Mitch McConnell and Andy Barr are top 2020 targets for Emily’s List

Emily’s List is naming Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Andy Barr as two of its top targets for 2020.

The Senate Majority Leader and Barr, a Lexington Republican, are among the first round of candidates the Democratic group that backs women running for office is putting “On Notice” as part of its opposition program targeting 43 House Republicans and six Senate Republicans.

Kentucky may be tough for Democrats, who unsuccessfully challenged Barr in 2018, but Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, said “after flipping the House with Democratic women in 2018, we’re ready to send more Republicans packing in 2020.”

She accused McConnell and the other five Republican senators of serving as “rubber stamps for the Trump administration’s harmful policies at the expense of the American people” and said Emily’s List hopes to replace all six with Democratic women who support abortion rights.

Citing McConnell’s steadfast support for Trump’s controversial Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Schriock said the Kentucky Republican “has made it clear that he will continue to advance his party’s dangerous and destructive agenda.

“While House Democrats are passing legislation to advance opportunities for American families, Senate Republicans refuse to even vote on these crucial measures, including one that would protect voting rights to ensure Americans have a voice in democracy,” she said.

McConnell is a top target for Democrats, but no top tier challenger has jumped in yet. Matt Jones, a well-known Kentucky sports radio personality, has said he’s interested. But he’s waiting on Amy McGrath, a Democratic star who lost to Barr last year and is being courted by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to run for the Senate.

McConnell launched his 2020 campaign last year and has been pressing for Senate votes to put Democrats in a tough position on a range of issues, including Democrats’ controversial Green New Deal and a measure that would punish any doctor who fails to provide medical care to a child born alive after an attempted abortion. Critics say laws already exist to protect an infant in those rare circumstances.

McConnell’s campaign manager said Emily’s List’s interest came as no surprise.

“We fully anticipate the abortion lobby, who mobilized this week to kill Senator McConnell’s efforts to ban infanticide, to campaign against Kentucky values and anybody who supports them,” said Kevin Golden. “It’s honestly hard to believe there is anyone who would oppose the Born Alive Act and Senator McConnell is certainly not going to back down in this fight against radical far-left.”

The Senate voted Monday to block the abortion provision with three Democrats voting to support the measure. In Frankfort, the Kentucky Senate voted 32-to-0 on Thursday to approve similar anti-abortion bill legislation requiring doctors and nurses to provide “all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life” of babies born alive in Kentucky, even if they are born mortally ill or injured and their parents request only “comfort care.” The bill now heads to the Kentucky House.

Federal Judge Amul R. Thapar said he will "follow the law," when asked if he agrees that the Roe v. Wade abortion decision is "long established and accepted precedent" during his 2017 confirmation hearing to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Schriock said Barr and the targeted Republican House members have “loyally supported their party’s harmful agenda,” including votes to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

“While (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and House Democrats are working hard to pass legislation that will directly improve the lives of women and children, House Republicans are trying to impede progress wherever they can,” she said.

Emily’s List stayed out of Barr’s race in 2018 as McGrath, a high profile Marine veteran elected not to seek the endorsement of most national groups, including Emily’s List. Though McGrath supports abortion rights, much of her campaign centered on outreach to the rural counties in the congressional district that includes Lexington.

“Any candidate accepting support from Emily’s List is aligning themselves with infanticide and this is out of touch with Kentucky values,” said Camille Gallo, a spokeswoman with the National Republican Congressional Committee.

But Barr’s inclusion on the list suggests Emily’s List considers the district “flippable” and the group said it is actively recruiting and working with potential candidates in all the targeted districts.

Lesley Clark works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, covering all things Kentucky for McClatchy’s Lexington Herald-Leader. A former reporter for McClatchy’s Miami Herald, she also spent several years covering the White House.