Politics & Government

Kentucky Republicans attack McGrath over opposition to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Amy McGrath thanked volunteers at her campaign headquarters Tuesday in Lexington.
Amy McGrath thanked volunteers at her campaign headquarters Tuesday in Lexington. NYT

The Republican Party of Kentucky criticized Democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath Tuesday for her opposition to President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, their latest attempt to paint McGrath as too liberal for Kentucky’s only swing district.

Republicans were responding to a Facebook post McGrath made a week earlier, on July 10th, in which she echoed the concerns many of national Democrats about Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Despite Ms. McGrath’s attempts to con the voters of Central Kentucky into believing she is a moderate, her attack on the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh shows the real Amy McGrath: a far left liberal who will be another cog in the Pelosi political machine,” said Sarah Van Wallaghen, executive director of the Republican Party of Kentucky.

McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, is challenging U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. Her campaign manager, Mark Nickolas, dismissed the Republican Party’s criticism.

“It’s a sad reminder that the GOP only have one gear — attack mode,” Nickolas said. “They have no clue how to address our most pressing problems. This is precisely what the voters are sick and tired of, and why desperately needed change is coming in November.”

The U.S. House of Representatives does not vote to confirm Supreme Court justices, but Kavanaugh’s nomination has turned into a proxy battle in Congress over abortion rights and the potential for a generation of conservative Supreme Court rulings.

Republicans hope the issue will help them retain control of Congress in much the same way it convinced many Christian evangelicals to support Trump in 2016.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Amy McGrath, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District.

In a speech in Danville earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump’s decision to release a list of conservative Supreme Court justices he was considering nominating to the Supreme Court was “a way of reassuring Republican voters.”

“I think the single most impactful thing this administration has been able to do, long term, is the kind of people we are putting on the courts,” McConnell said.

Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan but was often the deciding vote in legal victories for same-sex couples and pro-choice groups. Many conservative groups hope Kavanaugh’s appointment will lead to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in America.

“He has shown himself to be against women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and will be among the most partisan people ever considered for the Court,” McGrath said of Kavanaugh on Facebook. “Apparently, he will fall to the right of (Neil) Gorsuch and (Samuel) Alito on ideology, and just to the left of the arch conservative (Clarence) Thomas. Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed and we are starkly reminded, again, that elections have consequences, and this consequence will be with us for an entire generation.”

Barr supports Kavanaugh. In a statement released Tuesday by the state Republican Party, Barr said Kavanaugh “has impressive educational and professional credentials, a sound judicial temperament, and a demonstrated track record of well-written decisions, including opinions affirmed by the Supreme Court more than a dozen times and hundreds of unreversed published opinions.”

Barr’s campaign has been critical of McGrath’s stance on abortion, claiming she supports a woman’s right to choose “up to nine months,” a claim McGrath called a “lie” on Saturday in Lawrenceburg.

McGrath told a Lexington radio station in April that the government should “protect a woman’s right to choose.”

The criticism of McGrath comes a day after Barr avoided commenting on Trump’s refusal to support the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus that Russia launched a cyberattack on the 2016 presidential election during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Tuesday, Barr said he has “full confidence” in the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia.

“As I have said repeatedly, Russia is a bully and enemy of the United States and our allies,” Barr said. “Its actions are confrontational and belligerent, including its interference in other nations’ elections, including our own. I have been briefed multiple times on the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian meddling in our elections and other malign activities, and I have full confidence in it.”

Following international uproar over his comments next to Putin, Trump backtracked, saying he supports the findings of the American intelligence community.

“The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ sort of a double negative,” Trump said, according to the New York Times. “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself. I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections.”

McGrath said she was outraged Monday by Trump’s comments and called on Congress to condemn Trump.