Retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath addresses supporters at a campaign event 

on October 3, 2020, at West Sixth Farm in Frankfort, KY. 

In Kentucky, McGrath Concedes Hard-Fought 

Senate Race to Incumbent McConnell 

Retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, a Democrat, lost a contentious Senate race on Tuesday night to incumbent Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell, who has held his Senate seat for 36 years, won a seventh term in office by more than 417,000 votes across Kentucky's 120 counties.

The McGrath-McConnell fight had both local and national implications. If McGrath had won, she would have helped the Democratic effort to unseat a Republican majority in the Senate. She also would have been the first female senator from Kentucky and would have been the first Democratic senator from Kentucky in 20 years.

McGrath speaks to Black supporters about policing and racial justice 

at a campaign event on October 4, 2020, at Kentucky State University.

Although McGrath had a disadvantage in the polls, she had a strong financial advantage, even in a state that traditionally supports Republican candidates in senatorial and presidential elections. Nearly an hour after the polls closed in Kentucky on Tuesday, McGrath was the second-most-fundraised Senate candidate in the country behind Jaime Harrison, a Democrat from South Carolina. According to the FEC, McGrath raised more than $90 million. Despite winning key financial backing from health insurance companies like Humana, Kindred, and Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mitch McConnell had only raised $57 million by the same time.

On election night, McGrath took an early lead in Fayette County, where her campaign headquarters is based. In Jefferson County, home to Louisville, the most populous city in Kentucky and a traditional source of Democrat wins, she received nearly twice as many votes, albeit in a nearly identical percentage to her win in Lexington. 

McGrath addresses supporters at a campaign event 

on October 3, 2020, at West Sixth Farm in Frankfort, KY. 

In the last days before the election, McGrath focused some campaign efforts in and around those blue counties. On October 27, she hosted a rally at Lynn Family Stadium, the playing field of the Louisville FC soccer team, to promote early voting. Musical guests like My Morning Jacket guitarist Jim James, cellist Ben Sollee, and singer-songwriter S. G. Goodman — all Kentucky natives — spoke between sets about their goal to keep McConnell from being reelected.

Cellist Ben Sollee performs at McGrath's campaign rally on October 27, 2020, at Lynn Family Stadium.

McGrath returned to the area on November 1 with a rally at the Sauerbeck Family Drive-In in Oldham County, just north of Louisville. A few hours before she conceded the win on Election Day, she addressed supporters again in Fayette County, speaking in front of her campaign plane in Georgetown.

Ultimately, though, rural counties, particularly those in Appalachia, gave McConnell the win that evening. Not long after the Associated Press called his victory, he gave a short victory speech live from the Omni Louisville Hotel. He warned against “socialism that would stifle prosperity and hurt workers” and subtly chided people who tear down “statues of our founders and heroes,” but said he was grateful to live in a democratic republic.

“We know grave challenges will remain before us — challenges that could not care less about our political polarization. We know our next president will need to unite the country even as we all continue to bring different ideas and commitments to the table. But we also know beyond any shadow of a doubt that our nation, our people, can do this,” he said.

Around 10:15 p.m., McGrath posted a pre-recorded two-minute concession video to her campaign social media pages. She said:

“It was a hard-fought race, and what kept me going each day was knowing there were so many people fighting alongside me who believed in this mission. The race was never about Amy McGrath or Mitch McConnell. It was about Kentuckians — Kentuckians who believe in a better future for our state.”

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