Going by conventional wisdom and modern political party tendencies, it’s hard to imagine a more unlikely setting.
But there was U.S. Sen. Rand Paul last Thursday, sitting in a leather wingback chair, a large collection of African ceremonial masks on the wall to his left, as he discussed the contributions of Malcolm X to the civil rights movement.
It was a cold, gray morning at Simmons College in Louisville’s West End. Paul had a full day of events scheduled around the commonwealth as he pushed for “Economic Freedom Zones” and attempted to shore up his support in Kentucky before possibly embarking on a run for the White House. But his morning was set aside for Rev. Kevin Cosby, a well-respected leader within Louisville’s black community, and a man who calls Paul a friend.
After the Republican Party’s shameful showing with minority groups in the 2012 election, Paul has been far from subtle about trying to take the lead in reaching out to black voters.
So he gave a speech at Howard University in April, and last week followed up with a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. The scoffs from national black leaders and the Democratic Party weren’t subtle, either.
What in the world is a man who questioned the constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and reluctantly accepted the resignation of a staffer who once called himself the Southern Avenger doing leading the GOP’s efforts to reach black voters?
A short list of Kentucky Republican all-stars has in recent days recorded automated phone calls on behalf of a Republican state House candidate in Western Kentucky, but U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is not among them.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer have all recorded calls advocating support for Suzanne Miles in Tuesday’s special election in the 7th House District against Democrat Kim Humphrey.
McConnell’s name adorns the state party’s headquarters, making it’s absence on the list of Republicans recording calls conspicuous.
Miles told the Lexington Herald-Leader late Sunday that she didn’t ask McConnell — or any other GOP officials — to record calls on her behalf. Miles has previously noted that McConnell was the first person to give her a check for her campaign, and she said Sunday that he has “been supportive since day one.”
In polling, a high rate of Kentuckians have consistently said they have a negative view of McConnell, numbers that have led analysts to almost universally declare McConnell’s seat in jeopardy.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul warned pundits Monday not to read too much into comments he made about his wife possibly vetoing a run for the White House in 2016, but he did say “it’s not a slam dunk that I’m running.”
Paul, who has said repeatedly that he is seriously considering a run, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that comments he has made about his wife, Kelly, being opposed to the idea are largely a joke.
“There’s two votes in my family,” Paul told the audience at the Detroit Economic Club last week. “My wife has both of them, and both of them are ‘no’ votes right now.”
Paul has used some variation of that joke whenever he has been asked about a 2016 run while traveling around Kentucky.
On Fox News Sunday, Paul reiterated that he is considering a run, but he added that he is “also very serious about the family considerations.”
By Sam Youngman
The University of Kentucky men’s and women’s basketball teams met a former commander-in-chief while touring the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum Thursday night.
Coal magnate Joe Craft, a heavyweight donor to the University of Kentucky, and Kelly Knight, a longtime Republican fundraiser who helped Bush’s campaign efforts, arranged the tour and visit while the Cats are in Texas to take on Baylor Friday night.
Wildcats’ star Julius Randle presented the 43rd president with a UK jersey numbered “43,” while women’s coach Matthew Mitchell gave Bush a jersey from the Hoops squad.
Kentucky basketball has been all about the 1600 Pennsylvania club recently.
Earlier this week, Coach John Calipari tweeted that he had a 30 minute conversation with former President Bill Clinton, and the 2011-2012 Wildcats met with President Barack Obama at the White House after winning the national championship.
ALEXANDRIA — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, an outspoken opponent of President Barack Obama’s health care law, described his frustration upon signing up for the Washington, D.C., exchange, which the senator did Wednesday.
Paul spoke to reporters Thursday after an event in Northern Kentucky, saying that the law is not a success in Kentucky despite the high interest and thousands who have enrolled.
“It made me an unhappy person,” Paul said, chuckling.
Paul said the process took him more than two hours, and several times he lost the information he had entered into the troubled website.
“I got all the way through with Obamacare one time, and then I lost all my information,” he said.
When asked how to fix the health care law, Paul said, “I’m not sure if there is a fix.”
“I will vote to try to make it less bad if possible,” he said.
By John Cheves
FRANKFORT — Kentucky lawmakers will be asked for $2.3 billion in public pension contributions this winter as they prepare the state’s next two-year budget, potentially diverting more than 10 percent of the budget for the retirement benefits of state workers and school teachers.
The chief pension fund that covers more than 90,600 current and former state workers has $2.6 billion in assets and $11.3 billion in assumed liabilities, making it only 23 percent funded, actuarial advisers told the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ board of trustees on Thursday.
That funding level has dropped for years, from 52 percent in 2008 to 27 percent last year. It puts Kentucky at or near the bottom in most state pension rankings.
Pension experts say a funding level of less than 80 percent is problematic because a cash-starved benefits system can’t make lucrative long-term investments, and it eventually can’t keep mailing out monthly checks without draining money from other public services, such as schools and roads.
The General Assembly has made attempts at “pension reform” — including Senate Bill 2 earlier this year, which reduced benefits for future state workers — but it’s extremely difficult to climb out of the hole dug by two decades of underfunding by governors and lawmakers, pension officials said.
Richard Moloney, an independent candidate in Tuesday’s special election in Lexington for the state Senate, questions the trustworthiness of his Democratic opponent, Reginald Thomas, in a mailer sent to voters this week.
The mailer refers to a Lexington Herald-Leader article published last month about questions that surrounded Thomas’ departure from the University of Kentucky, where he was an assistant law professor in 1984. He now is an attorney and professor at Kentucky State University.
Documents obtained by the newspaper under the state Open Records Act revealed that questions were raised at the time about his teaching methods and “lack of quotation marks … in two articles.”
“If we couldn’t trust Reggie then, how can we trust him now?” the mailer asks.
On Thursday, Thomas chalked Moloney’s accusations up to “politics,” saying that “everyone who knows me knows I’m trustworthy.”
Moloney’s criticism “will not resonate with the voters of the district,” Thomas said. “We can let the voters decide if they consider me trustworthy.”
The Moloney mailer, along with several sent by the Kentucky Democratic Party that incorrectly label Moloney a Republican, reflect the growing tension in the race to replace Democrat Kathy Stein in the state Senate.
By Sam Youngman
LOUISVILLE — Hal Heiner and his wife Sheila call their stately home and the 170 acres surrounding it Dovelyn, a reference to its large dove population and the peace he says those birds bring them.
Heiner’s peaceful days are probably about to end.
With about a year and half to go until the primary elections for Kentucky governor in May 2015, Heiner is nearing an announcement that he will run, looking to make it official early in the new year.
“I’m a firm believer in marathon campaigns where people get to know the actual candidates and don’t have to rely on a 30-second TV spot produced by some group out of Washington, DC to decide who to vote for,” said Heiner, a Republican.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader on a wooded bluff just a short ATV trek from his house, Heiner said it will take “most of 2014 and 2015″ for Kentuckians to get to know him.
A multimillionaire and former Louisville metro councilman, Heiner said he plans to spend some of his own money at the beginning of his campaign to offset his lack of name identification outside of Louisville and Kentucky’s “strict” campaign finance laws.
Heiner, a soft-spoken man clad in jeans, a flannel shirt and barn coat, said he thinks early jockeying for the Republican nomination will die down over the next year. That behind-the-scenes maneuvering exploded into public view after likely gubernatorial candidate James Comer, the state’s agriculture commissioner, declared his independence from GOP “party bosses” during an October speech.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT – Franklin Circuit Court ordered National College Wednesday to pay a $1,000-a-day fine from July 1 to the present for failing to respond to a subpoena from Attorney General Jack Conway in his investigation of some for-profit colleges.
As of Wednesday, that amounts to $126,000 in fines.
In addition to the penalty, the court ordered National’s attorneys to pay $10,000 to the attorney general’s office after the court determined that National College has “repeatedly abused the legal system to obstruct a valid investigation by the attorney general.”
National College had no immediate comment.
Conway said he hopes National College “will stop the games, turn over all of the documents requested and pay.
“If National has nothing to hide, the time is now to comply with the court order.”
The attorney general issued a subpoena to National College in December 2010.
National refused to respond to the subpoena and filed suit to block the attorney general’s investigation.
In March 2011, the Franklin Circuit Court ruled in Conway’s favor, finding that the subpoena was reasonable and supported by valid concerns under the Consumer Protection Act and that Conway was lawfully acting in the public interest.
National College appealed that decision to both the Court of Appeals and the Kentucky Supreme Court, but the appeals were denied.
In a separate action in September, 2011, Conway filed suit against National College in Fayette Circuit Court, alleging that National violated the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act by posting false job placement rates for National graduates on its website.
That litigation is pending.
The battle to replace Kathy Stein in the state Senate has expanded to television.
Two of the three candidates in the Dec. 10 special election — Democrat Reginald Thomas and independent Richard Moloney — have TV ads supporting their campaigns.
Moloney, a former Lexington council member and city official, claims in his 30-second ad that he is the “proven” candidate in the race. He started airing the ad on Monday.
Thomas, an attorney and Kentucky State University professor, emphasizes in his 15-second ad that he is the “real Democrat” in the race. It started airing Wednesday.
The 13th Senate District is more than 2-to-1 Democratic in party registration. It covers much of Lexington inside New Circle Road, including downtown and the University of Kentucky, but also extends south of Man o’ War Boulevard near Richmond Road.
Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, called the special election in October after he appointed Stein, a Democrat, to a Fayette Circuit Court judgeship. The winner will serve the remainder of Stein’s term, which runs through the end of 2016.