Kentucky Senate candidate Amy McGrath praised a jobs initiative that her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has championed for years.
McGrath tweeted on Tuesday about a program that helps recovering opioid addicts learn job skills, highlighting it as a success story in revitalizing a struggling region. The Democratic candidate did not seem aware that McConnell has been one of the program's champions on Capitol Hill.
"This is a great initiative," McGrath said, linking to a news story about the program. "As Senator, I'll fight to bring more opportunities like this one to Eastern Kentucky and communities all over the commonwealth."
This is a great initiative. As Senator, I'll fight to bring more opportunities like this one to Eastern Kentucky and communities all over the commonwealth.https://t.co/72yx3Jy8xj
— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) October 22, 2019
McConnell has helped steer about $618 million to Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) projects—including the training grant—since 2015, according to press releases from McConnell's office. The bulk of these funds were intended to aid those affected by declines in coal mining, with the remainder being allotted to infrastructure improvements and broadband upgrades in rural areas.
The ARC circulated the same news story on Tuesday. The commission credited McConnell for his efforts to expand employment opportunities in eastern Kentucky.
"Thank you @McConnellPress & @RepHalRogers for helping transform the region with your support," the ARC wrote on Twitter.
ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas: "Rewarding employment is a critical part of recovery, & we are proud to have Troublesome Creek as one of our POWER grantees. Thank you @McConnellPress & @RepHalRogers for helping transform the region with your support." https://t.co/qPhxuOMHQo
— Appalachian Regional Commission (@ARCgov) October 22, 2019
McConnell has supported other workforce development programs in the region, including the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP). Upon becoming Senate majority leader in 2015, McConnell's first visit to Kentucky included a stop at an event organized by EKCEP. Executive Director Jeff Whitehead said McConnell's support has been essential to helping "displaced workers get back on their feet."
"Sen. McConnell's support for the work EKCEP is doing in Eastern Kentucky can't be overstated," he said. "We're working every day not only to help our displaced workers get back on their feet, but also to provide our employers the support they need to find. This is work we could not do without the support of our leaders at the federal level."
After McConnell steered $11 million to EKCEP in 2017, Whitehead said the program was "very appreciative of Sen. McConnell for his assistance in securing this much needed round of funding." Whitehead again thanked McConnell for his "strong belief in our workforce and his enduring commitment to these efforts" after the program received an additional $1.75 million in 2019.
While McConnell has drawn praise for his economic development efforts in the region, McGrath has stirred controversy for using Kentucky workers to attack the majority leader. In September, two local coal miners suffering from black lung accused McGrath of using them as "political pawns" after she featured them in an attack ad on McConnell without their consent.
McGrath did not return request for comment.