McGrath raises nearly $11 million in third quarter for bid to unseat McConnell

Amy McGrath, the Democrat who nearly flipped a conservative House district in Kentucky in 2018, raised nearly $11 million in the past three months for her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.), her campaign said.

McGrath pulled in $10.7 million in the third fundraising quarter, the first since announcing her Senate campaign in July. That haul is made up of more than 299,000 contributions, her campaign said. The average donation size was $36.

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It’s a staggering haul for any Senate candidate, and especially a nonincumbent, exceeding the quarterly hauls of several presidential candidates. By comparison, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.) raised $6 million for his White House bid, while Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.) raised $4.8 million. 

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It’s only slightly less than the $11.6 million raised by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.), one of the most well-known Democrats in the presidential field, in the past three months.

That financial haul is likely to put her in a strong position to take on McConnell next year. The top Senate Republican raised $2.3 million in the third quarter and has more than $9 million in the bank, his campaign told The Hill. He pulled in $1.8 million in the first quarter and another $2.5 million in the second.

Candidates for federal office are required to disclose their third-quarter fundraising hauls to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by Oct. 15. 

McGrath’s massive fundraising number signals just how eager Democrats are to oust McConnell in 2020. But if it’s a measure of Democratic enthusiasm, it’s also an acknowledgement of the uphill battle the party will face in trying to defeat a 35-year incumbent and one of the most influential Republicans in the country.

McConnell won reelection in 2014 by a nearly 15-point margin. And Kentucky has remained firmly in Republicans’ corner. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE carried the state in 2016 by nearly 30 points, and all but one of Kentucky’s six House seats remain in GOP hands.

McGrath, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot, rose to prominence in 2018 during her bid to unseat four-term Rep. Andy BarrAndy BarrKentucky Senate candidate: McConnell ‘couldn’t care less if we die’ House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 Put entrepreneurs, workers and flexibility in next stimulus package MORE (R-Ky.) in Kentucky’s 6th District. That race, rated a toss-up by most election handicappers, ultimately ended in Barr’s favor. He defeated McGrath by little more than 3 points.

But that race also raised McGrath’s political profile and made her a top recruit to challenge McConnell for his Senate seat in 2020. 

There are signs that the race between McGrath and McConnell could be close. A July poll conducted by pollster Fabrizio Ward for AARP showed McConnell with 47 percent support and McGrath with 46 percent support, a statistical tie given the survey’s 4-point margin of error.

Mark Nickolas, McGrath’s campaign manager, touted that poll and the candidate’s fundraising haul on Thursday as a sign of challenges to come for McConnell. 

“Mitch McConnell has never faced an opponent like Amy McGrath,” Nickolas said in a statement. “Not only does a new independent poll show the race tied, but more than a quarter-million grassroots donations – from all 120 Kentucky counties – have provided us a record-shattering first quarter of nearly $11 million to take down McConnell and his self-serving special interest allies. Change is coming.”

Kevin Golden, McConnell’s campaign manager, suggested that McGrath’s fundraising was powered by donors outside of Kentucky, dismissing the financial haul as insignificant given McConnell’s influence in the state and in Washington.

“Far-left liberal activists from New York and California absolutely hate the fact that Kentucky’s values, culture and priorities are put at the front of the line as long as Mitch McConnell leads the Senate,” he said. “They can flood her campaign with millions but they can’t vote in Kentucky.”

–Updated at 4:22 p.m.

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