A Kentucky Democratic strategist has deleted her Twitter account after being sharply rebuked by party leaders for referencing the ethnicity of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s wife in a series of political attacks.
The latest controversy marks the second time during this year’s Senate contest in which Democratic operatives have mentioned the Asian heritage of McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao.
Over Fancy Farm weekend, McConnell told a crowd at Saturday morning’s GOP breakfast that his wife was playing a major role in his re-election bid.
Female voters are a key demographic for McConnell’s opponent, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, if she hopes to win this November. Knowing this, McConnell sought to turn one of Grimes’ key stump speech lines—about being a strong “Kentucky woman”—against his opponent.
“Going into a contest like this it helps to have a big asset,” McConnell said to onlookers in the Graves County High School cafeteria. “And the biggest asset I have by far is the only Kentucky woman who served in a president’s cabinet, my wife, Elaine Chao.”
Democratic strategist Kathy Groob of Covington took exception to that remark, and responded critically online and noting Chao is Asian.
“She is not from (Kentucky). She is Asian and Bush openly touted that,” Groob wrote on Twitter.
“Hey Mitch, nothing against your wife and spouses should be off limits,” Groob said in another Twitter message. “Since you mentioned it she isn’t from (Kentucky), she is Asian.”
The Kentucky Democratic Party moved quickly to denounce the series of comments. Groob later said it was a “poor choice of words” and deleted some of the Tweets.
On Sunday, Groob, who runs a consulting firm called November Strategies, deactivated her Twitter account. She could not be reached to comment for this story.
This isn’t the first time Chao’s Asian heritage has been brought up by Democrats.
Last year, Progress Kentucky, a now defunct liberal super PAC, made several remarks about the senator’s “Chinese” wife and her influence. Those Twitter messages were the subject of McConnell’s first campaign ad in this election cycle.
McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore called on Grimes Saturday to follow the state party’s lead and publicly denounce Groob.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes should be ashamed to have a sentiment like this expressed publicly by her close supporters,” Moore said. “It goes without saying that she should immediately denounce this disgusting attack and demand an apology.”
When Grimes first jumped in the race last summer, Groob was an early supporter who said it was an important step for Kentucky women. In December, she was enlisted to help run ads and fundraisers for a Florida-based PAC that had endorsed Grimes.
The Grimes campaign has not responded to our request for comment.
UPDATE 9:20 a.m.:
“Attacking someone’s ethnicity is uncalled for and unacceptable,” Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said in a statement to WFPL Monday morning. “This race is between Mitch McConnell and Alison. As Sen. McConnell said last year, Alison wholeheartedly agrees that family should be out of bounds.”