Kentucky Dem Compares Potential McConnell Challenger to O'Rourke

Rep. John Yarmuth (Stephen Cohen/Getty Images for
June 18, 2019

Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.) compared a top potential challenger to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to failed Texas Senate candidate Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke on Tuesday.

Yarmuth, the only Democrat in Kentucky's congressional delegation, likened Amy McGrath to O'Rourke if she becomes the party's standard-bearer against McConnell in 2020. McGrath made a well-funded bid to unseat Rep. Andy Barr (R., Ky.) in Kentucky's Sixth District in 2018, although she fell short.

"I think Amy’s probably the first target of the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee]," Yarmuth said on CSPAN. "They’ve talked to her. I’ve talked to her. She is totally dedicated to public service and if she runs, it’ll be the Beto O’Rourke-Ted Cruz race of 2020 because the nation will be closely focused on that."

O'Rourke's race indeed received considerable positive media attention, and he set fundraising records for a Senate candidate. However, Cruz defeated him despite the favorable election year for Democrats. Texas Democrats have not won a U.S. Senate election since 1988. Building off the fame from his Senate race, O'Rourke reversed a pledge in 2018 to not run for president and is one of the 24 Democrats seeking the party's 2020 presidential nomination.

Cruz couldn't resist mocking the comparison, linking to the Roll Call article about Yarmuth on Twitter and writing, "So you’re saying you’re going to spend a massive amount of money, attract fawning press & Hollywood attention, and still lose to the Republican?"

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) began recruiting McGrath to challenge McConnell late last year. McConnell is seeking a seventh term in the Senate and has been majority leader since Republicans took back control of the chamber following their 2014 midterm sweep.

McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, drew criticism during her campaign against Barr for comparing President Donald Trump's election victory to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

McConnell routed his last challenger, then-Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes in 2014, by more than 15 points.