Going by conventional wisdom and modern political party tendencies, it’s hard to imagine a more unlikely setting.
But there was U.S. Sen. Rand Paul last Thursday, sitting in a leather wingback chair, a large collection of African ceremonial masks on the wall to his left, as he discussed the contributions of Malcolm X to the civil rights movement.
It was a cold, gray morning at Simmons College in Louisville’s West End. Paul had a full day of events scheduled around the commonwealth as he pushed for “Economic Freedom Zones” and attempted to shore up his support in Kentucky before possibly embarking on a run for the White House. But his morning was set aside for Rev. Kevin Cosby, a well-respected leader within Louisville’s black community, and a man who calls Paul a friend.
After the Republican Party’s shameful showing with minority groups in the 2012 election, Paul has been far from subtle about trying to take the lead in reaching out to black voters.
So he gave a speech at Howard University in April, and last week followed up with a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. The scoffs from national black leaders and the Democratic Party weren’t subtle, either.
What in the world is a man who questioned the constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and reluctantly accepted the resignation of a staffer who once called himself the Southern Avenger doing leading the GOP’s efforts to reach black voters?
A short list of Kentucky Republican all-stars has in recent days recorded automated phone calls on behalf of a Republican state House candidate in Western Kentucky, but U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is not among them.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer have all recorded calls advocating support for Suzanne Miles in Tuesday’s special election in the 7th House District against Democrat Kim Humphrey.
McConnell’s name adorns the state party’s headquarters, making it’s absence on the list of Republicans recording calls conspicuous.
Miles told the Lexington Herald-Leader late Sunday that she didn’t ask McConnell — or any other GOP officials — to record calls on her behalf. Miles has previously noted that McConnell was the first person to give her a check for her campaign, and she said Sunday that he has “been supportive since day one.”
In polling, a high rate of Kentuckians have consistently said they have a negative view of McConnell, numbers that have led analysts to almost universally declare McConnell’s seat in jeopardy.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul warned pundits Monday not to read too much into comments he made about his wife possibly vetoing a run for the White House in 2016, but he did say “it’s not a slam dunk that I’m running.”
Paul, who has said repeatedly that he is seriously considering a run, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that comments he has made about his wife, Kelly, being opposed to the idea are largely a joke.
“There’s two votes in my family,” Paul told the audience at the Detroit Economic Club last week. “My wife has both of them, and both of them are ‘no’ votes right now.”
Paul has used some variation of that joke whenever he has been asked about a 2016 run while traveling around Kentucky.
On Fox News Sunday, Paul reiterated that he is considering a run, but he added that he is “also very serious about the family considerations.”
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.”
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.
MAYFIELD — Likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes took her campaign to a farmer’s roundtable Friday afternoon, hearing concerns about regulations that deal with migrant workers and same-sex marriage.
Grimes, sitting with about a dozen farmers at Guthrie Farms, was asked whether she believes in “Adam and Eve” or “Adam and Steve.” She responded that every couple should have the same opportunity as she and her husband, but noted that Kentucky has passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
As Grimes sat at the roundtable, she repeatedly criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and sought to steer the conversation to the farm bill that has stalled in Congress.
When Grimes asked the group how they felt about immigration reform, a day after she endorsed a legalized path to citizenship, she heard almost to a person that American interests should come first.
“I think we need to be taking care of our own,” Cliff Guthrie said.
Grimes immediately followed by saying Congress should be “taking care of our own” by approving a farm bill that does not cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
“I think we’ve got to balance our budget, but we do it the right way,” she said. “We don’t do it on the backs of Kentuckians who need and deserve to have that help and assistance from the government.”