U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has noticed that some of his would-be rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination are using this week’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting to portray him as a foreign policy isolationist.
“I think people ought to spend their time trying to sell their own ideas instead of trying to mischaracterize mine,” Paul said Friday.
Hours before Paul was set to speak at CPAC, a conference that is in many ways the first audition for Republican presidential candidates, Kentucky’s junior senator told the Herald-Leader his position on what is happening in the Ukraine is in line with what most Americans are thinking.
Paul said neither Republicans nor Democrats are calling for military intervention in the region, where Crimea is attempting to secede from the Ukraine amid a heavy Russian military presence, drawing sharp rebukes the U.S.
“So I’m definitely within the mainstream of opinion that I’m not proposing we send soldiers to the Ukraine,” Paul said.
As The New York Times reported Friday, potential candidates such as Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio have used the CPAC conference to not only stake out hawkish positions on Russia, but also to portray Paul as outside the mainstream of the party, following his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, on a policy of nonintervention.
A national Tea Party fundraising group aligned with Louisville businessman Matt Bevin plans to launch a radio ad Tuesday that blames Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for a court ruling requiring Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II, who issued a final version of his ruling last week, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush on the recommendation of McConnell. Heyburn served as general counsel for McConnell when he was Jefferson County judge-executive in the early 1980s.
“Republican voters strongly disagree with Judge Heyburn, and Sen. McConnell should admit that recommending him was a mistake,” the Senate Conservatives Fund said in a statement.
The group’s ad also notes that Heyburn ruled in 1998 to overturn the state’s ban on partial-birth abortion.
“Who recommended this liberal judge?” one actor says in the ad.
“Mitch McConnell,” another actor replies.
“McConnell should admit right now that recommending Judge Heyburn was a mistake,” the first actor says. “He knew this judge wasn’t a conservative and promoted him anyway. Now we’re stuck with gay marriage.”
Both actors go on to say they plan to vote for Bevin in Kentucky’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
The group said it will spend $29,000 to run the 60-second ad statewide.
In a statement, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore called the group’s claims “absurd and pathetic.”
“This is the kind of ad voters expect to hear from people who are days away from boxing up their personal effects and auctioning off the remaining printer cartridges in the office,” Moore said. “It is so absurd and pathetic that they ought to stop troubling radio listeners with the obligation of switching stations and admit they have no justification to attack Senator McConnell.”
After Heyburn made his initial gay-marriage ruling earlier last month, McConnell issued a statement condemning the decision and saying that Kentuckians should not have gay marriage “forced on us.”
“I will continue to support traditional marriage and fight to make sure that Kentuckians define marriage as we see fit and never have a definition forced on us by interests outside of our state,” McConnell said.
SCF’s radio ad also accuses McConnell of “political cronyism,” suggesting that he recommended Heyburn because Heyburn had donated to McConnell and served as his county campaign chairman.
“McConnell knew Judge Heyburn was not a conservative, but he promoted him anyway,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “Now Judge Heyburn is forcing his liberal views on Kentucky.”
Spring remains elusive, but the 2015 race for governor has arrived early.
The battle officially kicks off Tuesday morning, when former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner announces his bid for the governor’s mansion in Lexington.
Former Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilwoman KC Crosbie is widely expected to be Heiner’s choice as a running mate. Crosbie is one of Kentucky’s three members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and serves as finance chairwoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky.
Allies of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is considering a run for governor but repeated this week that he will not make an announcement until after this year’s elections, welcomed Crosbie to the race Monday by calling for her resignation from the RNC and state GOP finance committee. They also raised questions about her husband’s work lobbying on behalf of pro-gambling interests.
The tensions between Heiner and Comer have simmered behind the scenes for months as both have made their interest in the race known. With Heiner about to make things official, those tensions appear ready to boil over.
Comer told the Herald-Leader Monday that Heiner, who appears hopeful of selling himself as the social conservative in the race, would have to explain the “inconsistencies” of seeking support from anti-gambling groups while putting Crosbie on the ticket.
A Republican polling memo obtained by the Herald-Leader shows Agriculture Commissioner James Comer with a commanding early lead over former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner in the 2015 gubernatorial primary.
While neither man has announced a run for governor, both have indicated they’re likely to do so.
The poll, conducted by Robert Blizzard at Public Opinion Strategies, found Comer leading Heiner 42 percent to 14 percent among 400 Republican primary voters between Feb. 26-27. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Blizzard and Public Opinion Strategies have done polling for a number of Kentucky Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and state Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer.
Comer and other would-be candidates are prohibited from polling before officially launching a campaign, but Blizzard said in an email that “the poll was not paid for by any candidate, prospective candidate or political action committee.”
By Linda B. Blackford
A bill that would prevent Kentucky lawmakers from accepting a cup of coffee or meal from lobbyists won approval Thursday from the House State Government Committee.
House Bill 28 is aimed at tightening up ethics rules for legislators and lobbyists by prohibiting any gifts of food and drink to individual legislators. Currently, lobbyists can spend $100 a year on each lawmaker.
Under the bill, lobbyists can still entertain lawmakers in group settings, such as receptions.
It also would prevent lobbyists from paying for legislators to travel out of state, and prohibit lawmakers from accepting campaign contributions from employers of lobbyists or their political action committees during a session of the General Assembly.
John Schaaf, counsel for the Legislative Ethic Commission, said the recommendations have been under discussion for several years, but this is the first time a bill has been voted upon.
The proposal now goes to the full House for its consideration.
By Linda B. Blackford
A proposal to force potential high-ranking political appointees in Kentucky’s state government to travel the state before taking their jobs died in a House committee Thursday.
House Bill 116 would have required certain non-merit employees to prove they have visited Fulton and Pike counties in far Western and Eastern Kentucky before their appointments.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Ken Imes of Murray, acknowledged that the bill would only require workers to go to those far-reaching counties, not necessarily to get to know the people and problems there.
Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, seemed to sum up the sentiment of many on the committee when he said he thought the bill was a good idea, but “in practice, I think it will be a burdensome trip for those individuals to make, and they’re not really going to get much out of it.”
The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is set to begin running radio ads in Kentucky’s coal-producing counties boasting of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pushback against what it calls President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.”
The group, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization that is allied with McConnell, has spent $75,000 to air the 60-second spot in 28 counties. It touts McConnell’s “Saving Coal Jobs Act.”
“There is nothing funny about what they’ve done to Central Appalachia and the Eastern Kentucky coal fields,” McConnell says in the ad. “They want us to sit down and shut up, and I’m telling you we’re not going to take it any longer, we’re going to fight back.”
Scott Jennings, senior adviser to the coalition and a former aide to McConnell, said McConnell “is fighting to save Kentucky jobs from Barack Obama’s job-killing regulations, which have already cost us thousands of jobs and put families and communities at risk.”
The group also is urging supporters to sign a petition in support of McConnell’s proposed legislation.
Under the proposal, which stands little chance of passage in the Democratic-led U.S. Senate, the federal government would face a deadline to issue or deny surface-mining permits.
The EPA has held up about three dozen surface-mine permits in Eastern Kentucky since 2010. The state issued the permits, but federal regulators objected, saying conditions the permits imposed on the coal companies would be inadequate to protect water quality.
There are fewer people employed in coal mining in Kentucky than at any point since the state started tracking the number in 1927. Nearly all the losses have been in Eastern Kentucky, where 2,232 coal workers were laid off in 2013.
Many people in Eastern Kentucky believe tougher federal rules to protect air and water quality are to blame for the sharp downturn in coal production and jobs, but analysts say the picture is more complex. Environmental policies have played a role in the decline, but so have competition from low-priced natural gas and coal from other parts of the country, the depletion of coal reserves in Eastern Kentucky, and higher mining costs in the region.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said in a tweet Thursday that rocker Ted Nugent, known in recent years for some outrageous political comments, should apologize for calling President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
Nugent has come under fire this week for his remarks, and on Thursday, Paul said in a tweet that the remark was “offensive.”
“Ted Nugent’s derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and has no place in politics. He should apologize,” Paul tweeted.
Nugent made the remark last month to guns.com, but it has gained more attention as the singer of “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold” has hit the campaign trail with Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Nugent earned himself a visit from the Secret Service after he said he would be “dead or in jail” if Obama won another term.
FRANKFORT — State Sen. Gerald Neal said Wednesday that the firing of a Legislative Research Committee staffer for appearing in a campaign video released by Alison Lundergan Grimes was a violation of the staffer’s First Amendment rights.
Charles Booker was fired earlier this week after appearing in a web campaign video with his wife in support of Grimes, the likely Democratic U.S. Senate nominee. LRC employees are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activities.
Neal, D-Louisville, spoke angrily on the Senate floor in defense of Booker, calling his firing “intolerable” and saying that if the state Senate doesn’t intervene then “shame on you.”
“He’s a casualty, collateral damage in the process of politics,” Neal said.
FRANKFORT — A constitutional amendment that would restore the voting rights of ex-felons who complete a five-year waiting period without further criminal offenses won unanimous approval in a Senate committee Wednesday despite reservations voiced by Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul testified before the committee, urging progress on the issue that has repeatedly passed the Democrat-led House in recent years but failed to gain traction in the Republican-led Senate.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jesse Crenshaw of Lexington, joined Senate Democrats on the committee in expressing disdain for a substitute version of the bill that is expected to pass the full Senate later Wednesday afternoon.
Crenshaw and others said adding a five-year waiting period, which was proposed by state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, does not improve House Bill 70 “in any form or fashion.”
“I cannot go forward with saying I am in favor of the committee substitute,” Crenshaw said.
Thayer said the waiting period is “reasonable” and the only way to get Republicans to sign onto the measure. He drew the ire of a packed committee room by saying he expected “some level of gratitude” for finding a compromise that could pass.
“I’m trying to break the logjam and keep this moving,” Thayer said.
If the bill passes the Senate Wednesday as expected, then leaders of the House and Senate are expected to appoint a conference committee to hammer out a compromise bill. If the two sides can agree, voters would decide the constitutional amendment’s fate at the ballot box in November.
Crenshaw’s measure passed the House in January 82-12.