The 2019 gubernatorial field got a little less crowded Friday.
In a Christmas email to supporters, former fighter pilot Amy McGrath said she would not seek the Democratic nomination for Kentucky governor in 2019.
“I am humbled by the encouragement to throw my hat back in the ring right away here in Kentucky,” McGrath wrote. “But after lots of consideration, I will not be a candidate for any statewide office in 2019. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop working for the values and beliefs we all care about. I deeply wish to help move Kentucky and our country forward and I can assure you that I will continue to speak out on the important issues of the day.”
McGrath’s name was tossed out as a potential gubernatorial candidate almost immediately after she narrowly lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, this fall in Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District.
McGrath proved to be a prolific fundraiser in her 2018 race, the first time she had ever run for public office, building a national donor base with her military background and a pitch to put the country before her political party. But Barr successfully painted her as “too liberal for Kentucky” by Election Day, a label that would be even more difficult to overcome in a statewide race.
She also would have had to build name recognition in most of the state. A recent Mason-Dixon poll of registered voters found that 17 percent liked McGrath, 12 percent didn’t like her, 23 percent had no opinion and 48 percent didn’t know who she was.
That leaves Attorney General Andy Beshear and House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins as the only two candidates who have filed to raise money for their gubernatorial campaigns. Former state auditor Adam Edelen is expected to announce his candidacy soon and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, are said to be considering entering the Democratic primary.
Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, has said he will seek reelection, but still has not filed paperwork to start raising money. On Thursday, he told Louisville radio host Terry Meiners on WHAS 840 that he wasn’t trying to freeze the field by delaying his announcement.
“I have said that I’m going to do that and it is my intention to do that,” Bevin said. “They don’t have to wait for me, anyone who wants to get in should get in.”
McGrath’s announcement, however, does little to quash rumors of a potential McGrath candidacy in 2020, either running again in the Sixth Congressional District or taking on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McGrath is seen as a rising star in Kentucky’s Democratic Party and many see her as Democrats’ best chance to unseat the frequently unpopular Mitch McConnell, particularly given her national donor base.