National News

Marine Aviator Wins Democratic Primary for Kentucky’s 6th District

Posted May 22, 2018 11:30 p.m. EDT

Amy McGrath, who packaged her biography as the first female Marine to fly in an F-18 fighter jet in combat with a powerful anti-Washington message, won the Democratic House primary in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

McGrath, 42, campaigned vigorously in all 19 counties in the district that stretch into deeply Republican rural areas, and was able to raise an extraordinary amount of money without the backing of national Democrats, many of whom thought that her opponent, Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington, would be the stronger candidate. Her win was the latest example of the strength of female candidates this year.

She’ll face Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican who won the district by 22 points in 2016, in the November general election.

“While it was my name on the ballot it’s really not about me,” McGrath said to a cheering crowd in Madison County, which her campaign sees as a vital area to win in the fall.

With her husband, Erik, and her mother, Marianne, standing nearby, McGrath tried to paint Barr as beholden to the dictates of his party over the people of their district.

“Yes, I am a Democrat, but I am an American first,” she said.

For much of the race, it seemed that Gray would win easily. McGrath’s campaign conducted a poll in December that showed she was behind by 47 points. By April, her campaign polling showed that she had surged ahead by 7 points, a remarkable swing given that Gray retained high favorable ratings and his campaign had not been damaged by a scandal.

“Jim Gray in a normal year in normal times should win by 20 or 30 points,” said Fred Yang, the campaign pollster for McGrath.

But McGrath’s victory showed that many campaign conventions might not apply this year with a restive electorate angry at the inertia in Washington and the turbulence of the Trump presidency.

She gained a measure of fame in August with a two-minute video in which she described her military service in the context of the desire to run for office. The video generated more than $1 million in campaign contributions, giving her a national profile.

Though both candidates pledged to run a positive campaign, Gray aired an ad late last week suggesting that McGrath had not lived in the district for a sufficient amount of time. But that ad generated a broad attack against him from groups promoting the election of veterans who said McGrath’s military service should not be seen as a negative.