Mitch McConnell gets challenger in retired fighter pilot Amy McGrath

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a challenger in his upcoming 2020 re-election campaign. Retired Army fighter pilot Amy McGrath officially unveiled her campaign on Tuesday.

In her campaign rollout video, McGrath recalls writing a letter to her senator at age 13 about her dreams of becoming a pilot and the challenges women faced of being denied a shot of joining the U.S. military. "He never wrote back," McGrath tells the camera. "I've often wondered how many other people did Mitch McConnell never take the time to write back or even think about."

“The Letter” — Amy McGrath for U.S. Senate by Amy McGrath for Senate on YouTube

The Democrat, in her 3-minute long appeal, features Kentuckians who also felt passed over by McConnell's conservative policies, claiming the longtime senator has effectively turned Washington into "a place where ideals go to die."

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"Everything that's wrong in Washington had to start some place. How did it come to this, that even within our own families we can't talk to each other about the leaders of our country anymore without anger and blame? Well, that started with this man, who was elected a lifetime ago," McGrath says of McConnell.

The former U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel graduated from the Naval Academy to become the first woman in the Marine Corps to fly a combat mission in an F-18 fighter jet. She went on to serve 20 years in the Marines where she flew 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, targeting al Qaeda and the Taliban, before retiring and moving back home to Kentucky to raise her family.

McConnell has been in the Senate since 1985 and the majority leader since 2015. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes launched a credible challenge against the senator in 2014, but McConnell still won with 56 percent of the vote. McConnell unveiled his re-election campaign back in April, touting his deep ties to President Trump and the confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices in two years.

McGrath, a staunch military advocate with the campaign slogan "anti-corruption, anti-obstruction, anti-BS," narrowly lost a House race in the state in 2018. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and radio host Matt Jones have also been rumored to be considered as potential challengers to McConnell.

Grace Segers contributed to this report.

First published on July 9, 2019 / 7:46 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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