Politics & Government

McGrath takes big financial lead over Thomas in Democratic primary to challenge Barr

Amy McGrath, left, and Sen. Reggie Thomas are vying for the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington.
Amy McGrath, left, and Sen. Reggie Thomas are vying for the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington.

Retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath jumped out to a large financial lead in the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Andy Barr for his Central Kentucky congressional seat.

In the first few months of her campaign, which was officially announced in August, McGrath outraised state Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, by a seven to one margin, pulling in $771,532 to his $109,034.

McGrath’s total put her among the top fundraisers for the quarter, which ran from July to September, including other insurgent Democrats looking to take long-held Republican seats. Randy Bryce, the Democrat challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, raised more than $1 million in the quarter.

National attention certainly helped McGrath. Her announcement video garnered the attention of several national news outlets, raising McGrath’s profile nationally. Though the McGrath campaign said it raised $77,414 from 703 Kentucky donors, 90 percent of the money raised came from out-of-state donors.

“Having money come from out-of-state does not matter that much,” said Steve Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky. “What that means is she will have enough cash to reach people in the state and get her message out there.”

Since McGrath is new to the 6th Congressional District — she moved back to Kentucky this year after retiring from the Marines — the money could potentially help her overcome a name recognition deficit, Voss said.

“Both Barr and Thomas have the advantage of being active in the community and having ties you can’t measure in terms of dollars,” Voss said.

No finance report for perennial Democratic candidate Geoff Young was on the Federal Elections Commission website Monday morning.

The amounts raised by McGrath and Thomas are still dwarfed by Barr’s war chest of more than $1.3 million. He raised $300,113 in the third quarter of this year.

McGrath had $551,500 in the bank and Thomas had $78,294.

National experts remain skeptical that Democrats have a chance to win Barr’s seat next November, though the district is no longer considered a sure win by most forecasting groups.. The Cook Political Report, for example, changed its rating on the race in recent days from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.”

“The people of Central Kentucky know Andy Barr is representing their interests in Congress and no amount of outside money will sway their faith in him,” said Tres Watson, the communications director for the Republican Party of Kentucky.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently purchased radio ads against Barr in the district, signaling that the national party has its eye on the race.

Daniel Desrochers: 502-875-3793, @drdesrochers, @BGPolitics