“The reason why we have 19 percent women in places like Congress is because we don’t run at the same rate as men. And I think one of the things we‘re starting to realize is we have to step into the arena,” McGrath said.
A mother of three, it’s her first time running for political office after a long career in public service.
“The election of 2016 changed a lot of us,” McGrath said. “As someone who has been a Marine, how do you change things? You step up to the plate. And you are the one who says put me in.”
McGrath acknowledged it’s about the age-old mantra: Be the change you want to see.
And Mallory Hagan, who was crowned Miss New York and then, in 2013, Miss America, cited the same inspiration for her campaign. She’s running in Alabama's 3rd Congressional District against an incumbent who’s held the seat for longer than a decade, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers.
“We need more diversity at the table. We need gender diversity; we need racial diversity. And we also need generational diversity,” Hagan said, also speaking on ABC News’ "Powerhouse Politics" podcast with Klein and political reporter MaryAlice Parks.
They said they’re running on a broader message than that of any one party.
“I’m not running against President Trump and his agenda. I am running against the world that we are beginning to create,” Hagan said.
And although Trump spurred her run, McGrath finds common ground in the attraction to an outsider on the ticket - the reason she says many in Kentucky voted for him.
Lack of faith in the establishment is one of the reasons McGrath isn’t concerned that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or the DCCC, hasn’t backed her.
“We’re seeing that the well-funded, sort of ‘having the establishment backing’ doesn’t really help you. In fact, you know people are sort of tired of that — they don’t trust the Democratic National Party. Many Democrats in Kentucky don’t. They are looking for somebody who is honest,” McGrath said.
Another view the candidates have in common: a moderate stance on gun control — a touchy subject in their southern states. McGrath is a gun owner, she said, and Hagan said she grew up with her father’s guns in the house.
But both talked about room for improvement. For McGrath, that means “everything should be on the table.”
“I was a Marine for 20 years. I’ve shot about every weapon you can think about,” McGrath said. “On the other hand, I’m a mom. I have 3 small kids. I believe gun violence is an epidemic in our country.”
Her number one concern? “Make sure our politicians are not bought off by special interests,” McGrath said.
Hagan, who said she considered buying a gun herself when she lived in big cities - New York and Los Angeles - said she thinks background checks and longer waiting periods should be a priority.
“When I looked at Congress and saw that there were only four women under the age of 40, I said you know maybe this is the time, even if I don't win — which I am planning on doing — but even if I don’t, I’m setting an example and inspiring some other people who are in my age range to get involved in their community,” Hagan said.
This is part of a continuing series of interviews on the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast with first-time candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.