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Op-Ed: We Can Rebuild Ky. Stronger. First, McConnell Must Go

The following op-ed is written by Amy McGrath, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. She faces Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in this year's election.

Over the last two weeks in Kentucky, we have had our two highest weekly coronavirus case counts yet. Meanwhile, nationwide, we are again seeing more than 60,000 cases a day on average. Economically, our true unemployment rate in Kentucky seems to be over 10%. Compared to other wealthy countries, our inability to control this virus and help our citizens who are struggling is staggering. 

When I pressed Sen. McConnell during our debate last week on why he had not taken action in months to help Kentuckians during this pandemic, he just laughed, while I shared my plan for Kentucky. As voters make their final choices, I will tell them what I told Sen. McConnell: we can rebuild Kentucky--stronger than before--and we must do so. 

The first step to rebounding from this crisis is to get immediate aid to families, small businesses, and our state and local governments. Every day we wait is another lost job, another family at risk of eviction. We need to extend unemployment benefits, provide another direct stimulus payment, continue to help our small businesses, including with PPE protections and PPP loans, and provide renters assistance to get families through this crisis. This should have been done months ago. Gov. Andy Beshear has also called for more state and local government aid, which we need to protect the jobs and pensions of our teachers, firefighters, and first responders, and the federal government must also provide the separate funding needed for test-and-trace programs. 

Sen. McConnell has avoided doing any of this, instead convincing the White House it’s better not to negotiate at all. In the middle of a national crisis, his inaction is a dereliction of duty. 

Sen. McConnell could find $500 billion for a slush fund for big corporations and $250 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but apparently there are no resources for Kentucky as families and small businesses continue to struggle. We can and must provide these resources now.

The next step to rebuilding Northern Kentucky is protecting and expanding access to affordable health care. Approximately 1.8 million Kentuckians have pre-existing conditions. Sen. McConnell is actively trying to take away health care from all of these Kentuckians. If elected, I will secure the ACA and lower prescription drug prices (there are at least six bipartisan bills on Sen. McConnell’s desk that would do so). I will also fight for an “Uncle Sam” health care option for the 24% of Northern Kentucky adults who recently reported delaying medical care because of the cost.

Then we need to invest in us--in Northern Kentuckians. That means funding for critical infrastructure projects like the Brent Spence Bridge. Fixing the Brent Spence Bridge would create almost 25,000 jobs and bring almost $2 billion in income to the region. Investing in Northern Kentucky also means addressing the opioid crisis through increased access to  community-driven programs that prove to be effective. 

We can’t stop there. We need to revitalize our unions and raise the minimum wage so that people know that good work that pays well is available in Northern Kentucky. 

The last several months have shown us that we cannot just say that we want to go back to normal. The reality is that normal is what got us here. 

The good news is that over the next few weeks, we have a chance to vote for the positive change our commonwealth desperately needs. Sen. McConnell is right about one thing: I'm a Marine, a mom, and he's been there too long. This election is about the future of Kentucky, our democracy, and our country. Let’s work together to rebuild Kentucky stronger than before.

Our democracy’s future depends on getting rid of Sen. McConnell. It depends on your vote. 

Amy McGrath is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. As a weapons systems officer, Amy became the first woman in the Marine Corps to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18. She lives in Georgetown with her husband, Erik, a retired Navy pilot, and her three children, Teddy, 7, George, 5, and Eleanor, 3.

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