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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.

April 21 is deadline to register to vote in May primary election

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

Eligible Kentuckians have until Monday, April 21, to register to vote in the May 20 primary election.

In a reminder Monday, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said county clerks’ offices in the state will accept voter registration cards until the close of business April 21. Mail-in voter registration applications must be postmarked by that date.

To be eligible to vote, she said, you must be a U.S. citizen, be a Kentucky resident for at least 28 days before election day and be at least 18 years old by the date of the next general election. which is Nov. 4. You also must not be a convicted felon, or if convicted of a felony offense, must have obtained a restoration of civil rights; not have been adjudged “mentally incompetent,” and not claim the right to vote anywhere outside Kentucky.

Minors who are 17 years old but will be 18 years old on or before the general election on Nov. 4 are eligible to register and vote in the upcoming primary; however, they are not eligible to vote in special elections until they are 18 years old.

Voters who have recently moved need to update their voter registration information by no later than April 21.

Persons who move from one county to another county while the voter registration books are open and fail to update their registration information before the voter registration books close are not permitted to vote in the primary, she said.

Changes in party affiliation for the 2014 primary election were due by Dec. 31, 2013. Voters who changed their party affiliation after that date are not eligible to vote in partisan races in the primary, although they may vote on nonpartisan races on the May primary ballot. Voters who changed their party affiliation after Dec. 31, 2013, may still vote for their candidate(s) of choice in the November general election.

Under the Secretary of State’s recently established Address Confidentiality Program, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can register and update their registration while keeping their names and addresses out of publicly available voter records.

“The future of Kentucky and our nation depend on all eligible voters participating in the process,” said Grimes. “Registering to vote is the first step in being a part of the 2014 elections, and I hope that as many Kentuckians as are able will make their voices heard.”

You can check your current registration status on the Voter Information Center, https://cdcbp.ky.gov/VICWeb/index.jsp.

To obtain a registration card or for more information about registering to vote, visit www.elect.ky.gov or contact your county clerk or the State Board of Elections at (502) 573-7100. To learn more about the Address Confidentiality Program, visit www.sos.ky.gov.

–Jack Brammer

Grimes launches confidentiality program for domestic violence victims

Alison Lundergan GrimesBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A newly-launched program allows victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Kentucky to remove their addresses from publicly-available voter registration records in an attempt to stay safe from their abusers.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, at a Capitol news conference, said the Address Confidentiality Program will “allow people to register to vote and vote without fear for their safety, or the safety of their children.”

The program was created by House Bill 222 in last year’s General Assembly. Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, sponsored the measure.

To be eligible to participate in the free program, a person must have either a current emergency protective order or domestic violence order or be a victim of a specified sex offense in a criminal case that is ongoing or has resulted in a conviction.

Grimes said victims can apply for the program by contacting her office, going to sos.ky.gov/elections/ACP or calling 1-844-292-KACP.

Grimes, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate this year in Kentucky, acknowledged that there are other ways for people to get addresses of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, but said “this is a good first step to try to keep people safe.”

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer said the program gives such victims “a valuable way to protect themselves in trying to vote freely.”

Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt said Kentucky now is one of 36 states that have address confidentiality programs.

Political Paddock: It’s March Madness for Bluegrass politics, too

Sam YoungmanBy Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer

March Madness isn’t just for college basketball. This week’s Political Paddock column gets in on the action with a would-be Cinderella story, some trash talk and a few Nate Silver predictions.

First, the Cinderella story.

Republican Matt Bevin desperately wants to upset Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in May’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, but it’s hard to be a Cinderella if the top seed won’t show up to play the underdog.

Bevin has accepted invitations to four debates or candidate forums, and last week started doing a “Clubber Lang” (Mr. T) impression from Rocky III, stepping up his criticism of McConnell for avoiding debates.

“McConnell’s unable to defend his record, and he knows it,” Bevin said. “I think he’s afraid to be seen on stage with me for a variety of reasons. There’s a stark difference from a number of perspectives when people both see and hear the two of us articulate why we’re in this race and why it matters.”

If we learned anything from the 2012 Republican presidential nomination battle, it’s that 20 debates is too many. But in a democracy, zero is too few.

Grimes’ jobs plan lacks price tag, estimate of jobs it would create

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

HOPKINSVILLE — In the two months since likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes unveiled her job-creation plan, the candidate has held events across the state to promote the 24-page document, including one Wednesday night in Western Kentucky.

It has received endorsements from Grimes’ allies, including former President Bill Clinton, who waved a copy of the plan around as he spoke at a fundraiser in Louisville last month. And almost every day since Grimes released the plan in Prestonsburg, her campaign has sent out a press release reminding reporters that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has not presented a jobs plan of his own.

Although Grimes has repeatedly touted the specificity and length of her plan, she could not in an interview with the Herald-Leader Wednesday night quantify how many jobs she thought it would produce, how much it might cost and how she would pay for it.

Instead, she called the plan’s potential “limitless.”

“Well at the end of the day, if we follow the plan, it is unlimited the possibilities that are out there for uplift throughout Kentucky regardless of the area of the state,” Grimes said. “If done properly, there’s no one single bullet that is going to solve all of our economic woes, but this is about doing the right thing over a sufficient period of time.”

McConnell labels Grimes the ‘new face of the status quo’ at event touting U.S. Chamber’s help

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell assailed likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes as “the new face of the status quo” as he touted his endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Lexington Friday morning.

Standing in an industrial setting at Whayne Supply, McConnell rattled off his campaign stump speech — opposition to the “war on coal,” President Barack Obama’s health care plan and excessive regulation — and said the best way to turn around the country and the economy “is this November make me the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.”

When people ask him, “‘Good grief, what can we do after this assault of the last six years?’” McConnell said he tells them “the solution in America is at the ballot box, and it begins this November.”

McConnell, who is seeking a sixth term, said Grimes “will tell you she’s a new face.”

“Well, she’s the new face of the status quo,” McConnell said. “She’s a new face for the same leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, who said coal makes you sick.”

Why a Florida election has Mitch McConnell’s allies smiling

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

More than 800 miles separate Lexington and Tampa, Fla., but Republicans allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were beaming Wednesday as though the Sunshine State was just down the road from Keeneland.

McConnell allies, like the rest of the political world, were fixated Tuesday night on a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida’s 13th district, looking for clues in the outcome that would tell the tale of this November’s election.

That Republican David Jolly, who appeared poised for defeat, was able to beat well-known and well-financed Democrat Alex Sink Tuesday night looked to Team McConnell like a harbinger of good things to come.

Billy Piper, a former top aide to McConnell, said the strategy Republicans employed in Florida of tying Sink to President Barack Obama and his health care law showed “proof of concept” that the model can be successful this year in Kentucky.

Piper compared the special election to a similar race in Kentucky in early 1994 when Republican Ron Lewis ran against Democrat Joe Prather in a race to fill the seat left vacant when U.S. Rep. William Natcher died.

Lewis ran away with the race, making former President Bill Clinton the bogeyman in a conservative-leaning district and setting the stage for the Republican revolution later that year.

“It proved to be the blueprint for the entire ’94 cycle,” Piper said.

After Democrats’ ‘talk-a-thon’ on climate change, McConnell blasts Grimes on coal

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes needs to “do some serious soul searching” after she didn’t speak out about Democratic senators conducting an all-night “talk-athon” on climate change.

McConnell seized on the Democrats’ discussion of climate change and a news report suggesting that someone associated with Grimes’ campaign had secretly told an environmentalist that Grimes would be “more forthright” about her stances on environmental issues after the election.

“It is one of the primary responsibilities of a U.S. Senator to speak out when fellow lawmakers are actively working against your constituents’ best interests,” McConnell said in a statement. “It is very disappointing that Alison Lundergan Grimes could not muster a word against her liberal allies in Washington who were pulling an all-nighter to shut down the coal industry and left open the possibility that she would join them.”

In a campaign that has thus far been fought largely by press secretaries from the two camps, McConnell’s statement indicates that he sees an opportunity to damage Grimes on the issue.

Monday night’s theatrics in Washington coincided with a report from WFPL, a public radio station in Louisville, that someone from the Grimes campaign had told Louisville environmentalist Sarah Lynn Cunningham that Grimes would be more open about her environmental beliefs after the election.