- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Poor People’s Campaign, a liberal advocacy group, had already planned to stage protests Monday at Mitch McConnell’s home in Washington and his offices in Kentucky to demand the Senate majority leader pay for his “sins.”

Organizers said those protests will take on new significance in the wake of the death Friday of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mr. McConnell’s plan to move quickly on a Senate vote on her replacement.

Now protesters expect a much larger crowd and intend to try to extend a traffic jam around Capitol Hill too, according to Zillah Wesley, one of the organizers.

“As a longtime D.C. resident, we’re already jacked up,” Ms. Wesley said. “You’re really about to denigrate our Supreme Court? It’s just like a worst-case scenario in my mind.”

The protests will be the latest attempt on the political left to demonize the Kentucky Republican, a consummate Washington insider known for his long-game strategy.

Despite his status as one of the most powerful men in Washington — or perhaps because of it — Mr. McConnell faces a fierce bid for reelection against a well-funded Democratic challenger in Kentucky.

“It is personal at this point,” Ms. Wesley said. “He’s been in Congress as long as I’ve been alive and he’s not bettered the people of Kentucky, he’s not bettered the people of D.C.”

Organizers have called for protesters on Monday to join caravans of vehicles, horns blaring, to drive in circles around Mr. McConnell’s home and offices. The protests could potentially coincide a decision in the case of Breonna Taylor, a Louisville woman who was shot and killed by police officers and who has become a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kentucky officials will announce as soon as Monday whether the police officers will be prosecuted for Taylor’s death when they entered the wrong apartment with a “no-knock” search warrant.

The Poor People’s Campaign also will lead simultaneous protests at Mr. McConnell’s offices in six Kentucky cities, with actress Ashley Judd expected to participate.

Mr. McConnell’s office did not respond to request for comment for this article.

Ms. Wesley said protesters intend for a peaceful march and nonviolent demonstration. But with a Breonna Taylor decision in the offing, things could quickly get out of hand.

The federal courthouse in Louisville has made plans to be closed all week because of anticipated unrest, according to reports.

“Hopefully nothing happens, prayerfully nothing happens,” Ms. Wesley said. “When we get violent, our stories get lost in the headlines.”

Still, Mr. McConnell, 78, seeking his seventh Senate term, has a commanding lead in Kentucky, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 53% to 41%, over Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, 45, a former fighter pilot who was the first woman to fly combat missions for the Marine Corps.

Ms. McGrath previously ran for election to the House of Representatives and lost in 2018. She then narrowly survived a Democratic primary fight to challenge Mr. McConnell this year.

She’s labeled him the “Swamp Turtle” in a recent cartoon-style TV ad.

She quickly ramped up attacks on his pledge to hold a vote on a new Supreme Court justice and called him a hypocrite for blocking a vote on President Obama’s nomination ahead of the 2016 election.

“I want Kentuckians to know: if the ‘McConnell Rule’ was good enough in 2016, it should be good enough in 2020, and I will fight him every step of the way on this,” Ms. McGrath tweeted.

Mr. McConnell said the Senate’s actions in 2016 and the situation the Senate faces now are not comparable. In 2016, the Republican majority in the Senate was elected to oppose Mr. Obama’s agenda. This time, the people elected a GOP majority to back Mr. Trump.

“Once again, we will keep our promise,” Mr. McConnell said.

Serving as the party leader in the Senate can strain support in a senator’s home state, as the leader becomes a punching bag on the national stage for the opposing party.

That happened to former Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who served as majority leader from 2007 to 2015 and survived several tough reelection bouts.

Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former top aide to Mr. Reid when he ran the Senate, said the trick is to not be accused of losing touch with your constituents while carrying the baggage of national politics.

“I wish that his reputation would play a larger role in some of these [Senate] races, given how much he’s destroyed the Senate but the fact of the matter is that with [President] Trump on the ticket, he’s taken up a lot of the oxygen,” Mr. Manley said. “I understand a lot of Democrats are focused on defeating Donald Trump but the reality is, if you look at it another way, nothing is more important than the Senate.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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