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Kentucky Senate candidate: McConnell 'couldn't care less if we die'

A progressive Democrat seeking to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Trump blasts Obama speech for Biden as 'fake' after Obama hits Trump's tax payments White House hoping for COVID-19 relief deal 'within weeks': spokeswoman MORE in the fall said the Kentucky Republican “couldn’t care less” if Kentuckians die. 

“My message is very populist. I’m speaking to issues that are at the kitchen table,” state Rep. Charles Booker (D) said Monday on MSNBC

“I'm a Type 1 diabetic, I've had to ration my insulin and nearly die from that. That cuts across party lines, and a lot of folks that supported [President] Trump are supporting me because they know I'm going to fight for Kentucky for a change,” Booker added. “And someone like Mitch McConnell, who has profited off our pain and sold us out in every way imaginable, couldn’t care less if we die.” 

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The state lawmaker also criticized one of his toughest Democratic primary challengers, Amy McGrath, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot. McGrath narrowly lost a challenge to Rep. Andy BarrAndy BarrReclaiming the American Dream Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of current emergency lending programs McConnell holds 12-point lead over Democratic challenger McGrath: poll MORE (R-Ky.) in 2018 in a GOP-leaning district. 

“My biggest opponent, Amy McGrath, who calls herself a pro-Trump Democrat, doesn't have clue about the challenges we face,” Booker said. “So I’m excited to build this new coalition.” 

In response to Booker’s attack, a spokesperson for the McConnell campaign pointed to an op-ed by campaign manager Kevin Golden published Tuesday in the Louisville Courier Journal.

The op-ed was written in response to an ad by The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump GOP super PAC, but the campaign spokesperson said it is the “same attack that is coming from” Booker.

“These outsiders have picked the single worst moment in 30 years to argue that our homegrown majority leader does not lead in times of crisis or bring resources back to the Bluegrass [state],” Golden wrote.

Golden’s op-ed seemed to focus on McConnell’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said that Kentucky ranks second in funding from the CARES Act’s Healthcare Provider Fund, among states with a similar population, and first in funding for rural transit. He also said the percentage of Kentucky small businesses that received help during the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program “beat the national average by 10 points.”

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“It’s a perfect case study in the unique power that a Senate majority leader can leverage for his state,” he said.

The McGrath campaign, meanwhile, pushed back on Booker’s assertion that she has described herself as a “pro-Trump Democrat.”

“Lt. Col. Amy McGrath has said she would work with any president, whether that person has a red jersey or a blue jersey, to do what's right for Kentucky and do what's right for the country,” a campaign spokesperson said in a statement. “Likewise, she will stand up to any president of either political party if they act in a way that would harm Kentucky or the country.”

“Working families want to hear solutions not partisan rhetoric. That's one of the many things that makes her different from Mitch McConnell,” the spokesperson added.

Booker also noted on MSNBC that protests over police brutality are popping up across Kentucky — even in majority-white counties— after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

Taylor was fatally shot by police in her own home in Louisville, Ky., on March 13. The officers involved in Taylor’s death have been placed on administrative leave but have not been fired or faced any charges. 

“What we’re seeing in this moment across the commonwealth is an understanding that we’re interconnected and that if we fight for the challenges that are facing communities like mine, we're going to uplift all Kentuckians,” Booker said. 

“I stood on the front lines. I was hit with tear gas, but I don't care, because this is where my family is. Kentuckians are demanding real change, and we cannot have someone that would give excuses and sit on the couch like Amy McGrath has while we’re dying and while doors are getting kicked in and we’re getting murdered in our beds. This is really about how we show the courage to lead in this moment and I'm just doing my part,” he added. 

McConnell's Democratic challenger will face a tough battle in November. The Cook Political Report rates the race “likely Republican.”

--This report was updated at 10:49 a.m.