Former Democratic Primary Rivals Team Up For The General

Jun 29, 2018

Two Democrats who fought it out in the Sixth District congressional primary met on friendlier terms in Lexington Friday.

In their first joint appearance since the May election, congressional candidate Amy McGrath and her former challenger, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, had only glowing words for each other as they toured the renovated Old Fayette Courthouse.

Taking questions together before the walk-through, Gray acknowledged his primary opponent's candidacy and message resonate in an era of political reshuffling and upheaval.

"I think you can tell from Amy's record that she is an independent thinker," the mayor said, "and I think that's what people want today... someone that's not going to carry a party label with them every time they speak and every time they vote."

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray tours the renovated Old Fayette Courthouse with Sixth District congressional candidate Amy McGrath on June 29, 2018.
Credit Josh James / WUKY

In the populated primary race, Gray was frequently cast as the Democratic Party’s preferred choice to take on three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr in the fall – a talking point McGrath reinforced in debates by emphasizing her status as a non-ideological outsider. Friday, the political newcomer said she "a lot to learn" from her one-time challenger.

"I am going to need to lean on Jim for counsel, for advice," McGrath explained, saying that she's "honored" to receive his support.

In turn, the outgoing Lexington mayor said the military veteran “built a lot of muscle” in the primary and he’s prepared to aid her campaign in any way he can.

McGrath declined to wade into the looming fight over the President Trump's next Supreme Court nominee. Asked where she stands on the timeline for confirmation, the Democrat held off on commenting, instead lamenting Sen. Mitch McConnell’s decision to block President Obama’s 2016 nominee, Merrick Garland.

"It's unfortunate what happened the last time we had a Supreme Court nomination," she said. "It's unfortunate that this sort of precedent was changed, so we'll see what happens going forward."

The first-time candidate said she’s not worried the high court drama could place abortion front and center in the midterm elections, reiterating that she’s pro-choice and believes it’s a “personal liberty issue” and government should not be involved.

The mayor offered few hints as to his own political future, telling reporters he has business interests in Lexington and an “opportunity to examine lots of things,” adding, "You couldn’t push me out of here with a bulldozer."