It's been a night of big wins for female politicians in gubernatorial primaries across the country. First, Stacey Abrams won the democratic primary for Georgia, and now, Amy McGrath has won the Kentucky democratic primary, defeating the current mayor of Lexington in the process. McGrath's win is exciting for multiple reasons, but what might be most surprising and exciting about her victory is how unique her background is, prior to running for a seat in Kentucky's House.
McGrath is a former fighter pilot, but that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her history. According to the Huffington Post, McGrath knew from when she was 12 years old that she wanted to be a fighter pilot, but there was only one problem— women weren't allowed to fly. So McGrath reportedly began a letter-writing campaign to lawmakers in Kentucky asking them to change the law.
When McGrath was a senior in high school, her dream became a reality: The Pentagon lifted its ban against women in the combat roles, and so McGrath enrolled immediately in the U.S. Naval Academy. Fast forward a little bit, and the Huffington Post reports that McGrath ended up serving three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, becoming the "first ever female marine to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18 fighter jet.
The story doesn't stop there. The Huffington Post reports that McGrath never had intentions of running for Congress, and until Trump was elected president, she was happy in her position as lieutenant colonel teaching political science at the U.S. Naval Academy. Then everything changed.
"A year ago if you were to tell me I was going to be running for Congress, I would have said, ‘You’re full of it,’” McGrath said to the Huffington Post. “But what started it for me was the 2016 election. I felt like we needed better leaders for the country.”
McGrath's experience as a pilot (and her lifelong ambition to become one) is extraordinary, a feat that might only be equaled by a potential gubernatorial win in the red state of Kentucky come November. On Tuesday night, McGrath won the democratic primary with 46 percent of the vote, according to Vox, with her opponent, Jim Gray, coming just short of her with 42 percent of the vote. To a crowd of supporters, McGrath said, per Vox:
Six months ago, political pundits and establishment insiders didn’t think we could pull this off. ... Did you ever show them! What those insiders maybe still don’t know is how this happened. Well, I know how it happened. It’s because you all care about the future of our country, and you have a renewed sense — a purpose — in fighting for what America really is.
According to The New York Times, McGrath will now face a gubernatorial race against the Republican candidate and current Representative Andy Barr, who reportedly won his district by 22 points in the 2016 election in November.
McGrath's platform for representative is, according to her website, founded upon a desire to provide universal health care to every citizen, a stronger stance against sexual harassment across the board, stronger restrictions for gun owners and gun reform in general, and a comprehensive economic reform plan that involves investing in new technologies and shifting toward an electric-focused future and away from coal.
Prior to the announcement of her win, McGrath told CNN why she thought there was such a newfound appreciation for female politicians running for office for the first time.
"It's more, this time, this climate, right now," she explained. "It's very clear that people are looking for more women. It's very clear that people are really interested in candidates who aren't necessarily — that didn't grow up within the political party."