While many political pundits will focus their attention on the presidential race in 2020, there appears to be an intriguing senate race building in Kentucky. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may face a tough re-election challenge in November from former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath.

McConnell, 77, has been in the Senate since 1985 but is considered among the most unpopular senators, particularly for many Democrats who have been critical of his handling of the Trump impeachment trial.

The timing of McConnell's poor approval ratings come at a bad time, as Democrats may feel a bit of momentum entering the senate race due to Democrat Andy Beshear's slim victory in November over Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in what was a closely watched gubernatorial race. Moreover, the last time McConnell campaigned for Senate in a presidential election was in 2008, when he received just 53% of the vote in the deep red state against a relatively unknown Democrat.

This time around Democrats have rested their hopes on McGrath, who in 2018 had a strong showing in a failed bid against incumbent Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District. In March 2019, The Ditch Mitch Fund, a left-leaning political action group, announced it was creating a "Draft Amy" website to push her to run against McConnell.

McGrath, 44, a former Marine who flew 85 combat missions, is aware that Democrats are making inroads in a traditionally conservative state. 

“A Democrat defeated one of the most unpopular Republicans in the country in a statewide election in Kentucky,” McGrath said after Beshear's win. “Next year, it'll be Mitch McConnell.”

Kentucky's senate race could be a test as to whether stalwart Republicans like McConnell can withstand pressure from frustrated voters. McConnell has supported the ongoing trade war with China, which has hurt Kentucky’s logging industry. He has also been called “Moscow Mitch,” due to his refusal to bring election security bills to the Senate floor. 

During the Obama administration, McConnell drew headlines for successfully obstructing nominees appointed by the White House and even blocked Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland from getting a vote. 

But despite some success stories for Democrats, Kentucky might not be ready to give up on McConnell. In 2016, Trump defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton with 62.5%, while Sen. Rand Paul trounced his Democratic opponent with 57.3% of the vote. The Lexington Herald-Leader noted on Jan. 15 that McConnell had raised $4.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2019 and has $11.5 million on hand, giving him a slight fundraising edge on McGrath.

McGrath has said that she wants to run as a candidate with principles, and as someone who cares more about the well-being of the United States than political battles. She has also gained traction in national media, with appearances on MSNBC, Fox Business News and "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee."

“I think many Kentuckians are tired of both political parties,” McGrath told comedy talk show host Seth Meyers in October. “They are looking for someone who believes in things like character, courage and honor and somebody who is not bought off by special interests. My message has always been: let’s put our country above our political party.”

McGrath's Twitter profile includes a message that reads: "Running for Senate against Mitch McConnell to destroy the swamp he created." She also recently posted a message that, "In the Senate, I'll be Kentucky's anti-corruption, anti-obstruction, anti-B.S. voice."

On policy, McGrath says the U.S. should do more to combat climate change and supports the inclusion of LGBT people in the military. McGrath, however, has distinguished herself as a centrist in a red state, as she does not support late-term abortions and holds pro-gun views, though she does not take campaign contributions from gun lobbyists.

She considers herself to be fiscally conservative. She has stated, however, that she opposes the Trump administration's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

After serving in the U.S. Naval Academy, she earned a Master's degree in international and global security studies at Johns Hopkins University. She is a Catholic and is married with three children.