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Democrats Say McGrath Win Shows Kentuckians 'Energized'

Samantha Lederman
Retired fighter pilot Amy McGrath (D) addresses supporters after her 6th District Democratic primary win on May 22, 2018.

Political newcomer Amy McGrath is Kentucky Democrats’ choice to challenge three-term Republican incumbent Andy Barr in the fall. Buoyed by the rural vote, the 42-year-old former fighter combat pilot upset Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in the party's 6th District primary.

The first-time candidate told a room of excited supporters Tuesday night that she’s ready to represent all 19 counties in the district and bring a fresh voice to Washington.

"It's time for the special interests and the political parties to take a back seat," she announced in her victory speech. "Yes, I'm a Democrat, but I'm an American first."

Aiming her sights at the Washington elites she's campaigned against, McGrath declared that it's "time the House of Representatives becomes the people's house once again and it's time that we have leaders that we can be proud of once again."

Credit Josh James / WUKY
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray concedes the 6th District Democratic primary race to Amy McGrath on May 22, 2018.

McGrath notched an eight-point win over Gray, who fared well in the city he’s led for eight years but failed to muster enough votes outside Fayette County. In his concession speech, Gray said he’s ready to get behind his former opponent this fall.

"It was a spirited campaign," the two-term mayor said, “and I know that Andy Barr is in for the fight of his life."

State Sen. Reggie Thomas placed a distant third with just over 7 percent of the vote. Supporter Doyle Warren said fundraising woes were to blame for the campaign’s lack of traction.

"I think you can always follow the money," he said, awaiting the senator's arrival at his campaign's headquarters.

McGrath joins other outsider candidates who have scored upsets in recent primaries and special elections across the country. Now she faces a seasoned Republican lawmaker who easily won reelection against two other women candidates.

But this year, Democrats hope an energized base and McGrath's reputation as a fighter, both in and outside the political ring, will serve them well at the ballot box in November.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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