Supporters of 6th District Democratic hopeful Amy McGarth crammed into the Bath County High School gymnasium Friday for a glimpse of their candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden — who urged the party faithful to take back the country and restore a sense of civility in politics.
The campaign estimates more than 2,100 people packed into the venue. In her brief opening, McGrath, a one-time independent who is married to a life-long Republican, echoed a famous line spoken by Biden’s former boss.
"For my husband and I, we are not Democrat or Republican first," the former fighter pilot said, mirroring former President Barack Obama's sentiment in the 2004 Democratic National Convention. "We are Americans first."
Biden largely struck a similar tone in an urgent speech that stressed the uniqueness of the upcoming midterms.
"No matter how young or how old you are, you've never been through an election quite like this. Never. Our basic American values are under assault," the former vice president said, adding "Kentucky values."
In remarks that frequently veered into impassionated pleas, Biden railed against slow-growing middle class wages, pressed for healthcare as an American right, and ended his remarks with a crowd-pleasing call to action.
"This is America, so get up. Take it back. It's time," he concluded to strains of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher."
Anxious rally-goers formed a winding line outside the gym before the event. Many cited McGrath’s choice to avoid negative advertising — despite a wave of attack ads — as the reason they came out to see her in person.
Pam Marrinan was first in line, despite living outside the 6th district. She said she hears the promise of a different brand of politics in McGrath's message. "You know, I don't know if it will work. But I think it's the best just to stay postive run your course and not be ugly."
Others pointed to healthcare and healing partisan divisions, one of the core messages of McGrath’s campaign. Still, near an entrance to the parking lot, hints of that political chasm were on display as a single protester tangled with a McGrath supporter over the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation.
"So you think she's lying?" the rally-goer asked, referencing the testimony of Kavanaugh accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
"Oh, she's definitely lying," the sandwich-board-wearing demonstrator responded.
"OK, we're done. We're so done."
But the protester, Ron King, had a different reason for drawing fire outside the event. The former Guard member said he believes McGrath is overplaying her military record.
"Bringing it up once or twice is wonderful. Using it as your only claim to fame isn't," he explained. "I don't see other people doing that."
McGrath’s rally with Biden comes just one day before another high-profile visit to the commonwealth. President Donald Trump is slated to stump for Republican incumbent Andy Barr in Richmond on Saturday.