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.
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.
By Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer
The famous psychic Edgar Cayce was born near Hopkinsville.
He died in 1945, but Cayce would have a better chance of telling you the results of next November’s U.S. Senate race than anything that might be gleaned from next week’s special elections in Lexington and Western Kentucky.
While it’s tempting and oftentimes worthwhile to look at off-year special elections as gauges of voter moods and priorities and the strengths of a federal campaign’s ground game, the Dec. 10 elections for the state House and Senate won’t tell you anything about next November.
Trying to learn something about a statewide race from Lexington’s 13th Senate District, where voters will chose someone to replace Democrat Kathy Stein, is a nonstarter. The district, which primarily covers downtown Lexington and the University of Kentucky, is significantly more liberal and more black than the rest of the state.
If there was a race to use as a bellwether — resist the temptation — it would be in the House 7th District, which covers Union County and portions of Henderson and Daviess counties. In that race, Democrat Kim Humphrey and Republican Suzanne Miles are battling it out to replace Democratic state Rep. John Arnold, who resigned earlier this year amid accusations of sexual harassment.
But there’s not a lot to learn there, except that a Democrat is running surprisingly strong in an area that has grown increasingly conservative.
By Sam Youngman
The three candidates hoping to replace Kathy Stein in the state’s 13th Senate District kept their elbows in Sunday, sticking to the issues instead of attacks that have framed the race in recent days.
Democrat Reggie Thomas and independent Richard Moloney, a former Democrat, varied little on the issues put before them at Operation Turnout’s candidate forum at Greater Liberty Baptist Church. Only Republican Michael Johnson, a former Democrat, broke sharply from the field, especially on charter schools and “stand your ground” laws.
Thomas and Moloney have been trading barbs in the days leading up to the Dec. 10 special election to replace Stein, who was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to a Fayette Circuit Court judgeship in October.
The most recent exchange came after Thomas’ camp accused Moloney, a Democrat until about six weeks ago, of being a Republican, a potentially dangerous label in a district that leans left.
Moloney contended Thomas’ campaign made the accusation in a mailer while neglecting to note the 34 years Moloney said he was a Democrat, or that Moloney served as Beshear’s housing, buildings and construction commissioner for three years.
On Sunday, moderator Patrice Muhammad sought clarity on the matter as she noted that all three men have been Democrats and asked them to “please explain your current party affiliation or non-affiliation and which party you intend to caucus with if elected.”
By Sam Youngman
BARDSTOWN — For a man who seems to spend his time either touring factories or raising money, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie is happy to sit and talk Kentucky politics until well after the check has come.
While keeping a full constituency outreach schedule, Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, has been burning up the fundraising trail over the last several weeks, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader over a pimento cheese sandwich and chili at Mammy’s Kitchen that he’s using the money to keep his political options open and grow his influence within the Republican Party.
After declaring he wouldn’t run for governor in 2015 despite a frenzy of rumors and a chat with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Guthrie said he is not looking at any specific office in the future. Instead, he is paying his dues to the National Republican Campaign Committee, giving the most to the Republican Party of Kentucky and giving heavily to his fellow Republican House members for their re-election campaigns.
Guthrie’s politically charitable habits amount to the traditional road map that members of Congress follow to move from freshman members to subcommittee chairmen and maybe someday committee chair, growing influence within the party and Congress immeasurably.
Kentucky women deserve far better than the pandering they will face over the next year. But since they represent almost 53 percent of the vote in the commonwealth, they should probably go ahead and put on their hip waders.
Trying to win favor with such a crucial voting bloc, however, presents plenty of political perils for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republican Mitch McConnell.
For McConnell, let’s call it “the Rick Lazio lesson.” For Grimes, “the Sarah Palin parable.”
Hold on to that hate mail for a second. These are not general or far-reaching comparisons between McConnell and Lazio or Grimes and Palin, but they do carry specific lessons for both campaigns.
In early September 2008, just days after Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a group of high-profile GOP women called a press conference at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Women like Carly Fiorina and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ripped into the assembled media for their sexist approach toward Palin. They were mostly referring to reprehensible Internet rumors and the occasional talking head doing what talking heads do.