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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.”

Grimes gives McConnell ammunition with Michelle Obama fundraiser

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman

It was exactly what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had been hoping for.

Except instead of President Barack Obama discussing gun control and his health care law at a New York fundraiser for female Senate candidates, it was First Lady Michelle Obama.

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was among the female candidates who gathered Monday with the First Lady for a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser, where Michelle Obama spoke of the need to elect more Democratic senators to further the president’s agenda.

The First Lady, talking about how narrowly “Obamacare” passed and the slim margin by which gun control legislation was defeated, said that “it is critical that we elect Michelle Nunn, Alison Grimes, Natalie Tennant.”

“It is critical that we get them to the Senate,” the First Lady said. “And it is just as critical that we elect — reelect Senators Mary Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen — it is critical, because we all know that it’s not enough to elect Barack Obama President if we don’t give him a Congress that will help him keep moving this country forward. We know that now. We’ve seen it. We’ve experienced it.”

Grimes, who has been reluctant to embrace any ties to the Obama White House as she squares off against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has gone to great lengths to avoid using the president’s name, referring to him as “Washington politicians” in a recent interview with WKYT’s “Kentucky Newsmakers.”

Andy Beshear, son of Gov. Beshear, running for Kentucky attorney general

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — Andy Beshear, a son of Gov. Steve Beshear, will run for Kentucky attorney general in 2015.

Beshear filed papers Thursday with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance for his Democratic candidacy.

“As an attorney, I have worked hard to ensure that my clients receive the justice they seek and deserve in the court of law,” Beshear said. “Today my family and I have decided to take the skills I have learned in fighting for Kentucky communities, businesses both small and large, and community organizations to fighting for all of the people of this great commonwealth.”

Gov. Beshear said he and first lady Jane Beshear “are excited that Andy has decided to run for attorney general and he has our full support.

“We are confident Andy will be an outstanding candidate and a great attorney general,” Steve Beshear said in a statement.

The current attorney general, Democrat Jack Conway of Louisville, cannot seek re-election in 2015 because of term limits.

Other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates for attorney general in 2015 include former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Jennifer Moore and state Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville.

Andy Beshear said his campaign’s co-chairs will be Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, former Supreme Court Justice James Keller and Campbell Commonwealth’s Attorney Michelle Snodgrass.

Beshear is an attorney with Stites and Harbison in Louisville. He has been recognized as one of the “best lawyers in America,” and as a “rising star” by the publication SuperLawyers, and he was the first Kentucky lawyer to be named a top consumer lawyer by the publication Lawyer Monthly.

Beshear lives in Louisville with his wife, Britainy, and their two young children, Will and Lila.

Joe Palumbo withdraws from Central Kentucky congressional race

Democrat Joe Palumbo of LexingtonBy Sam Youngman

Lexington businessman Joe Palumbo has decided to withdraw from the Democratic primary race for the 6th District U.S. House seat held by Republican Andy Barr.

Palumbo, the son of longtime state Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his family and his business are his top priorities, and he doesn’t think now is the time to start a political career.

“After discussing it with my wife, Jennifer, we decided at this time that it would be best to focus on our responsibilities at home, with our two young children, and at Palumbo Lumber, where we have almost 50 full-time employees,” Palumbo said.

The Palumbos have an 8-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.

Palumbo said he and his wife “still plan to work hard to do what we can to make this great community even better.”

Palumbo pledged to “support and do what I can to help whoever wins the Democratic primary.”

Palumbo’s exit from the race means that education advocate Elisabeth Jensen is the likely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Jensen said in a statement that she hopes to get support from Palumbo “as we join forces in becoming part of a Congress that works.”

She said her campaign will focus on bringing a “solutions-based approach to Congress.”

“Instead of kicking children and families off of SNAP benefits, and shutting down the government as a political ploy, we need to be focusing on education and workforce development to create opportunities for Kentucky’s working families,” Jensen said.

Other Democrats who have said they intend to seek the party’s nomination include Lexington lawyer Michael Coblenz and retired engineer Geoff Young.

Whoever advances from the Democratic primary faces a significant cash disadvantage against Barr, who had almost $1 million in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter.

Palumbo outpaced Jensen in the third quarter, raising more than $95,000 and lending his campaign an additional $50,000 since entering the race in mid-July. Palumbo’s $145,000 topped the more than $51,000 Jensen raised, bringing her total since entering the race in mid-June to more than $125,000.

Palumbo didn’t rule out a future run on either the state or federal levels.

“Since I got in the race in July, I’ve learned a lot from traveling the district and listening to the good people of this region,” Palumbo said. “It has been a rewarding experience to get to better know the hard-working people of the 6th District who make this part of Kentucky so special.”

Bill Clinton’s presence in Virginia race previews role in Kentucky Senate fight

Former President Bill Clinton spoke to the crowd via a video projected during Alison Lundergan Grimes' Senate campaign kickoff.By Sam Youngman

Bill Clinton rarely says the word Kentucky and leaves it at that. Instead, the former president says “Kentucky: I carried it twice.”

Clinton figures to be heavily involved in next year’s U.S. Senate race in the Bluegrass, and as Virginia voters prepare to go to the polls Tuesday to elect a new governor, the former president’s omnipresence in the other commonwealth offers a preview of what Kentuckians can expect.

Clinton, who won Kentucky on his way to the White House in 1992 and 1996, has been a consistent presence alongside longtime ally and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who polls show is on his way to becoming Virginia’s governor Tuesday.

Given the value the Clintons place on loyalty and helping their friends, it’s not a stretch to imagine the president getting to know Kentucky all over next year on behalf of likely Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, whose family has known the Clintons for many years.

“They have already pledged their support,” said Jonathan Hurst, senior adviser to the Grimes campaign. “They will remain very supportive and helpful. The Clintons are very popular in the state.”

Democrats vying to challenge Andy Barr report fundraising efforts

Democrat Joe Palumbo of Lexington

By Sam Youngman

Two of the Democrats vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Barr announced their quarterly fundraising results late Tuesday night, revealing a significant advantage for Barr since his opponents still must run a primary race.

Joe Palumbo out-paced Elisabeth Jensen in the third quarter, raising more than $95,000 and loaning his campaign an additional $50,000 since entering the race in mid-July.

Palumbo’s $145,000 topped the more than $51,000 Jensen raised, bringing her total since entering the race in mid-June to more than $125,000.

After campaign expenses, Palumbo has about $109,000 in cash-on-hand to Jensen’s $79,000.

Those numbers are dwarfed by the $265,000 Barr raised last quarter, ending with the congressman reporting $781,000 cash-on-hand.

National Democrats see Kentucky’s 6th District as a possible pick-up opportunity, targeting Barr with automated phone calls as they seek to ensure Barr is blamed for the federal government shutdown and possible U.S. default on its debt.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has Barr on its list of lawmakers vulnerable to defeat after Barr joined a group of House Republicans who have insisted that President Barack Obama’s health care law be modified as part of a deal to fund the government.

Barr has argued that the resulting government shutdown is Obama’s fault, repeatedly and vocally criticizing the president for not agreeing to come to the negotiating table to make compromises on the health care law.

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader hours before the shutdown began, Barr warned that he would not budge on his belief that changes to the health care law should be included in the spending bill.

Polls show disastrous numbers for Republicans as Americans put the overwhelming majority of the blame on them for the shutdown, though Barr accurately predicted that all players involved would take a hit.

“I think that the American people will blame everybody in Washington” Barr said on Sept. 30. “Everybody, Republicans, independents and Democrats, if we can’t accomplish these two objectives to limit the harmful impact of Obamacare and keep the government running.”

NRA criticizes Grimes over Vegas fundraiser host

WASHINGTON – The National Rifle Association, unhappy with one of the co-hosts of a fundraiser for Alison Lundergan Grimes, assailed Grimes on Thursday as unfriendly to gun owners.

Grimes was set to appear at a fundraiser for her campaign in Las Vegas Thursday night. One of the co-hosts of the event, trial lawyer Mike Papantonio, has made critical comments about the NRA.

Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, told the Lexington Herald-Leader in an email Thursday afternoon that Grimes’ claims to be a friend to gun-owners appear to be “empty campaign promises.”