The Democratically-aligned group End Citizens United on Tuesday launched a $50,000 digital advertising campaign aimed at unseating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky — before McConnell even has a credible challenger.
The ad, End Citizens United’s first independent expenditure of the 2020 cycle, highlights McConnell’s work to block campaign finance reform measures in Washington.
“Mitch McConnell has a long history of making sure politicians can be bought,” a male voice says, as pictures of McConnell spanning his 35-year Senate career flash on the screen. “Now Mitch is blocking the most important anti-political corruption legislation since Watergate.”
McConnell is a top target for Democrats, who are still seething over his 2016 move to block former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. But so far, no big-name candidates have taken on the fight. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.
The ad is a reference to McConnell’s early years spearheading Republican resistance to a string of campaign finance reform proposals and his recent vow not to allow a Senate vote on Democrats’ signature congressional reform bill, HR-1.
McConnell has called the bill a Democratic “power grab” and blasted the measure’s public financing system and the creation of a new federal holiday on Election Day.
“It’s time for new leadership,” End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller said in a statement. “We’ll expose his horrendous record of doing the bidding of Big Money special interests at the expense of his constituents.”
End Citizens United is a political action committee focused on countering the effects of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that overturned restrictions on independent expenditures from corporations and labor unions.
McConnell’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
Potential challengers include Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot who is considered a rising star since her narrow loss to Rep. Andy Barr in her 2018 race in Kentucky’s 6th House District. McGrath has stayed silent on her plans for 2020, in spite of numerous reports that she has been recruited by left-leaning groups and Democratic leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Matt Jones, a liberal sports radio host with a wide following in the state, is also considering a run.
Groups hopeful of ousting McConnell point to his low popularity — he was the third most unpopular senator in the country in a January Morning Consult poll. But that represents a gain from previous years, when McConnell came in last.
The senator has proven a formidable foe in previous elections. In 2014, he swatted back a primary challenge from now-governor Matt Bevin — winning by 25 percentage points — and trounced Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general. This time around, he will have the added advantage of running with President Trump at the top of the ticket in a state Trump won by 30 percentage points in 2016.