Amy McGrath (left) seeks Mitch McConnell’s Senate seat in a race that’s neck-and-neck. | Credit: Courtesy

In a race they’re calling second in importance to only the presidential contest, Santa Barbara Democrats are actively supporting Amy McGrath in her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. More than 100 people have responded to an invitation to meet her at a fundraiser at the Santa Barbara Club on December 14, with the asking price of admission ranging between $250 and $2,800. 

“We’ve raised in the high five figures already,” said organizer Tom Parker of progress toward the goal of $100,000 for the Kentucky Democrat, who is neck-and-neck with McConnell in the polls.

Kentucky is in play, with its hotly contested governor’s race recently a confirmed win for Democrat Andy Beshear over very unpopular Republican governor Matt Bevins. With a voting populace almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the state went for Trump by 62 percent. 

In the McGrath-McConnell matchup, McGrath — a former fighter pilot who was the first woman to fly combat missions for the Marine Corps — faces a senator who’s been the Republican Senate leader since 2006. Considered the canniest of politicians, McConnell has grasped the Senate reins tightly, refusing to hold confirmation hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland once Republicans gained control of the Congress in 2014 and hewing the Trump line since 2016. McConnell recently called the impeachment proceedings “performance art” and earlier doubted 67 senators would agree to impeach the president.

McGrath enjoys soaring support in Kentucky and beyond, raising $2.5 million in the 24 hours after she announced. In recent months, Parker said, her polling numbers put her within one percent of McConnell for the seat he has held for 35 years. Interestingly, an analysis of the two candidates’ campaign finances for 2019 by the blog Forward Kentucky saw considerable support for both coming from states like California and New York, and McConnell enjoying $170 million from political action committees compared to McGrath’s $9.7 million.

Parker is part of an ad hoc group that includes State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who will emcee the McGrath fundraiser, and hosts Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall, as well as prominent Dems Laura Capps and Susan Rose. 

“Rep. Katie Porter was here recently in an event put on by the Democratic Women,” Parker said, adding that astronaut Mark Kelly — who is running for Senate in Arizona for John McCain’s seat against a very right-wing Republican — was here a few weeks ago. Said Parker, “There’s really a chance this time for Democrats in the Senate and the White House.”


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