Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes received a boost from a leading Democratic woman who is also taking on Republican Mitch McConnell across the country.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts visited the University of Louisville on Sunday to stump for Grimes and reform efforts of the country’s student loan system.
The rally focused on skyrocketing college costs, investing in higher education, and Warren’s bill to lower interests rates for student borrowers.
Joined by Warren on stage, Grimes said she and the Massachusetts Democrat will fight alongside each other the middle-class.
“Education to me leads to a growing economy, a growing middle-class, and yes, it should lead to good paying jobs,” said Grimes. “I believe it’s a necessity that should be available to all Kentuckians. It is and should be the passport out of poverty, not into poverty as Mitch McConnell would have you believe.”
Warren has made a personal mission of targeting McConnell, Grimes’ opponent, since he successfully blocked her bill aimed at cutting student loan rates earlier this month.
The Republican Senate leader slammed the proposal as a tax increase because it was paid for by closing tax loopholes for Americans earning over $1 million annually.
“Mitch McConnell said when you got a choice between billionaires and students … it’s more important to protect the billionaires,” said Warren. “That’s what this race is all about. It’s about a man who stood up and filibustered the student loan bill.”
The Associated Press reported in March that over 37 million Americans are saddled with $1 trillion in student debt, which is widening the country’s wealth gap. In Kentucky, federal reports shows 360,000 students carry a student loan debt of about $20,000 on average.
“We fell two votes short. I tell you that story because if you send us Alison Grimes instead of Mitch McConnell, and you change the world,” Warren said.
The Warren appearance was greeted by an overwhelming crowd that with a line that stretched at least three blocks Sunday morning from the campus venue, the Red Barn.
Louisville College Democrats President Connor Allen said younger voters are frustrated with gridlock in Washington and engaged with the issue of reducing the cost of higher education.
“I don’t think college student or young Kentuckians are looking for a hand out,” he said. “We just want a fair share, and it just doesn’t feel like that’s what we’re getting from Washington these days.”
“I realized when a lot of students hear politics the first thing they do is run. They don’t want to talk to you about it. A lot people think that’s because they’re apathetic, but I can tell you it’s because they’re cynical due to partisan bickering.”
Observers, however, noted the crowded Grimes event lacked a high number of college-aged students in the audience.
“You can see from this event there were not a lot of students present,” said Aaron Duvall, chair of the UofL college Republicans.
Duvall’s group had a handful of members holding a counter rally outside the Red Barn supporting McConnell’s re-election and slamming Grimes for embracing a liberal stalwart like Warren.
“Alison Grimes is using Warren’s failed student loan bill, which relies on raising taxes on Kentucky’s job creators by 30 percent,” he said. “She’s using that as a ploy to draw in and deceived youth voters. We believe we that need more reforms that helps more than just 10 percent of student borrowers.”
McConnell’s campaign also pounced on Grimes for standing beside Warren, who Republicans call one of the more partisan members of Congress.
“If you look at the policies Alison Lundergan Grimes is promoting and the national liberals she’s associating with, she’s not even hiding her allegiances anymore,” McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said ahead of the Warren visit.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes is outright telling Kentuckians that if she’s elected her only problem with Barack Obama would be that occasionally he’s not liberal enough for her taste.”
Without mentioning specifics, Grimes told the audience she and Warren aren’t in lock step on everything but do stand together on reducing the cost of higher education.
“Just as my sisters, heck, even my husband and I don’t agree on every issue,” said Grimes. “Senator Warren just told you we don’t agree on every issue, but we do agree that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky families—for American families.”
“After 30 years it is Mitch McConnell who is at the center of gridlock and dysfunction that we see, and Kentucky can do something to get Washington working again.”