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Amy McGrath for Senate

In his 2015 campaign for President, Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp. All he did was put his own alligators in the current swamp. One of the alligators that has dwelt in the swamp ever since 1984 is Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. McConnell has gained fame, not only for what he has done, but for what he has not done. Most recently, he worked hard with Senate Republicans to confirm a record number of judicial nominees, including Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Amy McGrath has now emerged as a viable contender to take McConnell's place in the senate representing Kentucky. Following are some truths, as well as unproven rumors that have cropped up regarding this formidable opponent.

Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath
Fighter Pilot
Education: U. S. Naval Academy
Born: June 3, 1975, Cincinnati, Ohio

Amy McGrath's military background has been one of her greatest assets in her campaign to represent Kentucky's Sixth Congressional District.

It was a major feature in her campaign announcement video, which went viral and caught the attention of national donors. It has helped her connect with conservative Democrats in the district. And it's an attribute she frequently highlights to hammer home her pledge to put country over political party.

But early in her race against U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, a few veterans in the 19-county district used conservative talk radio and letters to the editor to accuse McGrath of misrepresenting her role in combat missions.

They claimed that McGrath misrepresented her military record in campaign commercials. In particular, they accused McGrath of "stolen valor" for creating the false impression that she piloted F-18 fighter jets into combat.

Amy McGrath interview with Samantha Bee

But McGrath has been consistent about her role in the military. She has taken pride in having been the first woman Marine to fly in combat missions in an F-18. She has been careful not to claim she piloted any aircraft in combat. She served as the back-seat weapons system operator during her 89 combat missions. She did later become a front-seat pilot, but never steered an F-18 during a combat mission.

A review of McGrath's commercials and public comments have not found any evidence that she has claimed to have piloted an F-18 during combat, though some political groups supporting her and some media reports have gotten it wrong.

Michael Estorer, who served with McGrath and now lives in Lexington, affirmed that everything in McGrath's campaign about her military service is accurate. "It is a smear campaign," Estorer said. "People are taking little facts and attacking them to misrepresent her service."

Representative Barr's campaign has not raised the issue and at a "Veterans for Barr" rally this summer, Barr said he appreciated McGrath's service. "We respect Amy McGrath's service to our country, as well as the service of all our veterans," said Barr campaign spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker. But at the "Veterans for Barr" event, some of the speakers before Barr took swipes at McGrath and her service.

What is McGrath's military record?

McGrath graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1997. She didn't have perfect vision, so instead of becoming a pilot, she became a weapons systems operator for the F/A-18D Hornet, earning the call sign "Krusty" because of the way her hair stuck out from under her helmet.

She became the first woman Marine to fly in an F-18 into combat when she was deployed to Kyrgyzstan in 2002. While there, she flew more than 50 combat missions into Afghanistan, in the back seat of the plane.

She went back to the Middle East in 2003 as part of an initial push in the Iraq War and flew more than 30 missions.

"So my flying missions, the 89 combat missions, I was a weapons systems officer," McGrath said last month. "That's why I was always very careful to say I was the first women to fly in an F-18 because I was a back-seater and I have always been up front about that."

McGrath did later become a pilot. Between 2004 and 2007, after getting LASIK eye surgery, she trained in Texas to move from the back seat to the front seat of the plane. It was during that time that she achieved her childhood dream of landing on aircraft carriers, first in 2006 in a smaller plane and then with an F-18 in 2007.

After that training, she was redeployed to Afghanistan in 2010, this time as a pilot. But instead of flying in combat missions, she was assigned aviation support duties on the ground.

"When you're in the military, you do what Uncle Sam tells you," McGrath said in an interview this summer. "There are some people who don't go to combat at all."

The last eight years of her military service were spent in the U.S., first on Capitol Hill, then in the Pentagon, then in the classroom at the U.S. Naval Academy.

McGrath said after she had her first child in 2013, a general called her into his office and said he wanted her to return to flying.

"And I said, 'sir, I want another kid,'" McGrath recalled. "And he said 'ok, that's not what the Marine Corps wants.' And I said, 'well, it's what I want.' And he said 'well, if you miss this opportunity to go back and be an executive officer and fly again, you will not be promoted anymore.'"

McGrath had two more children before she retired from the Marine Corps in 2017 as a Lieutenant Colonel.

A misrepresentation?

In her own commercials and in interviews, McGrath has been careful about how she presents her military record. In her first commercial announcing her candidacy, McGrath summed up her combat duties in the military like this.

"I spent 20 years as a U.S. Marine, flew 89 combat missions bombing Al Qaeda and the Taliban," she said. "I was the first woman Marine to fly in an F-18 in combat. And I got to land on aircraft carriers."

Some of her supporters haven't been so careful.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently aired an ad supporting McGrath that said "as a fighter pilot, McGrath flew 89 combat missions." She was not a pilot during those missions.

McGrath's detractors remain unconvinced that she has been honest with voters. "Her campaign is putting some truths together to make a lie," they say.

That mindset frustrates Michael Estorer, who went to flight school with McGrath and claims everyone there knew she'd be the first female Marine to fly into combat. "There is nothing she has said that isn't accurate," Estorer said.

McGrath said she's not paying much attention to the accusations. "I've got thick skin," she said. "If people want to talk about me, that's fine. I know what I did."

Comment by R. Berger:

Can you imagine this?.... A republican... complaining... unjustly... that Amy McGraph lied in her commercials. Where is this republican's wrath when he hears his beloved Republican president spew up to 30 blatant lies each day? Has he no shame?

Amy McGrath talks about Mitch


Amy's Military History

McGrath attended St. Pius X Middle School, a Catholic school in Edgewood. In 1993, McGrath graduated from the all girls Catholic high school Notre Dame Academy where she played high school varsity soccer, basketball, baseball, and was captain of the soccer team her senior year. In her senior year, she received a superintendent's discretionary appointment to the United States Naval Academy, the same year Congress lifted the Combat Exclusion Policy which banned women from becoming fighter pilots After graduating from the Naval Academy, at the age of 21 McGrath was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. In 1999, she completed flight school and started her career as a Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) in the F/A-18 aircraft. McGrath had found out she did not have 20/20 vision, which meant she could not become a pilot, but as a WSO, coordinated weapons including air-to-air AMRAAM missiles and heat-seeking Sidewinders. She was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121. When McGrath and fellow Marine pilot Jaden Kim joined VMFA-121, they became the first female aviators to join the squadron. During this same time, McGrath was also part of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101.

After the September 11 attacks, McGrath was one of the first to report to duty at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar base before the closing of the gates due to DEFCON 3. She was paired with a senior pilot on the flight line waiting for the order to protect Los Angeles, San Diego, and the west coast to potentially shoot down any hijacked aircraft.

In March 2002, McGrath was deployed to Manas, Kyrgyzstan, for a six-month tour, during which she flew 51 combat missions in a F/A-18D in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.1 She was the first woman to fly a combat mission in the United States Marine Corps. In January 2003, stationed in Kuwait, McGrath flew in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, where she provided air support to ground troops and conducted reconnaissance and air strikes.

After being promoted to Captain, McGrath transitioned to a pilot role and completed flight school in 2004. During 2005 and 2006, she was deployed on a second tour of duty over Afghanistan with Squadron 121. During this time she became the first female to fly in an F/A-18 in combat for the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2007, she was promoted from captain to major. From 2007 to 2009, she was deployed to East Asia. During this same time, McGrath was also part of Fighter-Attack Squadron 106.

In 2010, she served a second tour in Afghanistan with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Helmand Province. In 2010, as part of this tour, McGrath was a member of a Detainee Review Board in Parwan Province in Afghanistan. During her military career, McGrath flew at least 2,000 flight hours, and was on over 85 combat missions. She also flew in exercises in the U.S., Alaska, Egypt, Australia, Korea, and Japan In 2011, McGrath shifted stateside, working as a congressional fellow for Representative Susan Davis's (D-CA) office in Washington, D.C., as a defense and foreign affairs advisor for one year. Davis was chair and ranking member on the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House Armed Services Committee and has ties via her husband to Kentucky.

From 2012 to 2014, McGrath worked at the Pentagon at the Headquarters Marine Corps, Strategy & Plans Division, International Affairs Branch as a Marine Corps liaison to the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development. From 2014 to 2017, McGrath taught U.S. government to midshipmen as a senior political science instructor at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. After reaching her 20-year service mark, McGrath retired from the armed forces on June 1, 2017, at the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In her 2018 House and 2020 Senate races, McGrath has identified herself as a moderate Democrat. McGrath considers herself a fiscal conservative.

Donald Trump ran in 2016 as an outsider. He personified the outsider. Now he's appealing to the people of Kentucky to vote for the most swampy person... Vote for the guy who knows the swamp the best... who's been in the swamp longer than anybody else.

July 22, 2020: Amy's Tribute to Congressman John Lewis

"John Lewis was an American hero, a civil rights icon who refused to rest on his legacy and kept fighting for justice - in his words - 'as long as he had air in his lungs'.
His passing, especially right now, hits hard. It has many of us asking how to honor his life's work to the extent it deserves. Mitch McConnell put out a statement over the weekend calling John Lewis a hero - it was a nice gesture.
But those were just words. Mitch's actions tell an entirely different story-one where Mitch has actively stood in the way of the progress John Lewis spent his life fighting for.
Back in 1965, John Lewis nearly died on the Edmund Pettus Bridge marching for the Voting Rights Act, which would outlaw long-entrenched racial discrimination against minority voters. The bill passed later that year, fundamentally changing our democracy for the better. It is, beyond question, one of the most important pieces of legislation in our nation's history.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court gutted the law in 2013 on the incorrect notion that it had done its job. Since that ruling, we've seen a systematic, deliberate attempt to restrict access to the ballot booth - particularly in communities of color. Voters have been purged from the rolls, polling locations have been reduced, and unnecessary ID laws have been passed - all intended to keep people from voting.
Until the day he died, John Lewis was still leading the fight to undo that damage and restore critical protections that help guarantee all Americans' right to vote. Just last December, he presided over the House when it passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would undo much of the damage of 2013.
That legislation has been sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk for 227 days, because he has refused to even hold a vote. If Mitch wants to honor John Lewis, he should start by holding a vote on that bill-tomorrow.
As his electoral opponent, maybe I'm not supposed to say this-but I sincerely hope Mitch surprises us. I'll be the first to applaud him for doing what's right instead of what was good for Mitch.
Thank you,