Amy McGrath says she didn’t always have an interest in politics. In fact, when you listen to the sixth district congressional candidate tell her story, she identifies the current state of American politics that prompted her to run.
Asked last week if she was having fun in this highly watched central Kentucky congressional race, McGrath said yes, adding it was important for Kentucky and the country and that she is doing the best that she can.
As a candidate for congress, the retired marine fighter pilot is being asked to weigh in on a variety of issues. As the nation deals with another mass shooting with the death of 11 people at a Pittsburg synagogue, there are questions about how to deal with ongoing violence.
Saying she’s pro second amendment, but as a mother with three small kids, McGrath says gun violence is an epidemic which need to be addressed further. “We can do things that we should have done yesterday that most Americans want to have happen including most gun owners. For example, better universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, banning the bump stock,” said McGrath.
McGrath says making sure that violent criminals and the severely mentally ill have some restrictions on buying weapons is important.
As thousands of Central Americans caravan toward the southern U.S. border, McGrath says congress has failed to accomplish immigration reform and this march of people is being used a ‘political tool.’ “These people are fleeing violence, they’re not criminals, they’re fleeing violence.”
McGrath says the U.S. can’t take in everybody, but lawmakers have been looking the other way and waiting until it’s a crisis. She says that’s the problem.
Meanwhile another pressure point throughout the Commonwealth is the Opioid epidemic – which is also taking lives. While federal funding has been allocated to increase treatment and education, McGrath believes a long term solution is within lawmakers’ grasp. “We had polio in the 1940’s and we cured polio as a country. We had HIV/AIDS as an epidemic and we mitigated HIV/AIDS in our country and really around the world. And I think if we come together, and we treat this as a public health crisis, we can do something about it,” noted McGrath.
The future of health care seems like a never ending topic during each passing political campaign. While the future of the federal affordable care act gets a significant amount of attention, McGrath believes the issue is larger than that.
With large amounts of money in health care from medical technology, provider fees, and pharmaceuticals, McGrath says it take political courage to take on these lobbying interests. “We elect people into office who are not bought off and I think that’s really important and it goes back to the money in politics. You need to elect people who want to do what’s best for Kentucky, who want to do what’s best for our country to make sure that everybody can get health care in this country,” McGrath said.
On the issue of energy and the environment, McGrath says climate change is a fact. Her platform includes a greater emphasis on solar energy and she believes Kentucky is a state well suited for many more solar panels. “The sun shines on Kentucky just like it shines on anywhere else. You know, I think renewable energy is the future. And we know energy in Kentucky. We have the people who understand energy. We should be leading in this.”
Because of what McGrath calls “political disfunction”, she says China is taking the lead on renewable energy and the U.S. could be left behind.
A portion of the 19 county sixth congressional district is found along the edge of Appalachia. It’s in some of these eastern Kentucky counties where stagnant economic conditions persist. And while coal is not being mined anywhere near the level it was in the past, a lot of the natural resource did power communities all over the country for decades. McGrath believes that’s reason enough for pumping much more federal money into the region. “Because we’ve powered our country, the rest of the country in my opinion owes it back to our region in federal investment to build a new economy a more diverse economy for the future,” explained McGrath.
Despite her vision for a new economy, McGrath says she is not in favor of getting rid of coal. Another key part of the new economy is high speed internet access in rural areas. McGrath says growth in this area will benefit areas in need of broadband access especially in eastern Kentucky.
A congressional race that’s drawn national attention for months will draw to a close in just a few days. And come Tuesday night, the attention will turn to the ballot results.