2014 Kentucky Senate race

Politics
6:12 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Alison Lundergan Grimes Pressured Over New Sexual Harassment Claims in Kentucky Legislature

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes
Credit Creative Commons

Saying Alison Lundergan Grimes needs to prove her commitment to women, the chair of the Republican Party of Kentucky is challenging the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate to join a call to investigate new sexual harassment allegations in the state legislature.

As The Courier-Journal's Joe Gerth reports, Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, is asking for a probe to examine the decision-making by Democratic House leadership.

At issue is House Speaker Greg Stumbo's office ordering the transfer of a female staffer who complained about the behavior of a Democratic lawmaker.

From The C-J:

Legislative Research Commission employee Nicole Cusic said that after she complained to state Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, about his behavior in 2012 — she alleges he tried to date interns and made inappropriate statements about another staff member — LRC officials moved her out of a suite of offices where Coursey worked to a temporary desk.

Coursey has denied the allegations, but Stein told the newspaper there is "a bad smell, a noxious smell" in the House and a need to regain the public's trust.

In response, the state GOP is pressuring Grimes—who has continually criticized Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell's voting record on women's issues—to speak up.

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Politics
4:25 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Dwindling Tea Party Support Among GOP May Impact Matt Bevin's Insurgency

Credit Tim Pierce/Creative Commons

A new poll finds fewer Americans support the Tea Party movement and the noticeable dip among Republican voters could impact Kentucky’s U.S. Senate GOP primary race.

According to a Gallup survey conducted earlier this month, opponents of the Tea Party outnumber supporters by a 27 percent to 22 percent.

Most are indifferent to the movement, but the poll shows the Tea Party's favorable rating among GOP voters is 38 percent compared to 65 percent in 2010.

Those numbers could put a damper on Louisville businessman Matt Bevin's primary hopes as he seeks to overthrow incumbent Mitch McConnell with heavy Tea Party support in the state.

Observers say the low approval numbers are a sign the Tea Party is being blamed for the gridlock in Washington in the face of a possible government shutdown.

"It's so much easier to rail against the establishment, people like that when you show enthusiasm and energy," says University of Louisville political science professor Dewey Clayton. "But once you become the establishment and you actually have to govern things change somewhat. One of the reasons the Tea Party is falling out of favor with many Americans is because people are seeing them as part of problem in Washington now."

Clayton says it's hard to compare Bevin's 2014 bid to Rand Paul's insurgency GOP primary candidacy for a number of reasons, but says the Tea Party doesn't appear to have the same strength it did in 2010.

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Politics
7:30 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Trivial Attacks Mark Kentucky's U.S. Senate Race

Credit File photos

When it comes to the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, there appears to be no attack that the top campaigns and their operatives won't engage or levy at each other.

The Republican primary contest between incumbent Mitch McConnell and challenger Matt Bevin has been particularly bitter.

At the outset, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton referred to Bevin as a "con man" who couldn't be trusted. 

Despite efforts to urge the media to ignore Bevin, Team Mitch rarely passes up a chance to take a swipe at their primary opponent. For instance, the McConnell campaign was recently touting this rather embarrassing moment for Bevin at a Constitution Day event in Kentucky.

Watch:

Speaking at a rally in downtown Louisville, Bevin ripped Benton for saying it was "irrelevant" that McConnell didn't join Ted Cruz's marathon speech on the Senate floor.

Here's what Benton told talk radio host Joe Elliott:

A passing remark? Not according to the Bevin campaign.

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Politics
2:13 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Matt Bevin Praises Ted Cruz, Slams Mitch McConnell on Defunding Obamacare Fight

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin joins a rally by Tea Party activists outside Mitch McConnell's office
Credit Phillip M. Bailey

A group of Tea Party and conservative activists rallied outside of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s Louisville office, calling for the defunding of the president’s health care law.

Joined by U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin, over a dozen demonstrators spoke in support of Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, who held a nearly 24-hour marathon talk on the Senate floor to oppose the Affordable Care Act.

But McConnell disagreed with Cruz's tactic to block a federal spending bill that takes out funding Obamacare in order to keep Senate Democrats from amending the measure.

Instead, McConnell supports having a majority vote to defund the health care law while pressuring Democrats to join the GOP caucus.

Saying the GOP establishment needs to do more those rallying in downtown Louisville took McConnell's leadership to task, however.

"I can’t understand why Mitch McConnell won’t wake up and realize that (Obama) is trying to destroy us and destroy Kentucky. He’s the mouthpiece that not only we have but he represents the Republican Party in all of the United States right now," says Dan Johnson, a bishop at Heart of Fire Church in Louisville. "And if he don’t get off of his butt and get up and do what’s right, if he has any heart for the American people he will not fund Obamcare. It's time to defund Obamacare, it's time America is heard and this needs to end today."

The tactical disagreement in the GOP has been a divisive fight that was brought more to the surface by Cruz, who implicitly criticized leaders in both parties for not heeding the public's apprehensions about the health care law.

McConnell is maintaining Republican senators are united against funding the health care law, and would much rather talk about the Democrats.

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Politics
12:34 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Urging Senate Democrats to Join Defund Obamacare Fight, McConnell Rejects Cruz's Plan

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
Credit File photo

Speaking on the Senate floor, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cut ties with Sen. Ted Cruz's threat to use a filibuster against a bill with language defunding the president's health care law.

Facing increasing criticism from conservative groups and a primary opponent, McConnell argued Senate Democrats need to join the effort in order to take out funding for Obamacare while avoiding a government shutdown.

"I just don’t happen to think filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare," McConnell said. "All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded. And none of us want that."

The House passed a spending measure to fund the federal government past Oct. 1, but it does not pay for the Affordable Care Act.

Cruz is urging the GOP caucus to vote against that legislation because Democrats have indicated they will amend it to restore the health care law's funding. He argues any vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor is in effective supporting Obamacare as a whole.

Rather than focus on GOP infighting, McConnell proposed Democrats ought to join the effort to defund the law by having a simple majority vote on the House bill.

"Democrats have been hearing the same complaints about Obamacare the rest of us have. The spotlight should really be on them. This is a rare opportunity to defund the law with a simple majority. We should have that vote," he said.

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Politics
7:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Ky. Environmentalists Want Alison Lundergan Grimes to Address Energy Future Beyond Coal

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes

In Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, environmentalists says there's little to distinguish Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes from Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell on coal.

But activists say what they're most disappointed about is Grimes hasn't outlined an agenda that speaks to the future of Kentucky's economy or the country's energy needs.

Ahead of new federal rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the Grimes campaign presented a decidedly pro-coal message by scolding the Obama administration.

When the Environmental Protection Agency released those proposed standards last week, Grimes reiterated her disappointment, saying the regulations were "out of touch" with Kentucky's needs and would hurt middle-class families.

The Grimes campaign told WFPL the first-term secretary of state does acknowledge climate change and the effects carbon emissions have on the planet's weather patterns.

But aides quickly pivoted to emphasize what they call "unnecessary regulations" that hurt Kentuckians who rely on the coal industry to provide for their families.

"While it is important to protect the environment, it is just as important to make sure the men and women of Kentucky are able to provide for their families,"  said Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton. "As Senator, Alison will work to protect the jobs of hardworking Kentuckians in any solution to the changing climate."

A 2007 Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases created by coal-fired plants are pollutants that are harmful to human health, and are thus subject to regulation.

Longtime Louisville environmental activist Sarah Lynn Cunningham says voters who care about the environment are frustrated with Grimes and that enthusiasm is already declining more than a year before Election Day.

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Politics
2:02 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Senate Democrats Blocking McConnell's Coal Bill Puts Alison Lundergan Grimes in Tough Spot

Credit Kentucky Secretary of State/U.S. Senate

The pro-coal message of Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was complicated by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Thursday, who blocked a bill introduced by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to ease federal regulations.

Reid's actions comes just days after Grimes called on the Obama administration to hold off on new environmental restrictions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell asked for unanimous consent on his  "Saving Coal Jobs Act" to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing carbon emission standards for power plants.

"The EPA has already stifled the permitting process for new coal mines; the agency has done this so dramatically that they have effectively shut down many coal mines through illegitimate, dilatory tactics," McConnell said. "The EPA’s actions ignore the thousands of people in my home state of Kentucky who depend on the coal industry for their livelihoods."

Reid quickly objected to delay the bill while promising to hold a vote at a later date despite McConnell's urgency that the measure is needed now ahead of new EPA emission standards this week.

A coal industry leader had already raised doubts about Grimes being a more effective voice for Kentucky coal operators and miners than McConnell. But Reid's maneuvering raises further questions about whether Grimes can stand up to the Democratic leader while relying on him politically to unseat McConnell.

"Alison isn't afraid to stand up to members of either party," a Grimes campaign aide told WFPL. "She will stand up for Kentucky as its next U.S. Senator. When she is in the Senate she will get things done on behalf of Kentucky's working families. Today just underscores McConnell's weakness and ineffectiveness. His influence isn't working and he's unable to deliver for the people of Kentucky."

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Politics
4:40 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

National Right to Life Endorses Mitch McConnell for Re-Election

National Right to Life

Joined by leaders with its Kentucky affiliate, National Right to Life on Wednesday endorsed Republican Senator Mitch McConnell for re-election next year.

The support from the anti-abortion organization is in sharp contrast to the backing of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes last month by the pro-choice group Emily’s List.

Speaking to reporters, National Right to Life president Carol Tobias says McConnell is an "irreplaceable" voice in the Senate as a GOP leader who has consistently backed their movement.

"Senator McConnell has been a key supporter of every major pro-life initiative to come before the U.S. Senate during his tenure, including legislation to protect un-born children at 20 weeks. That's a point by which the un-born child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion techniques," she says.

Tobias adds McConnell has also helped by blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees who support abortion rights.

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Politics
9:44 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Kentucky Coal Leader Doubts Alison Lundergan Grimes Could Be Stronger Advocate Than Mitch McConnell

Alison Lundergan Grimes (l) and Mitch McConnell (r)
Credit Kentucky Secretary of State/U.S. Senate

A top coal industry leader in Kentucky is questioning if Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes can break with President Obama on restraining environmental regulations.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett also credits Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell for being the industry's chief proponent in Washington, D.C. despite the Grimes campaign blaming the GOP leader for job losses.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil stricter pollution limits this week to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country.

Despite reports that regulations would not be as stringent on coal plants as originally expected, Grimes pounced on the Obama administration to hold off.

"Coal keeps the lights on in Kentucky—plain and simple—and I will not stand idle as overreaching regulation adversely impacts jobs and middle-class families. Any new regulations must take into account the impact on Kentucky jobs and be based on current technology that will not drive Kentucky coal out of business," Grimes said.

The message is part of an effort to blunt Republican attacks that Grimes would be beholden to the president's environmental agenda. But attempts to pick up support from Kentucky coal industry leaders has yet to materialize when many already view McConnell as their top advocate.

"One person's position on coal is defined and the other has yet to be," says Bissett. "I would say our industry has looked at Sen. McConnell as the chief adversary of President Obama since he took office. I think you've seen Sen. McConnell be very engaged in coal and standing in the way of a lot the president's policies as it relates to coal in Kentucky."

Bissett adds that Grimes hasn't said much about the subject until now and rarely was involved with the industry's concerns or needs in her capacity as secretary of state.

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Politics
6:47 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

NRSC Defends Ad Criticizing Democratic Incumbent for Votes That Mirror Mitch McConnell's

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
Credit Kenny Colston / Kentucky Public Radio

When a political attack ad crosses state lines should the same strategic logic be applied?

That's what many Democrats are suggesting in reaction to a blog post by LEO Weekly, which found a Republican group's TV spot that could run in the Kentucky or Arkansas U.S. Senate race.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a spot slamming Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas for being a "liberal" clothed as a moderate.

Among the issues the NRSC calls Pryor out on are six "debt ceiling" votes that the GOP group highlights, including the Wall Street bailout.

Watch:

At least three of those measures (S.365, HR.3221 and HR.1424 for example) were also supported by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however.

Asked if those criticisms of Sen. Pryor being "liberal" could also apply to the GOP leader, the NRSC defended McConnell's fiscal voting record.

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