Amy McGrath, who packaged her biography as the first female Marine to fly in an F-18 fighter jet in combat with a powerful anti-Washington message, won the Democratic House primary in Kentucky’s Sixth congressional district Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Ms. McGrath, 42, campaigned vigorously in all 19 counties in the district that stretch into deeply Republican rural areas, and was able to raise an extraordinary amount of money without the backing of national Democrats, many of whom thought that her opponent, Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington, would be the stronger candidate. Her win was the latest example of the strength of women candidates this year.
She’ll face Representative Andy Barr, a Republican who won the district by 22 points in 2016, in the November general election.
For much of the race, it seemed that Mr. Gray would win easily. Ms. McGrath’s campaign conducted a poll in December that showed she was behind by 47 points. By April, her campaign polling showed that she had surged ahead by seven points, a remarkable swing given that Mr. Gray retained high favorable ratings and his campaign had not been damaged by a scandal.
“Jim Gray in a normal year in normal times should win by 20 or 30 points,” said Fred Yang, the campaign pollster for Ms. McGrath.
But Ms. McGrath’s victory showed that many campaign conventions might not apply this year with a restive electorate angry at the inertia in Washington and the turbulence of the Trump presidency.
She gained a measure of fame in August with a two-minute video in which she described her military service in the context of the desire to run for office. The video generated more than $1 million in campaign contributions, giving her a national profile.
Though both candidates pledged to run a positive campaign, Mr. Gray aired an ad late last week suggesting that Ms. McGrath had not lived in the district for a sufficient amount of time. But that ad generated a broad attack against him from groups promoting the election of veterans who said Ms. McGrath’s military service should not be seen as a negative.