FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Touting his leadership role as an asset for Middle America, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed for reelection Friday as the Kentucky Republican seeks a seventh term next year.
McConnell, the longest-serving U.S. senator in Kentucky history, has tied himself closely to President Donald Trump as he prepares to defend himself against a host of Democrats wanting to unseat him.
McConnell noted that among the four congressional leaders — the top-ranking Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers — he's the only one from the U.S. heartland.
“What I do is look out for Middle America and, in particular, my favorite state in Middle America — Kentucky," McConnell told reporters at the state Capitol.
Talking about issues that hit home for Kentuckians, McConnell touted his role in making hemp a legal crop, saying the versatile plant might someday “be like tobacco used to be" as a staple for bluegrass state farmers. Kentucky has been at the national forefront of hemp's comeback among growers and processors.
The senator said he has steered hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Kentucky to help combat opioid abuse in a state plagued by drug problems.
McConnell also has been a key ally of Trump in putting conservative judges on the federal bench.
As usual, McConnell has amassed a massive campaign fund, as has his highest-profile Democratic challenger, retired Marine combat pilot Amy McGrath, who narrowly lost a 2018 congressional race. As the top-ranking Republican in Congress, McConnell is a lightning rod for Democrats across the country who want to see him ousted from the Senate.
McGrath campaign spokesman Terry Sebastian cited Republican incumbent Matt Bevin's loss in this year's governor's race in his response to McConnell's reelection run.
“Kentuckians just fired Matt Bevin for trying to take away health care from thousands of people and Sen. McConnell is next. For 35 years, he has done nothing but sell out hard-working families for his own personal political interests, and just like our former governor, McConnell will be retired this election,” Sebastian said in a statement.
McConnell downplayed the role Trump's impeachment could have in next year's elections.
“It seems like it may not play much of a role in the president's reelection campaign," McConnell told reporters. “There's considerable anecdotal evidence that in the battleground states, it's not going over very well. The two articles of impeachment are pretty weak."
McConnell later said that if impeachment isn't popular in swing states, then “it's probably not a popular move in Kentucky.” Trump won Kentucky by a landslide in 2016 .
Asked if he thinks impeachment will be an issue by next fall, McConnell replied: “I would doubt it."
After speaking with reporters, McConnell stopped by the governor's office to chat for a few minutes with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who ousted Bevin in last month's election.