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Conway gets endorsement from key group in Western Kentucky

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Attorney General Jack Conway announced another coveted endorsement Thursday in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, winning the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association.

Though only one other Democrat, retired engineer and perennial candidate Geoff Young, has joined the race, Conway has worked hard in recent months to lock up critical endorsements of Democratic officials and organizations.

Thursday’s announcement was the latest show of support, and while the association might not be a household name, it is a key endorsement for Democrats running statewide who hope to do well in Western Kentucky.

“Sannie Overly and I are honored to have the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association,” Conway said, referring to his running mate. “We will continue to stand up for working families across our commonwealth to move Kentucky forward.”

Six local unions that make up the association all joined in the endorsement.

“We are proud to support the Conway-Overly ticket,” Kyle Henderson, business manager for the Local 184 said in a statement. “Jack and Sannie have an excellent record of fighting for working families and
we know they are the clear choice for governor and lieutenant governor.”

Former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth have all endorsed Conway.

KY Senate Dems pick new leadership team

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Senate Democrats are going with an entire new leadership team for the next two years.

Members of the minority party in the Senate selected in a unanimous vote Monday Ray Jones of Pikeville to be the Democratic floor leader.

Also named to the leadership team were Gerald Neal of Louisville as caucus chair and former Gov. and now state Sen. Julian Carroll of Frankfort as caucus whip.

Jones, who has been in the Senate since 2001, replaces R.J. Palmer of Winchester, who lost a re-election bid last month to Republican Ralph Alvarado of Winchester.

Neal, a senator since 1989, replaces Johnny Ray Turner of Prestonsburg, and Carroll, a senator since 2005, replaces Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville, who did not seek re-election.

Republicans have controlled the Senate since 2000. They now outnumber Democrats in the Senate, 26-12.

That may change after a special election will be held to replace Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Morehead, who won an election last month for Rowan county judge-executive.

Senate Republicans chose their leaders last week. House and Senate Democrats will pick their leaders when the 2015 General Assembly begins Jan. 6.

An organizational session will run through Jan. 9.

Legislators then will return to Frankfort Feb. 3 to continue the 30-day, 2015 law-making session.

Jack Conway raises $750,000 in seven weeks for gubernatorial campaign

Attorney General Jack Conway, who is seeking re-election, touted his record at the Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. Photo by Pablo AlcalaBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Attorney General Jack Conway continued his effort to lock up the Democratic nomination in next year’s governor’s race with an overwhelming show of force, announcing Tuesday that his campaign has raised more than $750,000 since entering the race in early May.

Conway and his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly, reported having more than $700,000 in cash on hand.

While a number of other Democrats are considering a run for governor after this year’s elections are over, Conway has moved quickly to consolidate Democratic support, announcing his large fundraising haul after rolling out a series of major endorsements.

“Sannie and I are honored by the bipartisan support we’ve received from friends across Kentucky who believe in our vision of creating better jobs, building infrastructure and investing in early childhood and higher education,” Conway said in a statement. “We have a proven record of experience and following through on the commitments we’ve made to the people of this state. We are uniting Democrats and hard-working Kentuckians who believe that together we can build a better commonwealth to live, work and raise our families.”

When Conway first entered the race, a number of Democrats worried that his early entry might distract from the attention and resources Alison Lundergan Grimes will need to defeat U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this November.

In Tuesday’s news release, the campaign said it had held two fundraising events, “keeping the commitment to avoid fundraising conflicts with Alison Lundergan Grimes and the Kentucky House Democratic Caucus.”

Grimes ‘disappointed’ by ethics panel’s decision to forgo punishment of former lawmaker

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes said Wednesday she was disappointed that former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, won’t be punished by a state ethics panel for his alleged sexual harassment of three legislative aides.

After refusing Tuesday night to take questions about Arnold from reporters for the Herald-Leader and cn|2 Pure Politics, Grimes released a statement Wednesday that said she is glad Arnold resigned last September.

The Legislative Ethics Commission fell one vote short of punishing Arnold Tuesday. The deciding vote was cast by Elmer George, who has contributed $5,200 to Grimes’ campaign and was appointed to the commission in January by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has played a major role at several campaign events for Grimes.

“As I have always said, I will never tolerate discrimination or workplace harassment,” Grimes said in her statement. “Though I am disappointed in yesterday’s decision, I am glad that the representative resigned. Protecting women from violence and harassment is personal to me. As secretary of state, I led the effort to shield domestic-violence victims, and my support for Kentucky women is unmatched in this race. I am the only candidate for U.S. Senate who supports the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay for equal work, and raising the minimum wage.”

When the Arnold scandal erupted last summer, the only statewide elected Democrat to call for his resignation was state Auditor Adam Edelen.

Grimes declines to take questions about Frankfort sexual harassment case

Alison Lundergan Grimes
By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes told about 150 Fayette County Democrats Tuesday night that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has “yesterday’s view of women.” Then she declined to answer questions about a former Democratic lawmaker accused of sexual harassment.

After her speech, Grimes worked the crowd at the downtown Hilton and left, refusing to speak with reporters about a decision made hours earlier by the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission to not punish former state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis. Three legislative aides have accused Arnold of sexual harassment, saying that he touched them inappropriately.

The deciding vote against punishing Arnold was cast by Elmer George, who has contributed $5,200 to Grimes’ campaign and was appointed to the commission late last year by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has played a major role at several campaign events for Grimes.

Grimes’s spokeswoman, Charly Norton, said the candidate had to “get home,” which is less than a mile from where the dinner was held. The candidate, who added a line about freedom of the press to her standard stump speech Tuesday night, refused to acknowledge reporters who walked out of the hotel with her.

Earlier in the day, Grimes joined national Democrats in pushing for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act on what Democrats termed Equal Pay Day.

Meanwhile, the Legislative Ethics Commission voted 4-1 to punish Arnold for allegedly abusing his position as a public official, but five votes are needed to approve an action by the nine-member commission. George voted no, saying he did not think the commission had the authority to punish someone who was no longer a member of the General Assembly. Three other commission members were absent, and one seat is vacant.

Two of the alleged victims, Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, said the commission’s decision appeared political.

Grimes and Jensen join national Democrats in pushing for Paycheck Fairness Act

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Kentucky Democratic candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes and Elisabeth Jensen joined national Democrats Tuesday in calling for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, blasting their male opponents as outdated and committed to discriminatory pay practices.

Grimes is running to defeat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Jensen hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.

“Today, thousands will make their voices heard and call for action,” Grimes said in an email to supporters. “One voice you will not hear in this chorus is Mitch McConnell’s. For nearly 30 years, people in Kentucky and across the country have called on McConnell to speak up on issues important to women and working families — and for nearly 30 years, McConnell has failed to answer that call.”

Jensen said the day is “a reminder to Kentucky women of Andy Barr’s wrong priorities that put special interests ahead of middle-class families and the women who support them.”

Both statements came Tuesday morning before President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak on the matter. Obama’s efforts to push the issue were complicated by a report released in January by the conservative American Enterprise Institute that showed women working in the White House make 88-cents to every dollar a man makes.

Political Paddock: For Alison Lundergan Grimes, coal presents an endless tightrope

Sam YoungmanBy Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer

For some federal candidates in pro-coal Kentucky, the “D” behind their names is an inconvenient truth.

In an interview Friday with the Herald-Leader, likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes demonstrated just how tough that truth can be as she continued her defense of coal in striking contrast with her national party.

Grimes has not blinked in her support of coal since getting in the race last summer. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allied super PACs are hammering away, seeing a tie between Grimes and perceived coal enemies like President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as a key to victory.

McConnell rarely fails to mention Obama’s “war on coal.” Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a super PAC aligned with the senator, has spent $150,000 on radio ads, half of that during the past week, calling Grimes a “dishonest liberal” who takes money from anti-coal Democrats.

That’s where the incon venient truth comes into play. Grimes does raise money with Democrats like California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called coal a “fuel from hell.”

She doesn’t really have a choice.

Democrat challenging Andy Barr raises $100,000 in 4th quarter

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen of LexingtonBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Elisabeth Jensen, a Democrat vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in November, raised $100,000 in the final fundraising quarter of 2013, her campaign said Wednesday.

Jensen, who is director of the Lexington-based Race for Education, said she raised $325,000 in 2013 and loaned her campaign an additional $100,000 in the fourth quarter. Her campaign has about $245,000 in cash on hand.

Although Jensen almost doubled what she raised in the third quarter, which was about $51,000, she continues to face a significant fundraising gap against Barr, R-Lexington.

Barr has not yet reported his end-of-year totals, but he raised $265,000 in the third quarter and finished with a little more than $780,000 in cash on hand.

Lexington retiree Geoff Young also is seeking the Democratic nomination. Lexington businessman Joe Palumbo withdrew from the race in early November.

The 6th Congressional District covers 19 counties in Central Kentucky.

Stumbo announces push to raise minimum wage in Kentucky to $10.10

greg-stumbo-3By Jack Brammer and Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Raising Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will be the top priority of House Democrats in the legislative session that starts Tuesday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday. He also is mulling a possible constitutional amendment that would ask voters to approve raising the state’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny to provide more money for education.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said House Bill 1 would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour over three years and deal with pay equity problems. It would mirror a bill now under consideration in Congress, Stumbo said.

His comments received no support from Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, as the legislature’s top two leaders talked to reporters Friday about the upcoming legislative session.

“My initial reaction is that it seems to be a typical ploy of his party,” Stivers said of Stumbo’s consideration of raising the sales tax. “It’s that they just think that throwing money at an issue is the solution.”

Stumbo said the idea to create an “educational excellence fund” is “in its infancy” but could raise $500 million a year for education. He did not know if it would be for higher education as well as primary and secondary education.

Stivers also questioned the wisdom of raising the minimum wage.

Kentucky state Rep. Jesse Crenshaw of Lexington won’t seek re-election

State Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington
By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Veteran Democratic state Rep. Jesse Crenshaw of Lexington said Monday he won’t seek re-election next year, creating instant interest in replacing him in the legislature.

“I will not be running for re-election,” said Crenshaw, a Lexington attorney who has been a member of the House since 1993.

Crenshaw, 67, will finish his 22nd year representing the 77th House District when his term expires at the end of 2014.

“I had planned to serve 20 years,” he said. “I was persuaded by friends of mine to serve two years longer. That’s long enough for me.”

Crenshaw said he will support the Democratic candidacy of J. Michael Haskins to replace him in the House.