In final days of the Democratic primary in Kentucky's Sixth Congressional District, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray went on the attack against viral video sensation and Navy fighter pilot Amy McGrath, hammering her for not having lived in the district until last year.
Gray's negative ad takes pains to mitigate potential backlash, using a female narrator to criticize a female candidate, and expressing gratitude for McGrath's many years of military service abroad. Nevertheless, the ad zeroes in on McGrath's weak spot.
Gray Accuses McGrath of Moving Just to Run for CongressThe ad doesn't begin harshly. "Amy McGrath grew up near Covington," the narrator begins, "and since then, she's lived around the country and the world serving our nation. We're all grateful for that." The first image is a map of Kentucky, colored blue save for a red pin on the northern border to mark Covington.
The problem for McGrath is, Covington is 90 minutes north of Lexington -- in the Fourth district, not the Sixth.
The map turns into an animated globe, spinning with red pins to show all the places McGrath has lived.
The blue silhouette of Kentucky returns, and the narrator shifts gears. "But now she's running for Congress to represent the one place she's never lived: here." The Sixth district is colored a lighter shade of blue, with a red pin in the middle. The map is titled, "THE ONE PLACE SHE'S NEVER LIVED."
An animated moving van appears, as the narrator says, "In fact, she moved here from Maryland just last year to run for Congress."
Trying one more time to soften the blow, the narrator says, "We honor Amy McGrath's service, but shouldn't she live here for a while before she tries to represent us?" In the final frame, the red pin in the Sixth is replaced by a TV screen and a still from one of her ads, a subtle swipe at her viral video strategy.
Amy McGrath Defends Living Abroad For Military ServiceYou can't find the ad on Jim Gray's social media platforms. But the political action committee VoteVets, which supports Democratic military veteran candidates including McGrath, tried to turn the negative ad into a positive for its candidate. It shared the video on its own Twitter account along with a jab at Gray: "this is what losing looks like! Take down your #swiftboat attacks on @AmyMcGrathKY’s service to our country." ("#swiftboat refers to the infamous Republican attacks on Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam service during the 2004 presidential campaign.)
McGrath herself responded on her Facebook account, without sharing the ad. Ignoring the ad's attempt to avoid maligning her military service, McGrath called it "an attack against any American citizen who chooses to serve their country in times of war and then come home to continue their service in another way."
The Democratic constituents of the Sixth will have to decide what they want more: a veteran or a local.