McGrath in 2019
|Born||June 3, 1975|
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (2017–present)|
|Independent (before 2017)|
|Education||United States Naval Academy (BS)|
Johns Hopkins University (MA)
Georgetown University (GradCert)
|Branch/service||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1997–2017|
War in Afghanistan
Amy Melinda McGrath (born June 3, 1975) is an American politician, former Marine fighter pilot, and candidate for the United States Senate from Kentucky. McGrath was the first woman to fly a combat mission for the Marine Corps, as well as the first to pilot the F/A-18 on a combat mission. During her 20 years of service in the Marine Corps, McGrath flew 89 combat missions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Toward the end of her service, McGrath worked domestically as a political adviser, a liaison officer, and an instructor at the United States Naval Academy.
Following her retirement from military service in 2017, McGrath entered politics. She was the Democratic nominee for Kentucky's 6th congressional district in the 2018 election, losing to incumbent Republican Andy Barr by a margin of 51% to 47.8%. In July 2019, she announced her campaign for the United States Senate in the 2020 election, challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell. In a close primary, McGrath defeated state representative Charles Booker to gain the nomination of the Democratic Party.
Early life and education
McGrath was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She grew up in Edgewood, Kentucky, just outside of Covington, the youngest of three children. Her father, Donald McGrath, was a high school teacher who taught in Cincinnati for 40 years. Her mother, Marianne McGrath, is a psychiatrist who was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Kentucky's medical school.
McGrath graduated in 1994 from Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, Kentucky, where she played varsity soccer, basketball, and baseball, and was captain of the soccer team her senior year. In her senior year, she received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, the same year Congress lifted the Combat Exclusion Policy which banned women from becoming fighter pilots.
In 1997, McGrath graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in political science. While there, McGrath was the student director of the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference. She was also a member of the Academy's first women's varsity soccer team.
McGrath received a graduate certificate in legislative studies from Georgetown University in 2011. In 2014, she earned a Master of Arts in international and global security studies from Johns Hopkins University.
Training and pre-deployment (1997–2002)
After graduating from the Naval Academy, at the age of 21 McGrath was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. In 1999, she completed flight school and started her career as a Weapons Systems Officer (WSO), coordinating weapons including air-to-air AMRAAM missiles and heat-seeking Sidewinders. She was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121. When McGrath and fellow Marine pilot Jaden Kim joined VMFA-121, they became the first female aviators to join the squadron. During this same time, McGrath was also part of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101.
Service overseas (2002–2011)
In March 2002, McGrath was deployed to Manas, Kyrgyzstan, for a six-month tour of duty, during which she flew 51 combat missions in an F/A-18D in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. She was the first woman to fly a combat mission in the United States Marine Corps. In January 2003, stationed in Kuwait, McGrath flew in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, where she provided air support to ground troops and conducted reconnaissance and air strikes.
After being promoted to Captain, McGrath completed flight school in 2004, becoming a pilot. During 2005 and 2006, she was deployed on a second tour of duty over Afghanistan with Squadron 121. During this time she became the first female to fly in an F/A-18 in combat for the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2007, she was promoted from captain to major. From 2007 to 2009, she was deployed to East Asia. During this same time, McGrath was also part of Fighter-Attack Squadron 106. In 2010, she served a second tour in Afghanistan with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Helmand Province.
Return to the United States (2011–2017)
In 2011, McGrath returned to the United States and was assigned as a congressional fellow for Representative Susan Davis's office in Washington, D.C., as a defense and foreign affairs advisor for a year. Davis was chair and ranking member on the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House Armed Services Committee.
From 2012 to 2014, McGrath worked at the Headquarters Marine Corps in The Pentagon, as a Marine Corps liaison to the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development.
After reaching her 20-year service mark, McGrath retired from the armed forces on June 1, 2017, at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
2018 U.S. House campaign
On August 1, 2017, McGrath announced that she was running for the United States House of Representatives from Kentucky's 6th congressional district as a Democrat in the 2018 election against incumbent Representative Andy Barr, a Republican. McGrath's campaign announcement video attracted national attention.
McGrath said that she saw former Representative Ben Chandler, Barr's Democratic predecessor, speak at the Naval Academy, and she had reached out to him for help when she began considering running for election.
In response to concerns that she would not represent rural voters well, McGrath set up multiple field offices in less populated areas of Kentucky to reach rural voters. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) supported McGrath's opponent in the primary. McGrath was endorsed by Representative Seth Moulton, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, VoteVets.org, a veterans political action committee (PAC), and With Honor, a veterans PAC.
McGrath won the Democratic Party primary on May 22, 2018. She defeated Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington, and a well-known figure who was one of the first openly gay Kentuckians elected to public office. She won all 18 rural counties in the district with the exception of Fayette County. After the win, Gray endorsed McGrath, as did the DCCC via their Red to Blue campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden called to congratulate McGrath.
In the November 2018 general election, McGrath was defeated by Barr. He won 51% of the vote to McGrath's 47.8%.
2020 U.S. Senate campaign
On July 9, 2019, McGrath announced on Twitter that she was running for the United States Senate for Kentucky in the 2020 election, challenging incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican and the Majority Leader. McGrath raised $3.5 million in her first week. In her launch video, McGrath stated that "bit by bit, year by year, [McConnell has] turned Washington into something we all despise -- where dysfunction and chaos are political weapons."
On August 23, 2019, McGrath's campaign released an ad called "10 Hour Bus Ride." It featured a reenactment of a group of miners with black lung disease who made a 10-hour bus trip to Washington D.C. to ask McConnell to help fund their medical care, but received only one minute of McConnell's time. Two miners who were featured in the ad filed a lawsuit against the McGrath campaign for using their images. They said they were not informed the footage would be used for political purposes, although the McGrath campaign disputes this.
McGrath's campaign reported raising $12.8 million in the first quarter of 2020, outraising McConnell, who reported raising $7.4 million in the same period.  As of June 2020, small donors had contributed $43M to the "Amy for America" PAC and $29M to the "Amy McGrath for Senate" PAC through the ActBlue PAC. Over 1.7 million individual donations through ActBlue have been reported by the two PACs.
McGrath won the Democratic nomination with 45% of the primary vote. McGrath's vote share skewed towards rural areas: she won all but five counties, with those counties being among the most populous in the commonwealth. Other candidates in the primary included Kentucky representative Charles Booker, who received 43%, and retired Marine Mike Broihier, who won 5%. Broihier and Booker both ultimately endorsed McGrath.
In July 2020, conservative commentator Ann Coulter sent a pair of tweets which appeared to endorse McGrath over McConnell. In September, McGrath was endorsed by Kentucky’s sitting governor, Andy Beshear
A poll released in August by Quinnipiac University showed McConnell leading McGrath by 5 percentage points, 49% to 44%. Another Quinnipiac University poll in mid-September, showed McConnell's lead grew to 12 percentage points, 53% to 41%. Additionally the poll showed 91% of likely voters have already made up their minds, while only 9% said they might change their mind. 
In her 2018 House and 2020 Senate races, McGrath has identified herself as a moderate Democrat. McGrath considers herself a fiscal conservative. Left-leaning news outlets, including Rolling Stone, have criticized McGrath for being too conservative, as have her progressive primary opponents, Charles Booker and Mike Broihier.
McGrath supports the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and efforts to preserve and improve it. She has said "we have a very complex health care system in America and right now we have the Affordable Care Act, that just came into effect a few years ago. ... I believe, as with every major piece of legislation in this country, we should try to make it work.” She has stated support for a public option for health care, similar to the insurance plan offered to military veterans, and has also said she supports allowing people over 55 to opt-in to Medicare.  McGrath opposes Medicare for All, saying that she prefers to improve on the ACA and that she opposes the abolishment of private health insurance. During her 2018 House campaign she had indicated she liked the idea of single-payer healthcare plans, but thought they just weren't feasible.
McGrath has called climate change "a fact," and said it "disrupt[s] the environment" and harms the economy. She supports investing in infrastructure in eastern Kentucky to offset the economic impacts of the coal industry’s continuing decline.
McGrath has stated her support for the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms, noting she "went to combat with a 9 millimeter strapped to my chest and a 20 millimeter cannon on the front of my jet." She favors stronger background checks on firearm sales, as well as "banning sales to those on terror watch lists, and continuing federal research on the gun violence epidemic."
McGrath supports the right to abortion, although she opposes late-term abortions. Generally, she favors the status quo concerning abortion restrictions, saying "there are [currently] enough restrictions on abortion and they're reasonable."
McGrath has stated "I want to do what's best for Kentucky, and when President Trump has good ideas, I'm going to be for them. To me it's not about your political party, it's not about wearing a red jersey or blue jersey."
McGrath has called for comprehensive immigration reform. McGrath opposes building a physical barrier or wall along the entire US border with Mexico, saying it would be "very expensive" and not be "effective," and "it would take decades to build and then you can just defeat it with a ladder. We can secure our border with better technology" such as drone patrols. In a debate on KET during the Democratic primary of her 2018 campaign, McGrath displayed a willingness to compromise on immigration issues. She opposes abolishing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
McGrath opposes free college tuition paid for by the government.
At an August 2020 meeting with black church leaders, McGrath stated support of widespread policing reforms - including federal funding for body cameras, requiring independent investigations into officer-involved shootings, and creating a national database of police officers who are fired for misconduct.
In 2016, McGrath authored an editorial for Foreign Policy magazine, calling for a thorough investigation of the decision-making process that the U.S. government took leading up to the Iraq War, similar to the British Chilcot Report. She cited the "seven investigations, ... 33 hearings, and ... almost $7 million examining every facet of the disaster in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed," and contrasted it with the "4,806 American and coalition members deaths and 32,246 wounded" and estimated $3 trillion spent during the Iraq War, without any investigation.
McGrath was inspired to become a military aviator at a young age, especially after visiting the National Museum of the United States Air Force. She said that she was inspired to be a fighter pilot when she was a 7th grader in middle school when she studied aviation in World War II, and her family often visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
At the age of 12, McGrath wrote to her representative and both of her senators to ask why women were not allowed to become fighter pilots. Neither senator replied, and her congressman provided a condescending reply, so McGrath wrote to every member of the House Armed Services Committee asking for a change in the law. Rep. Pat Schroeder wrote back, encouraging her to keep working towards her dreams, and said that Congress was working on the issue.
Honors and awards
McGrath has received the following awards and recognition.
|Meritorious Service Medal|
|Air Medal||Eight-time recipient|
|Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal|
|Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal|
|Presidential Unit Citation|
|Iraq Campaign Medal|
|Afghanistan Campaign Medal|
Works and publications
- McGrath, Maj Amy 'Krusty' (March 2013). "Women in Combat: The Bogus Old Arguments Rise Again (A Rebuttal)". Marine Corps Gazette. 97 (3). Archived from the original on July 8, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
- United States Marine Corps (March 1, 2013). United States Marine Corps Interagency Integration Strategy. Marine Corps Service Campaign Plan Annex V. Archived from the original on December 15, 2016.
- McGrath, Amy (May 2014). More for Less: Protecting America's Security Interests Through Soft Power Programs (Thesis/dissertation). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University. OCLC 892343270.
- "Kenton native named to Ky. Aviation Hall of Fame". The Cincinnati Enquirer. August 14, 2016.
- Kenny, Caroline (August 2, 2017). "Retired fighter pilot announces her run for Congress in Kentucky" (Includes video). CNN. Archived from the original on April 21, 2018.
- de Wind, Dorian (August 2, 2017). "Amy McGrath, a Marine Combat Fighter WSO on a New Mission". HuffPost. Archived from the original on September 17, 2017.
- Ellis, Ronnie (April 28, 2017). "NKY's Amy McGrath considering run against Andy Barr? CNHI News reporter Ronnie Ellis has the story". Northern Kentucky Tribune. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017.
- Tackett, Michael (May 23, 2018). "How Amy McGrath Went From Marine Fighter Pilot to Victorious Democrat". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 23, 2018.
- Official 2018 General Election Results (PDF) (Report). Secretary of State of Kentucky. November 20, 2018. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- Daniel Desrochers (July 9, 2019). "Amy McGrath launches campaign for U.S. Senate, paints a target on Mitch McConnell". Lexington Herald Leader. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
- "Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, USMC" (Video profile). Aviation Museum of Kentucky. November 13, 2016.
- Bucher, Chris (August 1, 2017). "Amy McGrath: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017.
- Holmstedt, Kirsten A.; Duckworth, L. Tammy (foreword by) (2007). "Call Sign: "Krusty"". Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. pp. xiv, xxi–xxiii, 81–113, 311. ISBN 978-0-811-74011-1. OCLC 773829868.
- Tackett, Michael (July 6, 2018). "Amy McGrath Set Her Sights on the Marines and Now Congress. Her Mother Is the Reason". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018.
- "Political Science Department: Lieutenant Colonel Amy 'Krusty' McGrath, U.S. Marine Corps". United States Naval Academy. Archived from the original on April 29, 2017.
- "325 Student-Athletes Named to the 1994 Patriot League Fall Sports Academic Honor Roll" (PDF). Patriot League. January 23, 1995. p. 6.
NAVY: Amy McGrath. So., Women's Soccer. 3.37, Political Science. Edgewood, Kentucky
- McGrath, Amy (May 2014). More for Less: Protecting America's Security Interests Through Soft Power Programs (Thesis/dissertation). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University. p. 107. OCLC 892343270.
- Steitzer, Stephenie (April 7, 2004). "Marine pilot gets rare view of Opening Day". The Cincinnati Post. p. A6. ProQuest 429952978.
- Heyne, Mark; McGrath, Amy; Schadler, Marty (December 8, 2016). "Local Combat Pilot, Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, Inducted Into The KY Aviation Hall Of Fame" (Includes audio). WVXU, Cincinnati Public Radio. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017.
- Kennedy, Kelly (May 2, 2018). "What it Was Like to Be One of the First Female Fighter Pilots". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 4, 2018.
- Lachmann, John (March 5, 2007). "Local alum has earned her wings". The Cincinnati Post. p. A1. ProQuest 430611997.
- Kurtzleben, Danielle (August 3, 2017). "Female Retired Marine With Viral Campaign Ad Hopes To Bridge Gap In Democratic Party". NPR.
- Desrochers, Daniel (June 19, 2017). "His blog inflamed Kentucky politics a decade ago. Now he's back". Lexington Herald-Leader.
- Puckett, Jeffrey Lee (August 3, 2017). "Kentucky combat veteran Amy McGrath is going viral with a video announcing Congressional run". The Courier-Journal.
- Carlson, Ben (November 29, 2017). "Retired fighter pilot gunning for Barr's seat". The Anderson News.
- Tackett, Michael (June 16, 2018). "In Conservative Kentucky, Power of Female Candidates Is Tested in Key House Race". The New York Times.
- Murphy, Tim (May 22, 2018). "As a kid, she petitioned Congress for the right to fly fighter planes. Now she's gunning for a seat of her own". Mother Jones.
- Tackett, Michael (January 29, 2018). "From Annapolis to Congress? These Three Women Know Tough Missions". The New York Times.
- Roarty, Alex (August 9, 2017). "Rising Dem star Moulton grants seal of approval to three House candidates". The News & Observer.
- Bradner, Eric (May 21, 2018). "Democratic primary in Kentucky pits openly gay mayor against female fighter pilot". CNN.
- "VoteVets PAC Endorses Amy McGrath for Congress". VoteVets.org.
- "Our Candidates: Amy McGrath KY-6 (D)". With Honor. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
- Nilsen, Ella (May 22, 2018). "Veteran Amy McGrath continues a Democratic winning streak for women and veterans". Vox.
- Tackett, Michael (May 22, 2018). "Amy McGrath, Once a Fighter Pilot, Wins Democratic Primary for Kentucky's 6th District". The New York Times.
- "Who is Amy McGrath, the Kentucky Democrat challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?". CNN Politics.
- Carter, Teri (June 5, 2018). "Rural women explain McGrath's big win". News-Graphic.
- "WKYT Interactive: Amy McGrath's county-by-county path to victory". WKYT-TV. May 23, 2018.
- Ellis, Ronnie (May 25, 2018). "McGrath can't be labeled". Richmond Register.
- Brammer, Jack (June 29, 2018). "Amy McGrath endorsed by primary foe who questioned her recent move to Kentucky" (Includes video). Lexington Herald-Leader.
- "Red to Blue: Amy McGrath, KY-06". Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
- Clark, Lesley (May 25, 2018). "Amy McGrath was at a Wendy's when her phone rang. It was Joe Biden. Here's what he said". McClatchyDC.
- "Kentucky's Sixth House District Election Results: Andy Barr vs. Amy McGrath". New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
- McGrath, Amy [@AmyMcGrathKY] (July 9, 2019). "I'm running to replace Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate" (Tweet). Archived from the original on August 7, 2019 – via Twitter.
- "Who is Amy McGrath, the Kentucky Democrat challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?". CNN.
- "Amy McGrath ad calls out Mitch McConnell for his short visit with Kentucky coal miners". Courier Journal.
- Dorsey, Marcus (September 5, 2019). "Two Kentucky miners shown in Amy McGrath ad want it taken down. Here's why". kentucky.com. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
- Jones, Sarah. "Amy McGrath Is Wasting Her Chance to Beat Mitch McConnell". nymag.com. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
- "McConnell challenger McGrath endorses Biden". The Hill.
- "McGrath outpaces McConnell's 'record-breaking' fundraising haul in midst of pandemic". Louisville Courier-Journal. April 7, 2020.
- "McConnell falls behind in the money race as small donors flock to McGrath". openSecrets.org.
- "ActBlue Expenditures". openSecrets.org. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
- "County by county, here's how Kentucky's U.S. Senate primary shook out". Louisville Courier Journal. July 1, 2020. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
- "Kentucky US Senate primary: Amy McGrath squeaks out win over Charles Booker". Courier Journal.
- "Charles Booker endorses Amy McGrath in Kentucky Senate matchup with McConnell". Courier Journal. August 7, 2020.
- The first tweet called McGrath “lovely” and highlighted her service in the Marine Corps. Coulter’s second Tweet didn’t explicitly endorse McGrath, but made it clear she believes McConnell should be defeated. Referring to McConnell as a “Republican in name only” (RINO) she encouraged voters to stay home on election day, to seemingly help McGrath win. "Ann Coulter Endorsed A Democrat Over Mitch McConnell — Has The GOP Meltdown Begun?". Forbes. July 10, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
- "Gov. Beshear endorses fellow Democrat Amy McGrath for U.S. Senate". Lex 18 Lexington. September 14, 2020.
- "Kentucky, South Carolina, And Maine Senate Races Are All Close, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; 2020 Presidential Race: Trump Up In KY, SC, Trails In ME". Quinnipiac University. August 6, 2020.
- "'She's giving him a run for his money': McGrath closing gap on McConnell in latest Quinnipiac poll". Lex18.com Lexington. August 6, 2020.
- "McConnell's Kentucky Lead Suffers Amid Struggle to Agree Stimulus Deal: Poll". Newsweek.
- "Amy, Donald and Mitch. McGrath signals a different tone — and a moderate shift". Lexington Herald-Leader.
- "Can the Yang Gang Take Out Mitch McConnell?". Rolling Stone. May 22, 2020.
- "Young Kentucky Voters Have Doubts About McConnell's Top Democratic Challenger, Amy McGrath". Teen Vogue. March 19, 2020.
- "Amy McGrath is Challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She's everything wrong with the Democratic Party". The Intercept. July 11, 2019.
- "Barr says McGrath's health care plan is a single-payer system. That's not her plan". Lexington Herald-Leader.
- "McGrath introduces healthcare plan in Paducah". WSIL TV. August 31, 2020.}}
- "Mitch McConnell's challenger Amy McGrath opposes 'Medicare for All,' free college in new ad". Louisville Courier Journal.
- "Securing our Economic Future". Amy McGrath for Kentucky. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
- "Scorecard: Barr, McGrath answer 5 key questions for Kentucky voters". Courier Journal.
- "Amy McGrath: 'If President Trump has good ideas, I'll be for them'". Louisville Courier Journal.
- "Amy McGrath on How She Plans to Unseat Mitch McConnell in 2020". Newsweek.
- "Abolish ICE? Build the wall? Barr, McGrath navigate party landmines on immigration". Lexington Herald-Leader.
- "McGrath talks campaign, McConnell". Salyersville Independent.
- "Amy McGrath Takes Narrow Lead Over Mitch McConnell in Kentucky Senate Race, Poll Shows". Newsweek. June 9, 2020.
- "Amy McGrath woos Black vote in meeting with West Louisville church leaders". WLKY. August 7, 2020.
- Amy McGrath (September 28, 2016). "We need—and deserve—an American version of the Brits' Chilcot Report". Foreign Policy.
- Clift, Eleanor (October 16, 2017). "Kentucky Woman: Marine, Fighter Pilot, War Vet—and Woman and Democrat". The Daily Beast. New York, NY.
- Handler, Chelsea; McGrath, Amy (November 10, 2017). "Amy McGrath Is Running for Congress" (Video interview). Chelsea. YouTube.
- Desrochers, Daniel (May 15, 2018). "Amy McGrath has drawn a national spotlight. Can she be rural Kentucky's candidate?". Lexington Herald-Leader.
- McGrath, Amy (April 28, 2017). "Aviation Museum of Kentucky, 2016 Hall of Fame: Lt Col. Amy McGrath" (Video). Aviation Museum of Kentucky.
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|Party political offices|
Alison Lundergan Grimes
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Kentucky