Senate Candidates Decry Kentucky Democratic Party E-mail Promoting Alison Lundergan Grimes

The three other Democrats running for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat are criticizing their party for promoting Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in a message to supporters.

When Grimes announced earlier this week she intends to seek the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Mitch McConnell next year the state party quickly sought donations.

The Grimes campaign has yet to set up a fundraising operation, but the party can receive political contributions towards the 2014 campaign.

In a July 1 e-mail sent out by KDP finance director Jared Smith, the party says defeating McConnell “won’t be easy” and asks state Democrats to help them building a grassroots effort to “make sure Alison wins.”

But Owensboro contractor Ed Marksberry, Louisville music promoter Bennie J. Smith and U of L professor Greg Leitchy argue the message violates Democratic Party by-laws to stay out of primary elections, adding the party has effectively endorsed Grimes over them.

“To be honest with you it’s just a very amateurish, sophomoric move on their part. And they need to be called out for it,” says Marksberry, who has officially filed to run for Senate. “And we need to move forward and get past this, and figure out what we’re going to do to give everybody else equal access, equal time and equal resources like they’ve done for Mrs. Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

The party’s bylaws specifically forbid party officials from endorsing in a primary and also prohibit resources from being used unless they are made available to all candidates.

From KDP by-laws:

No Democrat Committee governed by these By-Laws, or any Democratic Party Officer acting in his or her official capacity, shall endorse or support one Democratic candidate over another Democratic candidate in a Democratic Primary Election. No assets of the Democratic Party shall be used in a Democratic Primary Election unless they are made available equally to all Democrat Candidates in that specific primary election.

Marksberry is considering filing a lawsuit against the state party to prohibit any further action in the 2014 Senate race.

Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon declined to respond to questions about bylaw violations, and instead emphasized the excitement around Grimes’s entry into the race.

“I am thrilled that Secretary of State Allison Grimes has entered the race for the United States Senate,” he says. “Secretary Grimes will be a strong, positive candidate for the Democratic Party who will work for Kentucky families, and end Mitch McConnell’s 30-year legacy of just working for himself. Kentucky Democrats stand united in our efforts to defeat Senator McConnell.”

For months, Democrats had been looking for a “top-tier” contender who could generate national support to combat McConnell’s fundraising advantage.

When actress Ashley Judd announced she wasn’t running in March speculation immediately turned to Grimes, whose father Jerry Lundergan is a former state representative and party chairman. Grimes had been courted by national Democratic groups and senators to run against McConnell, including a private meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada last month.

Still, the lesser-known contenders feel that shouldn’t permit the state party to overlook their candidacies and so overtly back the secretary of state.

“They’re not suppose to endorse any one particularly candidate yet as soon as Grimes announced it we’re getting e-mails saying: hey we got 48 hours to donate the money to make Alison wins,” says Smith. “That’s almost like a slap in the face. It is a slap in the face to me, Ed and Mr. Leitchy.”

The party has not mentioned Marksberry, Smith or Leitchy in their previous fundraising messages despite their declarations.

Leithcy says he understands most Democratic officials are behind Grimes but party officials should apologize, adding he doesn’t support Marksberry’s potential lawsuit against the party.

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