Fighter pilot Amy McGrath fought against Al-Qaeda. Her new mission is to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell

MAKERS

She's a retired Marine fighter pilot, which means she’s not afraid to fight for the rights of her fellow Americans. She's also a mom to three kids under 6, so it’s clear she can multitask, even with the theme of Elmo's World playing in the background.

And now, she's mounting the Democratic challenge to longtime incumbent Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), making it clear that she’s committed to making real change happen in Congress.

Meet Amy McGrath, the first woman marine to fly an F/A-18 Hornet jet in combat, and now one of the record number of women in the historic “pink wave” who have run for office in response to the 2018 midterm elections.

"I don't want to be there just to fill a seat. I want to make a difference," McGrath tells MAKERS. "We have all of these former military women running for Congress [because] we see what's happening in our government. We're basically saying, ‘I fought for my country and I am a woman and I'm not going to stand for that.’"

McGrath takes nothing lying down. When she was a young girl, she was shocked to learn that she couldn't pursue her dream of flying for the military because, at the time, there was a federal law that banned women from engaging in combat.

Taking matters into her own hands, she started a letter-writing campaign to every member of Congress. Her own Kentucky Senator — McConnell — did not even reply.

One congressman replied and said that women don't have a place on the front lines of war. But Rep. Pat Schroeder of Colorado believed in McGrath. "The object of a war is to win. We should, therefore, field the best-qualified military possible," Schroeder wrote to McGrath. "I think that it is time for military service to be based on qualifications, not gender."

The law regarding women was repealed in 1993. And 200 flight hours and 89 missions flight missions later — including campaigns against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda — McGrath proved that repealing the ban was a sensible move.

"The Marine Corps was the toughest thing a woman could do in the military. And that is exactly what I wanted," McGrath says. "I remember going into Afghanistan and looking out at the men who were working and having them look at me — the wonder in their eyes. They had never seen a woman who was treated with the same type of respect as all the other Marines, a woman as an equal ... That's showing people American values. That's changing minds."

After defending the rights of her fellow Americans overseas, the veteran decided her next mission was to land a seat in Congress.

McGrath first rose to prominence on the political stage when she joined the countless women challenging the status quo in the 2018 midterm elections. Running against three men for the 6th congressional district seat in her home state of Kentucky, McGrath narrowly lost her bid to Rep. Andy Barr.

Still, while McGrath may have lost that battle, she is prepared to engage in a full-on war against the GOP establishment in 2020. And on the morning of July 9, McGrath announced her plans to challenge the main target: McConnell himself, the longest-serving Republican Senate leader ever, with a campaign video titled, “The Letter.”

The video depicts her and other Kentucky natives writing letters to their representatives about their worries regarding jobs, healthcare, education and more— only to go unheard.

“I wrote a letter to my senator telling him that I wanted to fly fighter jets in combat to fight for my country, and that women should be able to do that. He never wrote back,” McGrath says in the video.

“I’m Amy McGrath, and I’ve often wondered how many other people did Mitch McConnell not take the time to write back or even think about.”

McGrath blames McConnell for turning “Washington into something we all despise,” and accuses the Senator of leveraging “dysfunction and chaos” to his political advantage, while allowing issues important to his constituents to be “held hostage.”

“I’m running for Senate because it shouldn’t be like this. I learned as a daughter, a mom, a marine and a fighter pilot that the mission can never be forgotten — that protecting our democracy requites courage, that our freedoms are never assured and the best way to lift someone up is with a job,” the Democratic challenger says in her video.

McGrath tells MAKERS that she believes only real people— and women— in government that can make the change that needs to happen in Washington.

"The culture does not change until women rise in the ranks — whether it's in the military or whether it's in a company — into positions where they are respected peers or in the positions of power," she says.

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