Analysis Culture

Spotlight: Veteran Candidates — Amy McGrath (KY-6)

This article is part of a series on veteran candidates for the House of Representatives in toss-up districts. Part One of the series can be found here.

This article should not be seen as an endorsement of any political candidate or party, and does not represent the views of The Freq Media.

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The Sixth Congressional District of Kentucky is another race where an incumbent Republican faces a strong Democratic challenge in a high-stakes midterm election. In this case, Representative Andy Barr (R) is up against first-time candidate and Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath.

McGrath is a person who always knew what she wanted to do. Falling in love with military jets by age 12, she was already writing members of Congress asking why women could not fly in combat roles (she had looked up the federal law that prohibited this at the time). By the time McGrath was old enough to join the military, the exclusion law for aviation was lifted under President Bill Clinton. McGrath was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy, studying political science and playing varsity soccer. Upon graduation, she was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

McGrath began her career as an F/A-18 Hornet Weapons Systems Officer, as her imperfect vision prohibited her from being a pilot. Following 9/11, McGrath deployed to Kyrgyzstan, flying more than 50 combat missions attacking Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets. She was the first female to fly in an F/A-18 in combat. In 2003 she deployed to Iraq, flying over 30 more missions.

In 2005, McGrath continued her quest to fly military jets, transitioning to being an F/A-18 pilot. She continued to serve in the Marine Corps as a pilot, Congressional fellow, and political science instructor until she retired in 2017 as a Lieutenant Colonel. She was inducted into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame in 2016.

McGrath is primarily campaigning on her military service, but also adding her experience as a mother in an attempt to connect with voters in Kentucky, as are many women candidates in 2018. McGrath’s decision to have a family impacted her career as a pilot, as it led to a missed opportunity to gain flight hours and a position as an executive officer. However, McGrath believes that voters will see that being a mother is as much a part of who she is as the Marine Corps.

McGrath’s military record has come under attack during the campaign. A group of Kentucky veterans plan to petition the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame to have McGrath removed, claiming she misrepresented her role in the combat missions she flew in Iraq and Afghanistan. As mentioned, McGrath ‘flew’ as a Weapons Systems Officer, not becoming a pilot until later in her career. McGrath claims she has never misrepresented this or her record in any way. This appears to be the case, but organizations buying ads on McGrath’s have, such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Many of McGrath’s supporters see these attacks as political stunts.

The race for KY-6 is shaping up to be incredibly close. McGrath is trying the unorthodox tactic of not running attack ads, despite evidence that they work, and despite a withering negative campaign in the cheap Lexington media market by her opponent. Although the district is historically very conservative, the tariffs imposed on bourbon by the E.U. in response to Trump administration tariffs is hitting the district hard. Barr is campaigning on the victory of the recent tax cuts, while attempting to distance himself from the trade war, highlighting moments where he has lobbied the Vice President against the tariffs. Barr is also attempting to campaign on an ideological level, highlighting his conservative credentials and highlighting her liberal views, as her career makes her a very strong challenger. As of an October poll, Barr had a 2 point lead over McGrath.

Here is where McGrath stands on key issues, according to her campaign website:


McGrath believes that all Americans are entitled to healthcare. She believes this begins with improving the Affordable Care Act. While she thinks a single payer system such as Medicare-for-all would the best system if we were building from the ground up, she recognizes that this is not realistic. She is in favor of a debate with the goal being universal healthcare coverage, and policy options such as Medicare buy in for those over age 55 and a public healthcare option.

Foreign Policy

McGrath supports a foreign policy that combines American military might with soft power, such as diplomacy, foreign aid, and foreign investment, in pursuit of America’s interests abroad. She firmly believes that economic and environmental deterioration is not only a threat to America, but is the underlying cause for issues such as jihadism and terrorism. She supports American alliances such as NATO, and is in favor of keeping the Iran nuclear deal in place.

Money in Politics

McGrath decries Citizens United and believes that political money is the greatest barrier to political progress and compromise. McGrath favors a variety of legislation that exposes and limits political dark money and helps to increase small donor participation.

The Economy

McGrath’s 32-Point Economic Plan is designed to build infrastructure for the new economy, invest both in coal country and in new green energy such as solar energy, and workforce development and job training.

McGrath’s military record is a strong testimony to her drive and capabilities. In the battle of resumes, there are not many who can compete. It remains to be seen if her brand of liberal politics can win in a strongly Republican district in 2018.

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2 years ago

I love that you guys are doing this. None of the candidates have been in areas where I live, so I couldn’t vote for any of them, and most of them have political ideals that I disagree with, so I probably wouldn’t vote for them anyway. But I love love LOVE the approach you guys are taking to share information. It’s refreshing. And Amy McGrath is pretty cool. I read about her story in Band of Sisters and was impressed with her humility, hard work, and forthrightness (at least as I perceived her story). I still probably wouldn’t vote for… Read more »

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