|Lt. Col. (Ret.) Amy McGrath celebrated after Tuesday's primary win.|
(Lexington Herald-Leader photo by Alex Slitz)
That was the idea of campaign manager Mark Nickolas, who had quit political work more than a decade ago and "had never worked in a campaign in the digital era," reports Michael Tackett of The New York Times. With the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pushing Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to get into the race, Nickolas "saw the Washington rebuke as an opportunity to run the campaign his way, without having to hew to the DCCC playbook. That meant buying ad space in small-town newspapers for opinion pieces by Ms. McGrath, buying billboard space, and building a field operation in rural areas where few Democrats have dared to even campaign in recent years."
The outsider strategy also left McGrath free to push "the message that the national party has abandoned its voters here," Travis Waldron reports for the Huffington Post. “The Democrats here feel left behind by the national party,” McGrath told him. “The national party, to them, is Washington D.C. They don’t have the same values. They’re led by San Francisco and New York. They don’t see leaders from here or the Midwest. And they’re focused on the wrong things.” Nickolas told Waldron, a Kentucky native: “You can be a progressive and still do well in more conservative areas, as long as those rural voters get a sense that you’ll fight for them.”
McGrath had plenty of money from outside Kentucky, thanks to an announcement video that went viral, but she also sought out interviews with weekly editors like Ben Carlson of The Anderson News, who complimented her in a column and then did a long story about her. Carlson told Waldron, “I haven’t sensed, in a congressional race, this kind of enthusiasm for a candidate in the 12 years I’ve been running the paper. For either party. She’s brought that kind of excitement to it.” McGrath won the county by more than 2-1 over Gray and got 61 percent of its vote, her highest county share. The primary had four other Democrats seeking the nomination to face three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr. She carried every county but Fayette, Gray's base, and won 49-41.
|The 6th District covers most of Kentucky's|
Bluegrass Region. (National Atlas map)