said.
Meanwhile, McConnell tried pumping up the Republican get-out-the-vote effort to counter more widespread use of mail-in voting by Democrats.
“Today and tomorrow are the most important days for us,” McConnell said. “Because all indications are that the people who are going to vote for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell will turn out in large numbers today and tomorrow. So don’t run out of energy.”
McConnell campaigned in Versailles with Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, who is facing a tough challenge from Democratic challenger Josh Hicks in the 6th District.
McConnell said the district has an “outstanding, A-plus congressman” in Barr. The swing district spans from bluegrass country to the Appalachian foothills of east-central Kentucky.
Hicks, whose background includes previous stints as a Marine and police officer, has stressed his support for the Affordable Care Act, saying it extended coverage to thousands of Kentuckians. He promised Monday to provide “new leadership, compassionate leadership” if elected.
Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.