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Amy McGrath walks back remarks on Kavanaugh confirmation

Kentucky Democrat is challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020

Amy McGrath is running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.  (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Amy McGrath is running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.  (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 7:53 p.m. | Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath reversed course Wednesday night on whether she would have voted for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, just a day after launching her campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McGrath tweeted that she would have voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court, after saying in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal earlier in the day that she “probably would have voted for him.”

McGrath told the newspaper that the allegations of sexual misconduct raised by Christine Blasey Ford during the Kavanaugh confirmation process were credible, but she did not consider them disqualifying.

“I think it’s credible but given the amount of time that lapsed in between and from a judicial standpoint, I don’t think it would really disqualify him,” she said.

When pressed, she said that she would have tended to favor the confirmation.

“You know, I think that with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him,” McGrath said.

But after the story was published, McGrath took to Twitter to walk back those remarks.

“I was asked earlier today about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and I answered based upon his qualifications to be on the Supreme Court,” she tweeted. “But upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.”

Flashback: ‘Do not give up on our country,’ McGrath says

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McGrath, a Marine veteran and former fighter pilot, ran for Kentucky’s 6th District last cycle, losing to GOP Rep. Andy Barr by 3 points.

In the wide-ranging interview with the Courier-Journal a day after she officially jumped in to challenge McConnell, she also talked about her views on abortion policy, which is always front-and-center in Supreme Court confirmation debates. 

McGrath said that while she is Catholic and personally opposed to abortion, she believed current restrictions on access were appropriate, and they should not be expanded.

“I think there are enough restrictions on abortion and they’re reasonable. So right now, you can’t walk into a clinic eight months pregnant and get an abortion, you can’t do it and that’s reasonable. I believe we already have reasonable laws, and I’m very concerned about what’s happening in other states like Alabama and Georgia where they’re trying to criminalize abortion even in cases of rape and incest and the life of the mother,” McGrath said. “This is not a government decision. It’s a family decision and a very personal decision.”

In her race for the House, McGrath did not seek the endorsement of the pro-abortion rights EMILY’s List, nor did she receive it. 

While a candidate, McGrath had weighed in on the Kavanaugh controversy when allegations of his past conduct emerged.

“I echo the concerns over the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. He’s been against women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and is a hardcore partisan,” she tweeted in July 2018. “But we are reminded, again, that elections have consequences, and this will be with us for a generation.”

McGrath’s campaign said she raised $2.5 million during the first 24 hours since announcing her candidacy Tuesday. The McConnell campaign responded to the initials report of McGrath’s comments on Kavanaugh with a link to the support page of the Democratic fundraising website where people can seek refunds.

The Kentucky race is sure to attract millions given McConnell’s status as Senate majority leader. McGrath raised a whopping $8.5 million in her House bid last year, thanks in part to a viral biographical video. 

But she will likely face a tougher environment running statewide in a presidential campaign year. While Trump carried the 6th District by 15 points in 2016, he won Kentucky by 30 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Senate race Solid Republican.

Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.