Senate candidates on college-relevant issues

Illustration by Alex Cox

Jacob Latimer

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, was first elected to the Senate in 1984, and candidate Amy McGrath, a Democrat, is running against him. Here’s where McConnell and McGrath stand on some of the biggest issues in this election cycle.

Black Lives Matter

McConnell has stayed relatively quiet on the Black Lives Matter movement. McConnell was asked to comment on the “unrest of the Black Lives Matter movement” at a 2016 luncheon.

“I know these kinds of things happen — I’m not suggesting they don’t,” McConnell said in 2016. “But a blanket condemnation of people in blue is not appropriate either. So we need to respect all lives regardless.”

McGrath has voiced support for the demonstrations and the movement as a whole.

According to Mark Nickolas, McGrath’s campaign manager, McGrath “talked with African American mothers about the pain and fear they feel after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and David McAtee.” McGrath has also voiced support for the protests that have occurred after the deaths of Floyd and Taylor and has reportedly attended protests in Kentucky.

“I have been demonstrating,” McGrath said in an interview. “I have been out there, all around Kentucky, talking and listening to folks who are standing up for Black Lives Matter.”

Marijuana legalization

While McConnell signed a bill in 2018 that legalized industrial hemp, he holds an anti-legalization stance for medical and recreational marijuana.

“I do not have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana,” McConnell said to a group of reporters in 2018. “It is a different plant. It has an illicit cousin which I choose not to embrace.”

McGrath has shown her support for the legalization of medical marijuana and has voiced support specifically for veterans who suffer from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder and use marijuana as a form of treatment.

“I hope the state — and the federal government — begin to relax its un- necessarily rigid position on medical cannabis,” McGrath stated on her website.

McGrath also stated that she believes legalizing medical marijuana may help alleviate the opioid crisis in the U.S.

“On the issue of full legalization, I’d like to see our government permit full research on the subject,” McGrath said in a Facebook post.

Education funding

In McConnell’s political career he has voted on a number of education bills, and while some of his votes have gone towards funding schools, including school vouchers in Washington, D.C., he has voted “no” on multiple bills to allocate funds towards schools and education. Recently, McConnell announced that Kentucky schools will receive two million face masks from the Trump administration.

“Wearing a mask is one of the most important ways each of us can protect ourselves and our loved ones from the coronavirus,” McConnell said earlier this month. “I’m grateful to President Trump and his team for directing over two million masks to Kentucky to help our young people learn safely.”

McGrath’s platform is putting a focus on making college more affordable. McGrath is looking to expand student loan forgiveness programs, fund public universities at the federal level and create a voluntary, paid national service program that allows students to earn a debt-free higher education.

“While college degrees have become increasingly necessary to succeed in the job market, higher education

costs have increased eight times faster than wages, making it impossible for many young Americans to get the education they need without taking on massive high-interest loans,” McGrath stated on her website.

Gun control

McConnell has historically been a gun rights advocate.
The senator has voted “yes” on multiple bills to loosen or remove back- ground checks and restrictions on guns and received an “A” rating from
the National Rifle Association, indicating a pro-gun rights record.

“I’ve been one of the biggest champions of protecting our constitutional right to bear arms,” McConnell said after winning the NRA’s “Defender of Freedom” award. “So as long as Washington attacks our heritage, I’ll fight back.”

McGrath has voiced her support for the Second Amendment and is a gun owner. However, she says she supports “common sense” gun laws and believes the gun lobby has caused problems in passing gun control legislation.

“The gun lobby’s mere ability to stifle any reasonable efforts toward tackling the epidemic of gun violence is the greatest obstacle we face in dealing with gun safety and strong policing of existing laws,” McGrath wrote on her website.

The measures that McGrath supports include background checks at gun shows, which McConnell has voted against in the past, restricting purchases for anyone on watch lists and keeping guns from felons, domestic abusers and people with mental illnesses.

Jacob Latimer can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jacoblatimer_.