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Marine vet fighter pilot vying for Congress

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A Kentucky native and U.S.  veteran has returned to her home state with hopes of challenging U.S. Rep. Andy Barr for his Sixth District seat in the House of Representatives.

Amy McGrath, a Democrat, retired lieutenant colonel in the  and instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, said progressive values were what enabled her to enjoy the career she did serving the country.

“When I was a kid I never wanted to be a politician,” said McGrath, who grew up in Kenton County and currently lives in Georgetown. “All I ever wanted to do was fly fighter jets and serve my country.”

When McGrath was growing up, there were laws prohibiting women from serving in combat roles in the military. That was changed in 1993 when several new roles opened to women in the military including being a combat fighter pilot.

“That was what I was determined to do,” McGrath said. “I joined the Marines, because that was the toughest. I went to flight school and that’s what I did for 12 years.”

McGrath served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. After returning stateside, she did a tour teaching at the Naval Academy, but she wanted to return to her home in Kentucky.

“As I reached the 20-year mark, the 2016 elections happened,” McGrath said. “I was really shocked by not only the results but with the candidates we had, what was going on in America and how it had changed for the worse. I felt like I needed to do something. I didn’t know what that was, but I needed to do something.”

After meeting with former Democratic congressman Ben Chandler two years prior, McGrath saw an opportunity to return to Kentucky and make an impact on her country at the same time.

“I said ‘You don’t remember me but I’m getting close to retirement and I want to come home,'” McGrath said. “I’ve been wanting to come home for a while now and I think I know what I want to do. I think I want to run for Congress and be a public servant again.”

Chandler put McGrath in touch with her campaign manager, Mark Nickolas, and she announced her candidacy officially Aug. 1.

McGrath said her goal is to bring political representation back to public service and getting away from standard politicians.

“I feel like if we don’t have good people, and we don’t have people who are willing to put themselves out there then what do we have in our country?” McGrath said.

But before McGrath can run against incumbent Barr, she faces a challenge from her own party. Democratic state senator Reggie Thomas announced his candidacy earlier in the summer.

“I welcome a primary,” McGrath said. “A primary is good for democracy, it’s good for Kentucky, it’s good for the voters and it’s good for me personally to get experience.”

McGrath said her priority issue in the race is health care.

“I’m running against a Republican incumbent who is the sort of standard Republican who is pushing this very political – in my opinion – repeal and replace,” she said. “I believe the Republicans have basically told people for many years that the Affordable Care Act is terrible, it’s failing and vote for us because we have something better, and I think that hasn’t been true.”

McGrath said she does not believe the ACA is “perfect,” but said the options Republicans have sought to replace it with are worse.

“I don’t want to be a status quo candidate because it’s not perfect,” she said. “We need to stand up to Republicans but then we have to have candidates who have the vision to move forward and make our health care system even better, because it needs to be.”

She said she is still traveling the district to meet with people and see what is important to them.

McGrath said she is also passionate about improving education and creating jobs that people can live on to reduce the number of people on public assistance.

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