How Amy McGrath Went From Marine Fighter Pilot to Victorious Democrat

Both her parents had shaped her. Her mother, Marianne, had polio as a child, and never regained full use of her legs. Determined to be a doctor in an era when women physicians weren’t common, she became one of the first women to graduate from the University of Kentucky Medical School, and practiced as a pediatrician until the post polio symptoms made it too difficult to stand. She then went back to do a second residency in psychiatry — at night.

Her father, a high school teacher for 40 years, had also always encouraged his daughter to break barriers.

She stopped all campaigning for a week as she tried to regroup for a final push.

“The campaign was important,” she said. “My family was more important.”

As she mourned, her fortunes were shifting. At 6:45 a.m., on April 18, after the second night of a three-night poll, Mr. Yang texted Mr. Nickolas. “I hate it when you are right and I am wrong,” Mr. Nickolas said the pollster told him, adding, “tomorrow morning Amy is most likely going to lead.”

The campaign manager had privately hoped she would only be down by about eight points. She was leading by seven.

The poll also showed something the men had never seen. Both candidates were viewed by voters in highly favorable terms. Among those voters who had a very favorable view of both, Ms. McGrath led by 16 points. “This is not about Gray,” Mr. Nickolas said. “This is about something different. Voters wanted something different.”

Ms. McGrath then aired a second ad produced by Mr. Putnam, an image reboot that showed her taking her three children to a doctor’s appointment. Her middle child, George, 3, goofs with the doctor when she tries to give him a shot, then runs down the hallway with his pants around his ankles. Ms. McGrath called the ad her “toughest mission,” then asked if any of her opponents could deal with that.

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