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 McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill 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 BookerEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.J.) raised $6 million for his White House bid, while Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus MORE (D-Minn.) raised $4.8 million. 

It’s only slightly less than the $11.6 million raised by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? 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 TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report 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 Hale BarrOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Democrats seek to preempt Trump message on health care | E-cigarette executives set for grilling | Dems urge emergency funding for coronavirus Democrats slam GOP on drug prices in bilingual digital ads On the Trail: Forget the pundits, more electoral votes could be in play in 2020 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.