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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards defeats Republican Eddie Rispone

Edwards’s victory is a blow to Republicans and President Donald Trump after earlier GOP loss in Kentucky

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has narrowly won re-election to a second term, defeating Republican Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

The win by Edwards in Saturday’s runoff gives Democrats victories in two out of three Southern governor’s races this year, despite fervent interventions in all three races by President Donald Trump in states he carried handily in 2016.

Governor John Bel Edwards speaks to supporters in New Orleans after winning second term (WWL-TV via YouTube)

Edwards took 51 percent of the vote in the runoff to 49 percent to Rispone, one of Louisiana’s wealthiest businessmen who was making his first bid for political office.

“How sweet it is,” Edwards said in his victory speech to supporters at a New Orleans hotel. “You didn’t just vote for me. You voted for four more years of putting Louisiana first.”

Edwards is the first Democrat to win a second term as Louisiana’s chief executive since Edwin Edwards (no relation) won re-election in 1975.

In the other statewide office on the ballot Saturday, Republican incumbent Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin easily defeated Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent.

During the first round of voting in October, Edwards took 47 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Rispone, who had tried to close the gap by unifying the Republican vote, which he had split with the third place finisher, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham.

Trump — who carried Louisiana by 20 points in 2016 — visited the state three times during the campaign, most recently on Thursday night when he implored a rally in Bossier City that “you’ve gotta give me a big win” by electing Rispone.

Edwards responded to Trump’s involvement in the race with a classic Southern putdown in his victory speech.

“And as for the president — God bless his heart,” Edwards said. “If this campaign has taught us anything, it’s that the partisan forces in Washington, D.C. are not strong enough to break through the bonds that we share as Louisianans.”

Rispone led most of the night as the votes were counted, but Edwards caught and passed him as the vote came in from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport, where the governor rolled up large margins of victory — more than 90 percent in Orleans Parish.

Edwards, 53, is one of just three Democratic governors in the South, along with North Carolina’s Roy Cooper and Virginia’s Ralph Northam. But unlike Northam and Cooper, Edwards has positioned himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes legal abortion and gun control, both of which played well in Louisiana.

As a result, national Democrats, including the large crop of 2020 White House contenders, have conspicuously avoided campaigning on his behalf, although former President Barack Obama did make a robocall for the governor in the first round of the primary.

Louisiana’s governor’s race is the last contest on the 2019 election calendar and comes less than two weeks after Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, was defeated for re-election by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, despite Trump campaigning on Bevin’s behalf.

Republicans had more success in Mississippi, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves won the governorship over Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.

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Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin concedes defeat after recanvass doesn’t change election results

Democrat Andy Beshear’s 5,200-vote lead stands up after review

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

FRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — Republican Governor Matt Bevin has conceded defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race after a recanvass of the November 5 vote did not reverse Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear’s 5,200-vote lead.

“We’re going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people,”  Bevin said at a November 14 news conference after the results of the recanvass came in. “I wish Attorney General Beshear well as he transitions to his next role in this state. It’s a big responsibility.”

He also said “every single facet of our administration that is desired is ready, willing and able … to help in this transition process.”

Governor Matt Bevin concedes defeat at news conference (From Louisville Courier-Journal via YouTube)

Bevin had refused to concede on election night, citing unspecified “irregularities” in the election. He asked for a recanvass, in which elections officials in the state’s 120 counties rechecked the accuracy of vote totals that had been reported.

The recanvass showed almost no change in the results in initially reported, which showed Beshear beating Bevin by 5,189 votes out of more than 1.4 million cast.

Ballots were not recounted; the state uses a system where paper ballots are marked and scanned by machines.

Watch Governor Matt Bevin’s concession at end of this story.

Beshear reacted to Bevin’s decision not to further contest the election on Twitter: “It’s official – thank you Kentucky. @GovMattBevin and his team have already begun a smooth transition. It’s time to get to work!”

Bevin’s concession culminates four tumultuous years in Frankfort that featured a bitter feud with public school teachers opposed to the governor’s attempts to fix holes in the state’s pension system. He also quarreled with fellow Republicans in the legislature and tossed his own lieutenant governor, Jenean Hampton, from his re-election ticket; members of his staff then tried to fire Hampton’s staff out from under her.

But Bevin’s most significant battle was against Beshear, who used the attorney generalship to haul the governor into court at least eight times, including a lawsuit that torpedoed a GOP-backed pension reform plan. The race between the two men became acrimonious, with Beshear accusing Bevin of being a bully and Bevin dismissing Beshear as a leftist ideologue.

Bevin wrapped himself in the mantle of President Donald Trump, who came to rally the Republican faithful in Lexington on the night before the election. But even Trump’s coattails — in a state he carried by 30 points in 2016 — couldn’t save a governor who topped the list of the nation’s most unpopular governors through much of his term.

Beshear, 41, who takes office December 10, will be following in the footsteps of his father, Steve Beshear, who served as governor from 2007 until 2015.

His lieutenant governor running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, an public school assistant principal and basketball coach, will take office at the same time. She has announced that she is expecting a child in February.

Beshear and Coleman will be the lone Democrats among statewide elected officials in Kentucky; Republicans swept the remaining five posts, including Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron, a protegé and former aide to the state’s senior Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will be the first Republican to hold that office in 71 years.

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Kentucky Votes: Democrat Andy Beshear ousts Republican Governor Matt Bevin

Beshear won despite President Donald Trump going all in for Bevin

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

LOUISVILLE (CFP) — Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has defeated Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who could not overcome his personal unpopularity to hang on to his job despite vocal support from President Donald Trump and a Republican wave further down the ballot.

Beshear took 49.2 percent in the November 5 vote to 48.9 percent for Bevin, who saw his approval ratings tank after a tumultuous four years in Frankfort during which he sparred with his fellow Republicans in the legislature, fought with his own lieutenant governor, and heaped criticism on public school teachers.

However, Bevin, trailing by 4,700 votes, refused to concede, telling his supporters that “we know for a fact that there have been more than a few irregularities” in the election.

The governor did not give specifics, saying only that the nature of the irregularities “will be determined according to law that’s well established.”

Kentucky Governor-elect Andy Beshear speaks to supporters in Louisville (Fox News via YouTube)

Beshear, speaking to jubilant supporters at a victory celebration in Louisville, said “my expectation is that [Bevin] will honor the election that was held tonight, that he will help us make this transition.”

The hotly contested governor’s race sparked a voter turnout more than 400,000 higher than in the last governor’s race in 2015, with Beshear crushing Bevin by 2-to-1 margins in the urban centers of Louisville and Lexington.

Republicans got better news in the race to succeed Beshear as attorney general, as Daniel Cameron, a protegé and former aide to the state’s senior Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, won the post, marking the first time in 76 years that it has gone to a Republican.

Despite losing the governorship, GOP candidates swept the rest of the statewide offices on the ballot Tuesday. Beshear will also have to work with large Republican majorities in the legislature to push through his agenda.

Beshear, 41, will now follow in the footsteps of his father, Steve, who served as governor from 2010 to 2016.

In his victory speech, Beshear said the result showed “that our values and how we treat each other is still more important than our party, that what unites us as Kentuckians is still stronger than any national divisions.”

“Tonight, I think we showed this country that in Kentucky, we can disagree with each other while still respecting one another,” Beshear said.

The gubernatorial contest became a bitter grudge match between Bevin and Beshear, who had sued the governor repeatedly over the past four years as attorney general.

Beshear had portrayed Bevin as a bully, particularly for his critical comments about public school teachers who have been protesting Republican-backed pension reform plans. To emphasize the point, he selected a public school teacher, Jacqueline Coleman, as his running mate for lieutenant governor, and he saluted teachers in his election night speech.

“Your courage to stand up and fight against all the bullying and name calling helped galvanize our entire state,” Beshear said. “This is your victory. From now on, the doors of your State Capitol will always be open.”

Bevin had painted Beshear as a far-left liberal and wrapped himself firmly in the mantle of Trump, who carried the Bluegrass State by 30 points in 2016.

Trump was featured prominently in Bevin’s ads, and he dropped into Lexington on the night before the election to hold a rally with the governor in which he urged supporters to come out for Bevin because “if you lose, it sends a really bad message … You can’t let that happen to me.”

The president offered no immediate reaction on Twitter to the results in the governor’s race, although he did tweet congratulations to Cameron for his victory in the attorney general’s contest.

Bevin, like Trump, did well in rural parts of the state. However, Beshear rolled up a margin of more than 130,000 votes in Louisville and Lexington and also won two of the three counties in suburban Cincinnati along with Frankfort and Bowling Green.

In the attorney general’s race, Cameron ran well ahead of Bevin to defeat Democrat Greg Stumbo in by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. Stumbo served as attorney general from 2004 to 2008.

Cameron, making his first bid for political office, is also the first African American to win a statewide race in Kentucky in his own right. (Current Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton was elected on a ticket with Bevin in 2015; he bounced her from his re-election ticket earlier this year.)

A Republican had not been elected attorney general since 1943, a string of 15 consecutive defeats which Cameron finally ended.

Republican incumbents swept other statewide races for auditor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner.

In the open race for secretary of state, Republican Michael Adams defeated Democrat Heather French Henry, a former Miss America.

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Governorships, legislative control on ballot in 3 Southern states Tuesday

Voters in Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia will cast ballots in off-year elections for state offices

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Voters in three Southern states will troop to the polls Tuesday to decide their state’s balance of power and give a first indication of how the current fractious state of American politics might play out in the 2020 election.

In Kentucky and Mississippi, Democratic candidates have a shot at wresting governorships out of GOP hands. In Virginia, Democrats will be trying to complete a takeover of state government by gaining the handful of seats they need to flip both houses of the legislature — which would give them unfettered power to draw political maps after the 2020 census.

Towering over all of these races is President Donald Trump, who has put his personal political prestige on the line by going all in for Republican candidates in Kentucky and Mississippi. Although Trump is not in any trouble in either state in 2020, Democrats will no doubt crow if Trump proves unable to carry his preferred candidates over the line.

In Kentucky, Republican Governor Matt Bevin is seeking re-election after a tumultuous four years in Frankfort that have left him among the nation’s least popular chief executives. He is being challenged by his archenemy, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has repeatedly sued the governor and now hopes to replace him.

Bevin has tried to counter his low approval ratings by wrapping himself in the Trump mantle and painting Beshear as a far-left liberal, particularly on the issue of abortion. Bevin opposes legal abortion, which Beshear supports.

Beshear has countered by painting Bevin as a bully, particularly in his critical comments about public school teachers who have been protesting Republican-backed pension reform plans.

The other race of note in Kentucky is the contest to replace Beshear as attorney general between Republican Daniel Cameron, a protegé of Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Democrat Greg Stumbo, who held the office from 2004 to 2008.

Although Republicans have become dominant in Kentucky politics in recent decades, the last time a Republican won a race for attorney general was 1943 — a streak of 15 consecutive wins that Cameron hopes to snap.

Cameron would also be the first African American to win a statewide race in Kentucky in his own right. (Current Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton was elected on a ticket with Bevin in 2015; he bounced her from his re-election ticket earlier this year.)

In Mississippi, two men who have served alongside each other in statewide office for the past 16 years, Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, are facing off in the governor’s race.

Democrats, who haven’t won a governor’s race in the Magnolia State since 1999, are hoping that Hood — running to the right of national party on contentious social issues such as abortion and gun control — can break through against Reeves, who had to fight his way through a contentious GOP primary and runoff.

However, a wrinkle in Mississippi law may prove Hood’s undoing — to win, a candidate not only has to win the most votes on Tuesday but must also carry a majority of state House districts. If that threshold isn’t meant, the next governor will be selected by the Republican-controlled legislature, which will almost certainly give the job to Reeves.

The threshold requirement — implemented during the era of Jim Crow to prevent black candidates from winning statewide offices — is currently being challenged in federal court, a suit that will take on new resonance if Hood wins the most votes but doesn’t carry enough districts.

In Virginia, statewide offices aren’t on the ballot, but all 100 House seats and 40 Senate seats are up for grabs.

Currently, Republicans hold a narrow 21-19 in the Senate and a 51-49 majority in the House, which means a net shift of two seats in either house could switch it to Democratic control.

Virginia has been trending Democratic in recent years, and two years ago, Democrats made huge gains to nearly take control of the House while also sweeping statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Democrats haven’t controlled the House since 1997 or the Senate since 2014. Should they take both chambers Tuesday, it will be the first time since 1993 that Democrats have controlled the legislature and the governorship, which will allow them to redraw legislative and congressional districts after the 2020 census.

Virginia’s congressional delegation currently has seven Democrats and four Republicans, after Democrats flipped three GOP-held seats in 2018. Controlling reapportionment would allow Democrats to protect those gains by drawing more favorable maps, as well as drawing new maps to cement their control of the legislature.

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Polls point to razor-close governor’s races in Kentucky, Mississippi heading into last week

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin appears to have closed gap on Democratic challenger, poll finds

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Heading into the final week of campaigning in governor’s races in Kentucky and Mississippi, polling shows Democrats within striking distance of winning in states that President Donald Trump won by a mile just three years ago.

In Kentucky, a Mason-Dixon poll released October 16 showed Republican Governor Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear both at 46 percent, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

While neither candidate has a lead in the race, the results of the poll were actually good news for Bevin, who trailed Beshear by 8 points in a poll by the same organization back in January.

In Mississippi, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood are competing for an open governor’s seat, Reeves led Hood 46 percent to 43 percent in an October 23 Mason-Dixon poll, within the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

Because the result is within the margin of error, the poll cannot definitely say either candidate is ahead, although the result does point to a close race.

Very little public polling has been done in either of these races, which also makes it difficult to confirm Mason-Dixon’s findings.

Beshear

Bevin

The poll in Kentucky found that Bevin has closed the gap with Beshear due to a 10-point increase in his support among Republicans, who appear to be returning to the governor’s camp as the election nears.

Bevin is also drawing support from 22 percent of Democrats in the poll, while Beshear is only getting 15 percent crossover support from Republicans.

The poll also showed that Bevin — who has consistently ranked among the nation’s least popular governors — has improved his job performance rating since January, although it still remains about 3 points underwater.

The poll also found Bevin leading Beshear in Eastern Kentucky, a region he lost to a little-known challenger in the Republican primary, which will be key to winning re-election.

The governor has also tied himself firmly to Trump, who carried Kentucky by 30 points in 2016. The poll showed Trump’s approval rating in Kentucky at 57 percent, with almost two-thirds of state voters opposing his impeachment.

Like Bevin, Reeves is also benefiting from Trump’s popularity in Mississippi, where the poll found his job approval rating at 54 percent and 56 percent opposing impeachment. The president carried the Magnolia State by 28 points in 2016.

Trump will come to Tupleo to campaign for Reeves on the Sunday before the November 5 election and will be at Rupp Arena in Lexington on the Monday before the election to campaign for Bevin.

The governor’s race in Mississippi is a collision between two men who, between them, have won eight statewide races.

Hood

Reeves

For Reeves, 45, the governorship will be a culmination of a climb through state politics that began when he won election as state treasurer in 2003 at the tender age of 29. He has served two terms as treasurer and two as lieutenant governor.

Hood, 57, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, has been attorney general since 2004. He has parted ways with national Democrats by taking more conservative positions on criminal justice and legal abortion, which he opposes.

He has also made expanding Medicaid in Mississippi — opposed by Reeves and long blocked by Republicans in Jackson — a centerpiece of his campaign.

Mississippi has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1999.

In Kentucky, the governor’s race is an extension of a bitter feud between Bevin and Beshear that began in 2016, when Beshear assumed the attorney generalship and the governor took over as chief executive from Beshear’s father, former Governor Steve Beshear.

Beshear has sued the governor at least eight times, including a successful effort to scuttle a GOP pension reform plan passed in 2018.

Bevin’s approval ratings have sagged as he has sparred with his lieutenant governor and fellow Republicans in the legislature and criticized public school teachers, who have descended on Frankfort during the past two legislative sessions to protest proposed changes in state pensions.

Beshear highlighted that issue by picking a public school teacher, Jacqueline Coleman, as his running mate for lieutenant governor and featuring aggrieved educators in his campaign ads.

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Matt Bevin, Andy Beshear pull no punches at Fancy Farm political picnic

Candidates for Kentucky governor address crowd of partisans amid dueling chants of “Four More Years” and “Throw Him Out”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

FANCY FARM, Kentucky (CFP) — Kentucky’s August political ritual, the Fancy Farm picnic, is known for tasty barbecue, hot weather and barbed comments coming from politicians on the stage.

But the nastiness went into overdrive Saturday amid highly contentious governor’s race between Republican Governor Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, with both men — and their supporters — making it abundantly clear just how much they do not like each other.

Bevin speaks at Fancy Farm; Beshear works the picnic crowd

The only moment of unity came when Bevin ended his remarks by asking the crowd to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Democrats obliged — and then went right back to heckling the commonwealth’s controversial chief executive with chants of “Throw Him Out.”

Republicans on the other side of the picnic pavilion responded with “Four More Years” and “Daddy’s Boy” — a reference to the fact that Beshear’s father, Steve, served as governor before Bevin.

Note: Videos of Bevin, Beshear at Fancy Farm follow this story.

Beshear’s campaign — buoyed by teachers, state employees and other groups angered during Bevin’s tenure — turned out more signs and a somewhat larger crowd. Republicans, however, accused Democrats of busing in non-Kentuckians from across the Ohio River in Illinois and Indiana to bolster their ranks.

“Andy Beshear may have won the sign battle today, but you will lose the war in November,” promised State Rep. Richard Heath, a local GOP legislator who warmed up the crowd for Bevin.

Among the Democrats’ signs was a giant cutout of the head of Republican Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, whom Bevin tossed from his ticket and with whom his administration touched off an ugly feud by firing members of her staff.

The Fancy Farm picnic, a fundraiser for St. Jerome Catholic Church, draws thousands of partisans from across Kentucky to the town of 500 on the far western side of the state. The church has hosted the event on the first Saturday in August every year since 1880, and it has become a ritual for ambitious politicians across the commonwealth

As Bevin has throughout the campaign, he sought to use national political issues as a wedge with the conservative Kentucky electorate, beginning his remarks by noting that the picnic raises money for a Catholic church and then displaying a poster from a recent Beshear fundraiser hosted by the owner of the state’s last remaining abortion clinic in Louisville.

“The only collusion that has ever happened in Kentucky is the collusion between this attorney general and the abortion industry,” said Bevin, who criticized Beshear — who supports legal abortion — for refusing to defend in court abortion restrictions passed by the Republican-controlled legislature.

The governor said the issue to be decided by voters in the November election is “which side are you on?”

“This should not be a difficult decision. It’s a function of whether you stand for America and American principles or whether you stand for socialism,” the governor said. “Do you stand with Donald Trump as the president of America, or do you stand with The Squad?,” a reference to four far-left Democratic congresswomen who have drawn Trump’s Twitter ire.

Beshear then followed Bevin to the stage to continue the strategy he has pursued throughout the campaign — to make the election about Bevin and his tenure in Frankfort, rather than Trump or national hot-button issues. He offered no response at all to the governor’s digs on the abortion issue.

Beshshear began by thanking Bevin “for finally showing up” to face him and then adding, “I guess we’ve got to thank the Koch brothers, too, for letting him,” a reference to the conservative mega-donors who have supported the governor.

“I guess they didn’t tell him Fancy Farm wasn’t one of their fancy resorts,” Beshear said.

Beshear called Bevin “reckless and erratic” and said “he never takes responsibility” for his decisions. He called the governor “more show pony than work horse” and said he had “left us a lot of manure.”

“The only thing we’re shoveling out of Frankfort this fall is you,” he said, as Bevin looked on impassively.

Beshear said the race comes down to four “critical” issues — fixing the financial problems in the state’s pension system, supporting public education, creating well-paying jobs and protecting health care. “And on every single one of them, Matt Bevin is wrong,” he said.

The attorney general also didn’t pass up the possibility to remind the crowd about what has become the most controversial moment of Bevin’s tenure as governor, in April 2018, when he claimed “somewhere in Kentucky” a student had been sexually assaulted or “ingested poison” because schools closed when teachers called in sick to protest pension changes at the Capitol.

“Matt Bevin thinks our teachers are ignorant thugs. I think you are amazing and selfless,” Beshear said, adding that if he is elected, teachers “will always be respected, you will never be locked out of your Capitol, and you will always have a seat at the table.”

The fall race in Kentucky will be a test of whether Trump’s popularity in Kentucky, which he won by 30 points in 2016, will be enough to save Bevin, who was ranked as the nation’s most unpopular governor in a recent Morning Consult poll. In Kentucky, 55 percent approve of Trump’s job performance; by contrast, 52 percent of state voters disapprove of Bevin’s performance, including 37 percent of Republicans.

Trump is expected to travel to Kentucky in the fall to campaign with Bevin, who attended the president’s rally last week in Cincinnati, just over the Ohio River.

Kentucky is one of three Southern states electing governors in 2019, along with Mississippi and Louisiana.

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Bevin’s remarks at Fancy Farm:

Beshear’s remarks at Fancy Farm:

McBattle 2020: Amy McGrath will run against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky

Race pits retired Marine fighter pilot with fundraising chops against the most powerful Republican in Congress

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

LEXINGTON (CFP) — After nearly unseating a sitting Republican congressman in 2018, Democrat Amy McGrath has set her sights on a much bigger target in 2020 — the most powerful Republican in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The retired Marine fighter pilot announced July 9 that she will challenge McConnell next year, setting the stage for a marquee Senate battle with national implications that will submerge 4.5 million Kentuckians in a sea of negative advertising.

McGrath announces Senate race on Twitter

McGrath pulled no punches in her opening campaign video, saying the senator “was elected a lifetime ago and has, bit by bit, year by year, turned Washington into something we all despise … a place where ideals go to die.”

“There is a path to resetting our country’s moral compass, where each of us is heard,” she said. “But to do that, we have to win this.”

McConnell’s campaign responded in kind, launching a website. “WrongPathMcGrath.com,” and posting a video on Twitter featuring comments McGrath made in her 2018 race, including saying that “I am further left, more progressive than anybody in Kentucky” and comparing her feelings after President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 to how she felt after seeing the towers fall on  9/11.

“Welcome to the race, Amy,” read the McConnell campaign’s tweet atop the video.

McGrath’s decision to take on McConnell was a win for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democratic leaders who had been recruiting her for the race. But she will face the most formidable force in Kentucky and national politics, who easily swatted away both primary and general election challenges in 2014.

McGrath, 44, who grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs in northern Kentucky, is a Naval Academy graduate who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine fighter pilot. After retiring in 2017, she returned to Kentucky to seek the 6th District U.S. House seat against Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr.

She raised more than $8.6 million for that race, thanks in part to a video about her life story that went viral, and dispatched a better-known candidate in the Democratic primary before losing to Barr in November by less than 10,000 votes.

Her decision to run for the Senate is good news for Barr, who won’t face a rematch. He has yet to draw another major Democratic challenger.

McConnell, 77, is seeking his seventh term in the Senate; when he was first elected in 1984, McGrath was just 9 years old. He has led Senate Republicans since 2007 and became majority leader in 2015 after the GOP took control.

McConnell, a frequent object of wrath from Trump partisans and some Tea Party groups, has drawn a GOP primary challenge from former State Rep. Wesley Morgan, from Richmond, who has said McConnell “embodies everything that is perverted in Washington D.C.”

However, it is unlikely Morgan — who endorsed a Democrat for his House seat after losing a Republican primary in 2018 — will be able to mount a substantial primary challenge against McConnell, who in 2014 swatted away a much more serious challenge from now-Governor Matt Bevin.

In 2014, Democrats had high hopes of unseating McConnell with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. But in the end, McConnell won by 15 points.

Given McConnell’s stature and McGrath’s fundraising prowess, the 2020 race is likely to feature an avalanche of outside advertising in a small state with just two large urban areas and four television markets.

In 2014, McConnell and Grimes spent a combined $50 million, or about $11 for every man, woman and child in the commonwealth. And those figures don’t include spending by outside groups.

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