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Auditor Edelen to hold statewide meetings on untested rape kits

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT – State Auditor Adam Edelen and officials with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs will hold 14 meetings across the state this summer to talk about the state’s problem with untested rape kits.

Edelen, a Democrat who is seeking re-election this year, said the meetings are part of his office’s efforts to conduct a statewide count of untested sexual-assault kits.

He also plans to make recommendations to the state legislature to reform how evidence in cases of sexual violence is handled.

The statewide count was prompted by legislation sponsored this year by Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville.

Senate Joint Resolution 20 calls on Edelen to count the number of untested sexual-assault evidence kits in the possession of law enforcement. Kentucky State Police officials have said there might be as many as 2,000 to 5,000 untested kits sitting on shelves in police stations and prosecutors’ offices across the state.

Edelen said the kits contain biological evidence collected from assault victims during investigations and might contain DNA from assailants who can be identified by comparisons with the national DNA database.

“These meetings are an important part of our examination of the complex issues surrounding untested rape kits,” Edelen said in a release. “I hope to hear from law enforcement, prosecutors, survivors and others as we begin working toward recommending reforms to the system.”

Edelen said he wants to talk to survivors, victims’ advocates, nurses, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and others who are involved in sexual assault investigations and gather testimony about the issues and challenges they face.

He said his office is focused on issues such as how kits are logged, tracked and stored, how decisions to test kits are made, whether victims are notified of the status of their kits and whether law enforcement have sufficient policies, procedures and training to handle kits and deal with victims.

Survivors, victims’ advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors and others who are involved in sexual assault investigations are invited to attend the meetings to voice their concerns and experiences.

Persons who would prefer to share privately their concerns with the auditor’s office may request time in advance of the meetings to do so, Edelen said.

Also, individuals may share their stories, concerns and opinions via email at stephenie.hoelscher@ky.gov. Confidentiality may be requested.

Here is the schedule of the meetings:

June 23
2 p.m. CST
New Beginnings Sexual Assault Support Services, 1716 Scherm Rd., Owensboro

June 26
10 a.m. CST
Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center, 1605 North Friendship Road, Paducah

June 30
10 a.m. EST
Women’s Crisis Center, 3580 Hargrave Drive, Hebron

July 1
11 a.m. EST
Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services, 751 South Provident Way, Elizabethtown

July 7
10 a.m. EST
Cumberland River Behavioral Health, 1203 American Greeting Road, Corbin

July 7
2 p.m. EST
Adanta Sexual Assault Resource Center, 130 Southern School Road, Somerset

July 8
1 p.m. EST
Center for Women & Families, 927 S. 2nd Street, Louisville

July 9
10 a.m. CST
Economic Justice Institute, 2109 Old Louisville Road, Bowling Green

July 9
2 p.m. CST
Hopkinsville Municipal Center, 715 S. Virginia Street, Hopkinsville

July 13
10 a.m. EST
145 Constitution Street, Lexington

July 14
11 a.m. EST
Mountain Comprehensive Care Center’s Healing Program for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, 104 S. Front Street, Prestonsburg

July 14
2 p.m. EST
The Rising Center, 637 Morton Blvd., Hazard

July 21
10 am EST
Mason County Health Department, 120 West Third Street, Maysville

July 21
2 p.m. EST
Park Place, 1701 Central Avenue, Ashland

–Jack Brammer

Conway and Overly agree to appear at six forums or debates with Bevin and Hampton

conwaysetupJack Conway’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign on Monday released a schedule of six forums where Conway or his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, plan to appear alongside their Republican opponents, Louisville financier Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton.

“I look forward to a serious discussion with my opponent about the issues that matter most to Kentucky families,” Conway, finishing his second term as attorney general, said in a statement.

Ben Hartman, Bevin’s campaign manager, said: “We have agreed to some (of the forums) and are in the process of scheduling the rest. As Matt has said numerous times since Election Day, we would like as many debates as possible.”

Matt BevinThe schedule offered by Conway is:

June 19: Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association summer conference at the Galt House in Louisville.

July 23: Kentucky Farm Bureau “Measure the Candidates” forum at KFB state headquarters in Louisville.

Oct. 6: Centre College in Danville. This will be broadcast on television.

Oct. 19: Kentucky Educational Television’s Kentucky Tonight forum for lieutenant governor candidates in Lexington. This will be broadcast on statewide television.

Oct. 25: Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. This will be broadcast on television.

Oct. 26: KET’s Kentucky Tonight forum for gubernatorial candidates in Lexington. This will be broadcast on statewide television.

Richard Heath seeks recanvass in GOP race for agriculture commissioner

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –State Rep. Richard Heath of Mayfield, a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner in Tuesday’s primary election, asked Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes Thursday for a statewide recanvass.

Unofficial vote totals currently show Heath wth a 1,427-vote deficit to his opponent, state Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown.

Grimes, the state’s chief election official, said she will forward Heath’s request to all county clerks and remind them of the procedures for a recanvass.

“Our office is always available to assist county boards of elections in any way we can,” Grimes said. “Integrity in our elections processes is crucial, and Kentuckians deserve to know that their votes are properly counted and tabulated.”

On Wednesday, Grimes received a statewide recanvass request from James R. Comer and Chris McDaniel, Republican candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. They trail the GOP ticket of Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton by 83 votes out of 214,187 cast.

County boards of elections will convene at 9 a.m. May 28 to recheck and recanvass the voting machines. Immediately upon completion of the recanvass, the county boards of elections will file their recanvass reports with Grimes.

Grimes prepares for potential recanvass in GOP gubernatorial primary

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com
FRANKFORT — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Wednesday that her office is prepared for a potential recanvass in Tuesday’s razor-close Republican primary election for governor.
Unofficial results show Louisville businessman Matt Bevin with an 83-vote lead over state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Tompkinsville.
Comer has said he plans to ask for a recanvass.
“Both candidates and the public are entitled to confidence in election results, and I stand ready to facilitate any proceedings necessary to provide those assurances,” said Grimes, the state’s chief election official in a statement.
“My office is prepared and will continue to provide updates regarding any recanvass requests we receive and the procedures being followed.”
To obtain a recanvass in a statewide election, a candidate must submit a written request to the Secretary of State’s office no later than 4 p.m. Eastern Time on May 26.
The request may be limited to certain precincts or counties or seek a statewide recanvass.
Once the request is made, Grimes’ office will communicate it to all county boards of elections involved.
Under Kentucky law, the county boards of elections for the counties in which a recanvass was requested will convene at 9 a.m. on May 28 to recheck and recanvass each voting machine and make a return to the county clerk.
That will become the official return for the county.
Each candidate and both political parties are entitled to have a representative present at the recanvass. In addition, the county board of elections shall authorize members of the media to observe.
The purpose of a recanvass is to verify the accuracy of the vote totals reported from the voting machines.
The method for conducting the recanvass depends on the type of voting machine and is set forth in an administrative regulation.
No voting machines are unlocked during the recanvass. If there was an error in the original canvass, the returns will be corrected.
The county board of elections must file its recanvass report with the secretary of state immediately upon completion of the recanvass.
On May 11, Grimes office sent to all county clerks vote total certification forms and a memorandum with the procedures and forms to be used in the event a recanvass is requested.
Since January 2011, the secretary of state’s office has received five recanvass requests – three for legislative offices and two for judicial offices.
The recanvass results did not change the outcome of those elections.
The last statewide recanvass occurred in the 2011 Republican Primary for the office of Secretary of State between Bill Johnson and Hilda Legg.
The recanvass resulted in a change of 6 votes in favor of Hilda Legg, the losing candidate, but did not change the outcome of the election.

James Comer confirms that Rand Paul reached out with encouraging message

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer, under fire for allegations that he abused his college girlfriend, confirmed a report that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul reached out recently with a supportive message.

Politico reported Friday that Paul texted Comer after Monday night’s gubernatorial debate on KET with the message to keep his head up during trying times.

Comer did not elaborate on what Paul told him, but he did confirm to the Herald-Leader that the senator, who is running for president, contacted him with a supportive message.

Comer has repeatedly denied allegations that he was physically and verbally abusive to his college girlfriend.

Both Paul and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have declined to get publicly involved in the increasingly contentious Republican primary featuring Comer, retired state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott and Louisville businessmen Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin.

Grimes predicts only 10 percent voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is predicting only 10 percent voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election.

Grimes, the state’s chief election official, said a review of absentee data from county clerks and historical turnout for similar elections indicates that about 10 percent of the 3.1 million people registered to vote in Kentucky will go to the polls Tuesday.

Races in play are for governor and the state’s other constitutional offices.

In 2011, the last election for statewide constitutional officers in Kentucky, 10.35 percent of voters went to the polls for the primary, said Grimes.

About 17 percent of the Kentucky electorate voted in the 2003 primary election, which is the last time there was not an incumbent candidate for the office of governor.

As of May 11, she said, 3,388 voters had voted absentee on machines in county clerks’ offices and 3,586 absentee ballots had been mailed to voters.

Grimes urged voters to prepare to vote on May 19 by checking their polling places and viewing sample ballots.

Record number of KY voters registered for May 19 primary election

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Nearly 3.2 million Kentuckians are registered to vote in the May 19 primary election — the most ever, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Monday.

The total number of registered voters – 3,175,905 – beats the 3,147,157 registered for last November’s general election held in November 2014.

The difference is an increase of approximately 1 percent, or 28,748 voters, over five months.

“I am excited to see that more and more Kentuckians are registering to vote, and I hope these newly registered voters will exercise their right and responsibility to vote in the primary election,” said Grimes, Kentucky’s chief election official.

Of the registered voters, 2,923,556 are affiliated with either the Republican or Democrat party, making them potentially eligible to vote for partisan offices, including statewide constitutional officers, on the primary ballot.

Both political parties have seen an increase in registered voters since the May 20, 2014, primary election and since 2011, the last election year for statewide constitutional officers, Grimes said.

Democrats currently make up 53.09 percent of Kentucky voters, while 38.97 percent are Republicans. 7.94 percent of voters are identified as “Other.”

Approximately 53 percent of registered voters are women and 47 percent are men, which is consistent with the 2014 election cycle.

“As Kentucky’s chief advocate for civic engagement, I hope all eligible voters will head to the polls and vote on Election Day,” said Grimes. “There are various methods for registered Kentuckians to vote, including going to the polls on May 19, voting in county clerks’ offices before Election Day, or casting a mail-in absentee ballot, so I urge all Kentuckians to know their options and make their voices heard.”

Voters may access the Voter Information Center (VIC) on the State Board of Elections’ website to confirm their voter registration status, view sample ballots, and locate their polling place.

For complete registration statistics, additional election information, or to access the VIC, visit elect.ky.gov.

KET schedules programs for May primary candidates

“Kentucky Tonight,” a weekly public affairs show on the Kentucky Educational Television network, will start on March 30 its candidate programs for the May 19 primary elections.

Hosted by Bill Goodman, the programs will begin at 8 p.m. on KET and will also stream live at KET.org/live and be archived online.

The scheduled candidates are:

March 30
Republicans for State Treasurer
– Allison Ball
– State Rep. Kenneth Churchill Imes

April 13
Democrats for State Treasurer
– Neville Blakemore
– State Rep.Rick Nelson

April 20 (two-part)
Republicans for Attorney General
– Lawrence County Attorney Michael T. Hogan
– State Sen. Whitney H. Westerfield

Republicans for Commissioner of Agriculture
– State Rep. Richard Heath
– State Rep. Ryan F. Quarles

KET plans to announce its programs for candidates for governor and lieutenant governor after April 10.

KET said candidates appearing on these programs have “demonstrated satisfaction of KET’s candidate invitation criteria, published at www.KET.org/candidate-invitation-criteria-2015.”

Live primary election night coverage from KET begins at 7 p.m. on May 19.

Prior to that, additional election coverage and analysis continues on “Comment on Kentucky,” and the topic of the May 18 Kentucky Tonight program will be the election.

Kentucky Tonight is a KET production, produced by Deidre Clark. Goodman is host and managing editor.

KET serve more than one million people each week via television, online and mobile.

–Jack Brammer

Bevin says he would’ve beaten Grimes ‘more handily’ than McConnell

Matt BevinBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former U.S. Senate candidate and gubernatorial hopeful Matt Bevin appeared on a conservative radio show Wednesday where he continued to needle U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and questioned U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s sincerity in endorsing McConnell.

Bevin, appearing on the Wednesday edition of Wilkow Majority, was asked by host Andrew Wilkow if he watched Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign against McConnell, after the senator defeated Bevin in the primary, and wondered if he could’ve beat her.

“I kid you not — I’d have beaten her more handily,” Bevin said.

Throughout the interview, Bevin levied shots at a number of the state’s political figures, hitting Grimes (“She’s no Hillary Clinton.”), Attorney General Jack Conway (“The embodiment of everything that is wrong with the plastic career politicians in this country.”) and McConnell’s “buzz saw” campaign.

“I’ve been through the buzz saw indeed,” Bevin said. “And I’ll tell you something, I don’t begrudge any of that that went down. That is the nature sadly of what politics has become.”

Wilkow, who joined the group Freedom Works at a Bevin for Senate rally last spring, joked with Bevin about Grimes’ refusal to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama.

“They had clearly not pre-selected the sound-byte that she was to be provided, and it’s a shame,” Bevin said. “Unfortunately, as a result of that, Kentucky didn’t really have it’s best foot out forward perhaps on that side from the Democrats.”

Bevin also appeared to quibble with McConnell’s stewardship of the U.S. Senate since he became majority leader last month.

“The solutions to what is gonna fix America are not coming from the top down,” Bevin said. “You look already, we have majorities now in congress and in the Senate, and look we’re making some of the same excuses we made when we didn’t.”

Josh Holmes, the senior adviser to McConnell’s re-election campaign, said in an email Thursday afternoon that “at some point you have to start asking whether Matt Bevin should be medicated.”

“The guy has no grasp on reality whatsoever and his delusions of grandeur are simply breathtaking,” Holmes said.

Wilkow described Paul, who endorsed McConnell in his re-election effort, as someone who endorsed the establishment candidate but was torn in doing so, asking Bevin if it was “painful” that Paul did not endorse him.

Bevin said Paul reminded him of “the Violent Femmes song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?'” Wilkow corrected Bevin, noting that it was The Clash who sang that song.

“I know Rand well,” Bevin said, calling Paul’s endorsement of McConnell a “conscientious decision.”

“I’ve known him from the beginning,” Bevin said. “I was one of the people who supported him early on and maxed out when others didn’t.”

When asked if he thought either McConnell or Paul might endorse him in his race to be governor, Bevin said he had every indication both would stay neutral, calling that the “proper thing to do.”

While he largely spared his current Republican opponents, Bevin repeated that his life experience and “knowledge of issues” separates him from the three Republicans running against him.

“I would love to just have a debate at any moment in time with any of the candidates in this race,” Bevin said.

The candidate closed out the show by noting that while much of the audience doesn’t live in Kentucky, they should check out his website and contribute to his campaign.

Senate panel approves bill to curb governor’s use of administrative regulations

FRANKFORT – State legislators would have more authority over the governor’s administrative regulations under a bill a Senate panel approved Thursday on a partisan vote.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, is the same as a measure that the Senate approved last year but the House let die.

It would amend the state Constitution to specify that an administrative regulation disapproved by lawmakers would be void and unenforceable and could not be reissued in the same or similar language for at least a year.

Some legislators complain that they have no power over administrative regulations when the General Assembly is not in session. They can only address them now when in session.

Such regulations allow the executive branch to deal with emergencies and to implement policies when the legislature is not in session.

The bill would allow the General Assembly to set up a review panel to rule on administrative regulations between sessions of the legislature.

Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, told the committee the bill was not needed and that it would delegate power to a special agency created by the legislature.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, said the bill would lead to year-round legislative action.

The panel’s vote was 8-3, with Republicans in the majority. The legislation now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Constitutional amendments require approval by the House and the Senate and by voters in statewide polls.

–Jack Brammer