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Mediation in sexual harassment claims in state legislature postponed until June 22

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — Mediation in claims involving sexual harassment, retaliation and other misconduct against state lawmakers has been postponed until June 22.

A closed mediation session was scheduled to begin Tuesday but was postponed for a few weeks while one of the attorneys involved recuperates from an accident.

The mediation will address two cases.

One involves sexual harassment claims by legislative staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper against former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis. Arnold has denied any wrongdoing.

The two women also sued the Legislative Research Commission, and earlier this year added Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, as a defendant after Bell fired Costner from her job in the House majority whip’s office soon after he was elected whip.

The second case involves allegations by legislative staffer Nicole Cusic that she was moved to an inferior job after she complained that Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, had sexually harassed female legislative staffers.

Coursey has denied the charge and sued Cusic for defamation. Cusic also listed the LRC and former LRC director Bobby Sherman as defendants in her case.

Economic Development Secretary Hayes announces retirement

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes announced Thursday he will retire from the position later this year after seven years in the job.

Gov. Steve Beshear, as chair of the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board, said the board will conduct a national search to replace Hayes.

No firm departure date has been set for Hayes, of Louisville, to step down.

Timing will be based upon completion of a successful transition period so not to disrupt ongoing project activities and discussions, said a release from the Economic Development Cabinet. The job pays $250,000 a year.

Richard Heath seeks recanvass in GOP race for agriculture commissioner

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –State Rep. Richard Heath of Mayfield, a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner in Tuesday’s primary election, asked Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes Thursday for a statewide recanvass.

Unofficial vote totals currently show Heath wth a 1,427-vote deficit to his opponent, state Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown.

Grimes, the state’s chief election official, said she will forward Heath’s request to all county clerks and remind them of the procedures for a recanvass.

“Our office is always available to assist county boards of elections in any way we can,” Grimes said. “Integrity in our elections processes is crucial, and Kentuckians deserve to know that their votes are properly counted and tabulated.”

On Wednesday, Grimes received a statewide recanvass request from James R. Comer and Chris McDaniel, Republican candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. They trail the GOP ticket of Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton by 83 votes out of 214,187 cast.

County boards of elections will convene at 9 a.m. May 28 to recheck and recanvass the voting machines. Immediately upon completion of the recanvass, the county boards of elections will file their recanvass reports with Grimes.

Grimes prepares for potential recanvass in GOP gubernatorial primary

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com
FRANKFORT — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Wednesday that her office is prepared for a potential recanvass in Tuesday’s razor-close Republican primary election for governor.
Unofficial results show Louisville businessman Matt Bevin with an 83-vote lead over state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Tompkinsville.
Comer has said he plans to ask for a recanvass.
“Both candidates and the public are entitled to confidence in election results, and I stand ready to facilitate any proceedings necessary to provide those assurances,” said Grimes, the state’s chief election official in a statement.
“My office is prepared and will continue to provide updates regarding any recanvass requests we receive and the procedures being followed.”
To obtain a recanvass in a statewide election, a candidate must submit a written request to the Secretary of State’s office no later than 4 p.m. Eastern Time on May 26.
The request may be limited to certain precincts or counties or seek a statewide recanvass.
Once the request is made, Grimes’ office will communicate it to all county boards of elections involved.
Under Kentucky law, the county boards of elections for the counties in which a recanvass was requested will convene at 9 a.m. on May 28 to recheck and recanvass each voting machine and make a return to the county clerk.
That will become the official return for the county.
Each candidate and both political parties are entitled to have a representative present at the recanvass. In addition, the county board of elections shall authorize members of the media to observe.
The purpose of a recanvass is to verify the accuracy of the vote totals reported from the voting machines.
The method for conducting the recanvass depends on the type of voting machine and is set forth in an administrative regulation.
No voting machines are unlocked during the recanvass. If there was an error in the original canvass, the returns will be corrected.
The county board of elections must file its recanvass report with the secretary of state immediately upon completion of the recanvass.
On May 11, Grimes office sent to all county clerks vote total certification forms and a memorandum with the procedures and forms to be used in the event a recanvass is requested.
Since January 2011, the secretary of state’s office has received five recanvass requests – three for legislative offices and two for judicial offices.
The recanvass results did not change the outcome of those elections.
The last statewide recanvass occurred in the 2011 Republican Primary for the office of Secretary of State between Bill Johnson and Hilda Legg.
The recanvass resulted in a change of 6 votes in favor of Hilda Legg, the losing candidate, but did not change the outcome of the election.

James Comer confirms that Rand Paul reached out with encouraging message

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer, under fire for allegations that he abused his college girlfriend, confirmed a report that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul reached out recently with a supportive message.

Politico reported Friday that Paul texted Comer after Monday night’s gubernatorial debate on KET with the message to keep his head up during trying times.

Comer did not elaborate on what Paul told him, but he did confirm to the Herald-Leader that the senator, who is running for president, contacted him with a supportive message.

Comer has repeatedly denied allegations that he was physically and verbally abusive to his college girlfriend.

Both Paul and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have declined to get publicly involved in the increasingly contentious Republican primary featuring Comer, retired state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott and Louisville businessmen Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin.

Grimes predicts only 10 percent voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is predicting only 10 percent voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election.

Grimes, the state’s chief election official, said a review of absentee data from county clerks and historical turnout for similar elections indicates that about 10 percent of the 3.1 million people registered to vote in Kentucky will go to the polls Tuesday.

Races in play are for governor and the state’s other constitutional offices.

In 2011, the last election for statewide constitutional officers in Kentucky, 10.35 percent of voters went to the polls for the primary, said Grimes.

About 17 percent of the Kentucky electorate voted in the 2003 primary election, which is the last time there was not an incumbent candidate for the office of governor.

As of May 11, she said, 3,388 voters had voted absentee on machines in county clerks’ offices and 3,586 absentee ballots had been mailed to voters.

Grimes urged voters to prepare to vote on May 19 by checking their polling places and viewing sample ballots.

KY General Fund receipts rise 23.3 percent, Road Fund’s drop 12.8 percent

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Kentucky’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs, had its best month ever in collections in April and is expected to finish this fiscal year on June 30 with a $46.1 million surplus.

But the state’s Road Fund, which pays for highway and other transportation projects, dropped 12.8 percent in April collections and is on course to end this fiscal year $11.1 million short of what was expected.

The Jekyll-and-Hyde financial news for the state came Tuesday when state budget director Jane C. Driskell reported that Kentucky took in more than $1 billion in General Fund receipts in April, the most ever for any month in the state’s history.

Total General Fund revenues for the month were nearly $1.03 billion, compared to $830.2 million in April 2014.

Hal Heiner planning Saturday rally in James Comer’s hometown

ComerHeinerBy Sam Youngman and Bill Estep
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner plans to hold a rally in rival James Comer’s hometown of Tompkinsville on Saturday.

While four men are running to win the Republican nomination in the May 19 primary, the race has focused on Heiner and Comer in recent days after an ex-girlfriend accused Comer of assaulting her in the early 1990s and Heiner apologized to Comer for his campaign’s communication with a Lexington blogger who had for months spread the allegation of abuse without the woman’s permission.

Doug Alexander, Heiner’s spokesman, said the Saturday rally has nothing to do with the allegations against Comer.

“We go everywhere,” Alexander said, noting that Heiner has traveled the state extensively over the 61 weeks he has been running for governor.

Monroe County Judge-Executive Tommy Willett, who is supporting Comer, predicted there won’t be more than 30 people at the rally and questioned why Heiner would waste his time.

“He’s not gonna change one vote down here,” Willett said.

Willett said Comer held a rally in Tomkinsville Thursday night that was attended by 600 to 800 people.

He said the allegations against Comer have built a fire under his supporters.

“This stuff about him has really galvanized the people here,” Willett said. “It’s made’m mad and they’re working now.”

Record number of KY voters registered for May 19 primary election

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Nearly 3.2 million Kentuckians are registered to vote in the May 19 primary election — the most ever, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Monday.

The total number of registered voters – 3,175,905 – beats the 3,147,157 registered for last November’s general election held in November 2014.

The difference is an increase of approximately 1 percent, or 28,748 voters, over five months.

“I am excited to see that more and more Kentuckians are registering to vote, and I hope these newly registered voters will exercise their right and responsibility to vote in the primary election,” said Grimes, Kentucky’s chief election official.

Of the registered voters, 2,923,556 are affiliated with either the Republican or Democrat party, making them potentially eligible to vote for partisan offices, including statewide constitutional officers, on the primary ballot.

Both political parties have seen an increase in registered voters since the May 20, 2014, primary election and since 2011, the last election year for statewide constitutional officers, Grimes said.

Democrats currently make up 53.09 percent of Kentucky voters, while 38.97 percent are Republicans. 7.94 percent of voters are identified as “Other.”

Approximately 53 percent of registered voters are women and 47 percent are men, which is consistent with the 2014 election cycle.

“As Kentucky’s chief advocate for civic engagement, I hope all eligible voters will head to the polls and vote on Election Day,” said Grimes. “There are various methods for registered Kentuckians to vote, including going to the polls on May 19, voting in county clerks’ offices before Election Day, or casting a mail-in absentee ballot, so I urge all Kentuckians to know their options and make their voices heard.”

Voters may access the Voter Information Center (VIC) on the State Board of Elections’ website to confirm their voter registration status, view sample ballots, and locate their polling place.

For complete registration statistics, additional election information, or to access the VIC, visit elect.ky.gov.

Grimes’ grandmother, who appeared in TV campaign ads, dies

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

Elsie Crawford Case of Maysville, who appeared in TV campaign commercials for her granddaughter, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, died Thursday. She was 84.

“Granny was my biggest fan and fiercest advocate, and knowing she was in my corner always gave me the strength and confidence to dream big and work to make it a reality,” Grimes said in a release.

Case earned a fan base of her own during Grimes’ 2011 campaign for the office of secretary of state, filming commercials and encouraging citizens to vote in the election alongside Thelma Lundergan McHugh, Grimes’ late paternal grandmother.

In 2014, Case expanded her presence, using Facebook and Twitter accounts and her “Grannies for Grimes” initiative to champion issues that particularly affect seniors. Case quickly became known as “Kentucky’s Grandma,” inspiring many and gaining recognition nationwide.

Case and her late husband of 61 years, Omar Case, Jr., were also prominent fixtures in their hometown of Maysville. The Cases owned and operated Case’s Men’s Wear, a men’s clothing store, for more than 30 years and helped revitalize the downtown area.

“As people across Kentucky can attest, Granny’s spirit was infectious. She was not just passionate about what she believed in; she shared that passion along with sharp humor and wit, and a hug for anyone who needed one,” said Grimes.

Case is survived by two children, seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, one brother and three sisters.

Visitation will be at the First Christian Church in Maysville from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday. The funeral will be held Monday, at 1 p.m.

–Jack Brammer