McGrath claims ‘momentum’ in district Trump won in ’16

October 26, 2018
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Democrat Amy McGrath speaks to supporters at a campaign field office in Winchester, Ky., Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. McGrath is running for Congress in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District against Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr. (AP Photo/Adam Beam)

WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) — In Kentucky’s competitive 6th Congressional district, Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath will have only one joint appearance: a Monday forum, broadcast statewide by Kentucky Educational Television.

Barr’s campaign plans to have a rally at the KET studios, where likely hundreds of supporters will be cheering for him as he arrives for the high-stakes broadcast. But McGrath told a group of volunteers Friday the only reason Barr wants people there is to intimidate her as she walks in.

“I’m not going to be intimidated,” she said. “I don’t need you to show up at KET. I’m going to go and I’m going to kick his ...” she pauses to think, “butt. And we’re going to win.”

It’s the latest sign of swagger from McGrath, who is entering the last week of the campaign with a decided fundraising advantage. Pre-election reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission show she has about $1 million more than Barr left to spend. She raised more than $1 million in the first 17 days of October, giving her a total of $7.8 million for the entire election cycle compared to Barr’s $4.8 million.

But McGrath is running in a district that President Donald Trump won by double digits in 2016, and the Trump administration is doing all it can to help Barr. Earlier this month, thousands of people showed up to hear Trump endorse Barr at an event in one of the district’s key counties. And Saturday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will travel to Kentucky to appear with Barr and make “a major announcement” about the preservation of historic Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in Jessamine County. It’s not billed as a political event, but it’s likely to generate some positive press for Barr with just 10 days to go until the election.

McGrath has had to tread carefully around Trump, who remains popular in the district. Friday, she released her final television ad of the campaign, a 30 second spot that shows the retired Marine fighter pilot sitting in front of some jets while saying “it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I don’t always agree with the president.” But, she adds that Trump was “elected under our Constitution” and that “I’ll never obstruct government or put party over country.”

After meeting with Trump, Barr has been attending forums across the district. McGrath has skipped them, prompting Barr to post photos of himself on stages with empty lecterns beside him. He posted one such photo Friday of a forum earlier that week in Winchester, saying: “An important part of running for office is explaining your views to voters, in public, on the record. I was there, and my opponent wasn’t.”

McGrath visited Winchester on Friday, meeting with about two dozen supporters before they were to go knocking on doors in the rain. One volunteer noted people have been asking why McGrath did not attend the forum days earlier. McGrath called it “a valid criticism, to some extent.” She said Barr’s campaign did not respond when she reached out after the primary election to organize a series of debates and forums throughout the district. She noted in Barr’s previous general election campaigns, he has only accepted one debate, which is the annual forum broadcast live on KET.

“We decided to hand him a little bit of his own medicine,” she said.

McGrath’s history as a fighter pilot who flew in combat missions resonated with Becky Taylor, a Winchester woman who says she’s the daughter of a World War II navigator and came Friday to volunteer for McGrath. She found McGrath after her speech and squeezed her hand.

“I have always voted because — and I’m going to see if I can say this without crying — my dad said he flew 32 missions over Germany to give you that right,” she said, her voice quivering. “That’s never left me.”