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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Political Paddock: Special elections reveal little about U.S. Senate race

Herald-Leader Political Writer Sam Youngman

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.

Candidates for Lexington state Senate stick to issues at forum

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.”