Kentucky’s lone Democratic congressman said Thursday he’d like to see other candidates get in the race to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).
Rep. John Yarmuth’s comments came after a rocky start to Amy McGrath’s campaign, which launched on Tuesday. McGrath had a strong first 24 hours in fundraising but then stumbled when answering whether she would have supported the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Yarmuth, who said he is not going to run for the Senate seat, said he was asked earlier “whether a primary might be helpful in this race.”
“I said, ‘Yeah, I think it might be,’ ” Yarmuth said. “I think you have to sharpen your skills to the highest level to take on Mitch, so a primary would be helpful.”
While primaries can weaken the eventual nominee before the general election, Yarmuth said it won’t be the case in this race because national Democrats are going to pour money into the coffers of whoever is taking on McConnell.
McGrath ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2018. Conservative groups targeted her in attack ads, tying her to the liberals protesting Kavanaugh, who faced accusations of sexual misconduct. Just before the election, McGrath told The Washington Post that she found some of those protests “unhelpful” and she lamented that she was being tied to Democrats who may support her, but with whom she does not agree.
In this race, McGrath has the backing of the national Democratic establishment. But a liberal sports radio host in Kentucky, Matt Jones, said on his show this week that he hadn’t ruled out running.
Yarmuth said that he believes McGrath has a chance to beat McConnell but that she’d have a much better shot if it wasn’t a presidential election year. Trump won the state in 2016 with 62 percent of the vote.
The congressman also referenced her stumbles this week.
“I think she’s had a rocky couple of days. She’s made some mistakes and owned up to them,” he said.
If Yarmuth were ever to take on McConnell, it would be an ironic twist in both of their careers.
In 1981, when Yarmuth was a Republican, McConnell was running for reelection as county executive in Jefferson County and recruited Yarmuth to run with him for county commissioner.
When a Washington Post reporter brought up that memory, Yarmuth said, laughing, “I’ve tried to suppress that.”
Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.