Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democrat, announced Tuesday that she will run to challenge Republican leader Mitch McConnell in his 2020 Senate reelection bid.
McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, made her announcement with a YouTube video Tuesday morning. There are two other candidates running in the Democratic primary, but McGrath is the most prominent.
McGrath would likely face an uphill climb against McConnell, who has been in the Senate since 1985. In his last reelection race, in 2014, McConnell won 56% of the vote against the Democratic contender, Alison Grimes, who took nearly 41% of the vote. The last Democrat who represented Kentucky in the Senate was Wendell Ford, who retired in 1999.
Still, McConnell has vulnerabilities. The powerful Republican has a 36% approval and 50% disapproval rating in Kentucky, according to a Morning Consult poll from the first quarter. President Donald Trump will also be on the ballot, however, and he won the state by about 30 percentage points in 2016.
"You're right to say [McConnell] is formidable. He's been around 34 years," McGrath said Tuesday morning in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
McGrath said her campaign strategy will be to show Kentuckians that McConnell is a barrier to their ability to "drain the swamp," a key reason why the red state voted for Trump.
"Trump promised to bring back jobs," she said. "He promised to lower drug prices for so many Kentuckians. That's so important. Who stops him along the way? Mitch McConnell."
McConnell has long been an adversary of Democrats, largely due to his ability to block major bills from the Democratic House and his efficiency in getting Trump's federal judge nominees confirmed. In 2016, McConnell denied confirmation proceedings for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
"Amy McGrath lost her only race in a Democratic wave election because she is an extreme liberal who is far out of touch with Kentuckians," Kevin Golden, a spokesman for the McConnell campaign said. "Comparing President Trump's election to 9/11, endorsing a government takeover of healthcare, and calling the wall "stupid" is a heckuva platform that we will be delighted to discuss over the next sixteen months."
McGrath lost a House race in November to incumbent Republican Rep. Andy Barr, but the contest nevertheless put her on the map as a possible contender against McConnell. Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, has encouraged her to run against McConnell.
McGrath's video announcement describes her experience as a 13-year-old, when she wrote a letter to McConnell to tell him about her aspirations of serving the U.S. as a combat pilot when she became an adult.
"He never wrote back," McGrath, 44, says in the YouTube video. "I'm Amy McGrath, and I've often wondered, how many other people did Mitch McConnell never take the time to write back or even think about?"
Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a longtime critic of McConnell, expressed her support for McGrath's campaign on Twitter.