Lexington, Kentucky (CNN)David Hansen tried to get the words out. “I lost my health care,” he began to say, his voice unexpectedly cracking, barely audible in the din of a people-packed and sweltering warehouse in Nicholasville, Kentucky. At 59, a US Navy veteran and registered Republican, Hansen lowered his head, unable to look at Democrat Amy McGrath, the congressional candidate headlining this political event in the small town outside Lexington.
A retired US Marine and a decade and a half his junior, McGrath put her hand on his shoulder.
Hansen had voted for Trump in 2016. He also voted for the Republican congressman for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, Andy Barr. But Hansen’s fortunes changed in 2017 after he had a stroke, an event so debilitating, he said, he couldn’t work, losing his health care coverage. He said he now pays for outside insurance, even though he’s entitled to get service from the Department of Veterans Affairs, because he said the care there is so poor.
“There’s 535 people up there and they’re not doing anything,” he said of the members of the House and Senate.
Hansen’s struggles illustrate why health care is among the top issues in the midterm elections, dominating political ads, particularly among Democrats, who are attacking Republicans over their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. In August, a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS found that 81% of voters considered health care important to their vote, including nearly half (48%) who said it was “extremely important.”
“Congress isn’t doing anything,” Hansen reiterated, frustration woven into every word. “They need to fix the health care program because it’s broken. They have to get off their high horse and just do it.”
Some of the same politically insurgent reasons he voted for Trump are why he’s at a McGrath rally. “She’s not a politician,” said Hansen, pointing out the national Democrats didn’t back McGrath in the primary. “She’s also been in the military. She knows what it means to honor her commitments.”
McGrath leaned over to Hansen and said the words that sealed his support for her. “I’m going to work very hard. That’s all I can promise you.”
The issue of health care has made Hansen a Democratic voter in the upcoming midterm elections. And in this ruby red area of Kentucky, it seems he is not the only one. Indeed, there are some signs of a blue wave in a corner of the Bluegrass State.
To the standing-room crowd that came to see her in a district Trump won by 16 percentage points, McGrath raised her fist in the air, punctuating her pledge to voters.
“This election is about the soul of our country,” she said into a microphone, applause reverberating against the walls of the warehouse. “We need to stand up and be a part of this and move our country in the direction that you know America is.
“Health care is a right for all Americans. Education is a right. I’m doing my part for my country right now. I’m doing the best that I can and I’m gonna work my ass off for you!”