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House panel approves elections bills at Grimes’ urging

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — At the urging of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a House committee unanimously approved legislation Tuesday to modernize voter registration.

House Bill 214, sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville would allow voters to register online to vote and update their voter registration

“Electronic voter registration is more convenient and secure, saves our county clerks time and money, and results in more accurate voting records,” said Grimes, who noted that it already is in use for military personnel overseas.

She added that 20 other states already use electronic voter registration.

The House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs also unanimously passed HB 212, legislation sponsored by Owens and proposed by Grimes to allow voters who are unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to age, disability or illness to vote in the county clerk’s office prior to the day of the election.

“Under current law, these voters may vote only by casting a mail-in absentee ballot,” said Grimes. “But many people cherish the experience of voting in person, and this bill would preserve that opportunity for them.”

The committee also approved two elections bills.

HB 150, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, would make any candidate for county government who is defeated in a primary election ineligible to run as a write-in candidate for the same office in the general election.

HB 203, sponsored by Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-Greenup, raises the threshold for campaign finance reporting from $1,000 to $3,000.

All the bills now go to the House for its consideration.

Candidates for state offices urged to file before Jan. 27 deadline

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reminded Monday that persons interested in running for state office this year have until Jan. 27 to file.

But she suggested filing earlier than that in case filing papers need to be corrected.

Kentucky law does not provide an opportunity to correct or re-file paperwork after the filing deadline of 4 p.m. Jan. 27, said Grimes, the state’s chief election official.

The offices of governor and lieutenant Governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor of public accounts, state treasure and commissioner of agriculture are on the ballot in Kentucky in 2015.

Candidates may access the filing forms required at http://app.sos.ky.gov/ElectionsDYC/.

–Jack Brammer

Luallen pledges to support Beshear as KY’s new lieutenant governor

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Crit Luallen, in her first public speech as Kentucky’s 56th lieutenant governor, told several hundred people in the Capitol Rotunda Friday that she is ready to help Gov. Steve Beshear with his “continuing efforts to build a Kentucky poised for a prosperous future.”

Luallen, who has served with six other Kentucky governors in high positions and was elected twice as state auditor, said the day was not one for laying out a new agenda but “to celebrate all that is right and good about our state’s past and its hope for the future.”

Luallen particiapted in a publc-swearing in ceremony that attracted various state officials like Attorney General Jack Conway, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Senate President Robert Stivers and other well-wishers.

Beshear named Luallen to be the state’s No. 2 public official to replace Jerry Abramson, who departed to take a job with the White House to help local officials throughout the country.

In his remarks at Friday’s public ceremony, Beshear said Luallen will help his administration in improving access to health care and creating jobs.

Luallen called on several family members and friends to participate in the ceremony.

Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart, who went to school with Luallen, served as moderator.

Catarine Hancock, Luallen’s great niece and a sophomore at Lexington’s Lafayette High School, sang the National Anthem.

The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of New Union Christian Church in Woodford County, gave the invocation and Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women, introduced Luallen.

Franklin Circuit Court Judger Philip Shepherd, administered the public oath of office as Luallen’s husband, Lynn Luallen, held the Bible upon which she put her hand. A private swearing-in ceremony was held Thursday at the home of former Chief Justice John Palmore and Carol Palmore.

Centre College President John Roush provided the closing remarks and Colmon Elridge, executive assistant in the governor’s office, sang “My Old Kentucky Home.”

The Governor’s School for the Arts Alumni offered the musical prelude for the ceremony that lasted about an hour.

A public reception was held in the Governor’s Mansion after the ceremony. Music there was provided by the Centre College Kentucky Ensemble.

Judge denies Grimes’ request to stop GOP mailers

McConnellGrimesBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A judge denied a request Monday from Alison Lundergan Grimes’ U.S. Senate campaign to stop mailers from the Republican Party of Kentucky that Grimes said intimidated voters.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd turned down the Grimes campaign’s request for a temporary injunction against the mailers, which were distributed last week on behalf of the re-election campaign of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Grimes’ “sloppy lawsuit may go down in history as one of the worst publicity stunts of all time.”

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said the campaign “is exploring options.”

“It’s reprehensible that Mitch McConnell is celebrating lying, intimidating, and bullying Kentucky voters from exercising their right to vote,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in a statement. “There’s no low too low for Mitch McConnell in his personal quest for power.”

Grimes and McConnell face each other in Tuesday’s biggest election in the state.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the Grimes campaign said the mailer is false and misleading in that it implies to voters that they have violated Kentucky election laws.

The mailer is emblazoned with “Election Violation Notice” and states that “you are at risk of acting on fraudulent information that has been targeted for citizens living in” the recipient’s county.

A one-page letter inside lists what it calls “blatant lies” told by Grimes, saying “Grimes should be ashamed of herself.”

Washington Post fact-checker says ‘Grimes should be ashamed of herself’

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is running what is “likely the worst ad of a nasty campaign year,” according to Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post’s fact-checker.

After dissecting a new ad from Grimes, in which she looks at the camera and blames U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for the shuttering of half of the Big Sandy power plant in Louisa, Kessler wrote that Grimes “should be ashamed of herself.”

“They are shutting down half the plant and laying off their workers because Mitch McConnell didn’t fight to get the scrubbers it needs to reduce coal emissions,” Grimes says in the ad. “Instead, Mitch and his wife pocketed $600,000 from enemies of coal, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”

Kessler said the ad is “especially noteworthy” because Grimes repeats a claim that The Washington Post has already given Four Pinocchios, the equivalent of a false rating.

That is a reference to Grimes’ claim that McConnell’s wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, was paid $600,000 from enemies of coal.

“Citing a $600,000 number from ‘enemies of coal’ is especially silly, as it mostly involves money from a bank that continues to finance coal companies,” Kessler wrote.

He then goes on to give another Four Pinocchios rating to Grimes latest ad, calling Grimes’ claim that McConnell is to blame for the power plant’s woes “nonsense.”

“First, it’s unclear why a senator would be seeking to provide scrubbers to an investor-owned company,” Kessler wrote. “Second, going the scrubber route would have jacked up utility rates for what is already one of the poorest parts of the state.”

The McConnell campaign, which has also run afoul of the Post’s fact-checking unit, was quick to seize on the ad, said that Grimes’ decision to look into the camera and make debunked claims “raises serious character questions.”

Kessler concludes his fact-check with this: “We realize that the game of politics is sometimes played rough in Kentucky, but this ad is beyond the pale. Indeed, it is likely the worst ad of a nasty campaign year. Grimes should be ashamed of herself.”

Kessler has fact-checked two other ads in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race this month.

One is the previously-mentioned Four Pinocchio ruling on Grimes’ claim that “Mitch McConnell doesn’t want you to know is that he and his wife personally took $600,000 from anti-coal groups, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-coal foundation.”

In the other, Kessler gives Three Pinocchios, the equivalent of a mostly-false rating, to McConnell’s claim that Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, is just a website that could continue if the federal health law were repealed.

McConnell’s statements on the subject are “a bit slick and misleading,” Kessler wrote. “If he wants to rip out Obamacare ‘root and branch,’ then he has to explain what he would plant in the health-insurance garden instead. Otherwise his assurances on the future have little credibility.”

The question Alison Lundergan Grimes refuses to answer

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has refused seven times in the past seven days to say whether or not she voted for President Barack Obama for president.

Grimes was asked three times by a Herald-Leader reporter after an event on Oct. 2 if she voted for Obama, ignoring the question and turning her back on the reporter asking it.

On Thursday, Grimes refused four times to tell The Courier-Journal’s editorial board if she voted for Obama.

“You know, this election, it isn’t about the president,” Grimes said when first asked if she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

After being asked the third time, Grimes responded: “I was actually a delegate for Hillary Clinton, and I think that Kentuckians know I’m a Clinton Democrat through and through. I respect the sanctity of the ballot box, and I know that the members of this editorial board do as well.”

At that point, a member of the newspaper’s editorial board said: “So you’re not going to answer?”

Fact-checkers find fault with several claims made in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race

McConnellGrimesFact-checkers at The Washington Post and PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, have been busy researching the claims made by Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes) and their surrogates during the first 17 days of September. Here’s what they found.

Immigration:

A television ad aired by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which the Washington Post described as “an independent group with connections to Republican strategist Karl Rove,” earned three Pinocchios (the equivalent of mostly false) from Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler on Sept. 17. The ad claimed Grimes is a “proud supporter of Obama’s amnesty plan.” But Kessler says this:

Grimes certainly supports a bill that would prove a pathway to citizenship for undocumented aliens, as does Obama. Whether this is “amnesty” is in the eye of the beholder. But this was not a bill crafted by either Obama or Grimes, but a coalition of Republicans and Democrats–an unusual example of bipartisan cooperation in this period of intense partisanship.

Moreover, the bill that emerged from the Senate set tough rules for that pathway — including denying access to virtually all federal means-tested benefits. In doing so, the bill largely met criteria set by donors and supporters of the very organization that is now blasting Grimes on this issue. It is bizarre and hypocritical for this group to now falsely attack Grimes for supporting a middle ground approach that its supporters once championed.

Free trade:

A spot aired by Senate Majority PAC, which the Washing Post said is “affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,” also earned three Pinocchios from Kessler on Sept. 9. The ad claims that “Mitch McConnell has been tragically wrong about foreign trade deals. They have cost Americans over half a million jobs. Kentucky is still losing jobs, and McConnell is still voting to give companies tax deductions for outsourcing. Mitch said it is not his job to create jobs. The least he could do is stop sending them away.” But Kessler says this:

The under-the-radar nature of this ad suggests that Senate Majority PAC hoped to slip this political stiletto past the media and the fact checkers — or that the organization is somehow embarrassed by its own message. But the fact remains that NAFTA was championed by both Democrats and Republicans, and objective studies have found its overall impact to be modest. Kentucky has both gained and lost jobs because of globalization — and there is no evidence McConnell is trying to “send them away.”

McConnell’s voting record:

An ad by the Grimes campaign that makes several claims about McConnell’s voting record and personal wealth also got three Pinocchios from the Post on Sept. 5. Here’s what Kessler concluded:

This ad, on balance, just narrowly avoids getting Four Pinocchios. While it is correct that McConnell has often voted against boosting the minimum wage, for philosophical reasons, most of the other claims is the ad are false, misleading or lacking important context.

Corporate tax breaks for outsourcing:

On Sept. 12, PolitFact gave a “mostly false” ruling to a claim in the same Grimes ad that McConnell voted “three times for corporate tax breaks that send Kentucky jobs overseas.” PolitiFact concluded:

The ad makes it seem like McConnell voted to approve corporate tax breaks that incentivize outsourcing. Actually, he voted “no” on legislation that would have eliminated the standard business expense deductions — which exist for all businesses — for costs associated with outsourcing. (Current law includes no provision that specifically addresses insourcing or outsourcing.) These bills had little chance of passing, and they were largely symbolic.

Oct. 6 is deadline to register to vote in fall elections

Alison Lundergan Grimes

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Oct. 6 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reminded eligible Kentuckians Monday.

County clerks’ offices throughout Kentucky will accept voter registration cards until the close of business on that date, she said in a statement. Mail-in voter registration applications must be postmarked by Oct. 6.

Under the Military Heroes Voting Initiative, new legislation proposed by Grimes, qualified military and overseas voters may now register to vote and update their registration information electronically through the State Board of Elections’ new Federal Post Card Application Wizard.

The application, along with other resources for military and overseas voters, is available at www.elect.ky.gov. Applications submitted electronically must be received by the county clerk by close of business on Oct. 6.

“Military voters often move from place to place, which can make it hard for them to maintain accurate voter registration records,” said Grimes. “I’m excited that, for the first time in Kentucky, they can complete essential voter registration functions electronically. This initiative provides them valuable tools that will help ensure they have a meaningful opportunity to participate in elections back home.”

To be eligible to vote, you must meet the following criteria: be a U.S. citizen; be a Kentucky resident for at least 28 days before Election day; be at least 18 years old by the date of the next general election; 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.

Voters who have recently moved need to update their voter registration information no later than Oct. 6.

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 election.

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.

AFL-CIO brings ‘Koch Sisters’ to Lexington airwaves for minimum wage push

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

As U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell returns to Washington after the August recess, a union working overtime to deny
McConnell a sixth term is trying to bring some heat to him back home in Kentucky.

The AFL-CIO will unveil a new ad, part of its “Koch sisters” campaign, in the Lexington market beginning Monday just as McConnell and the rest of the Senate return for an abbreviated session in which Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to introduce a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Though a spate of recent polls suggest that McConnell has established a small but steady lead over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, they also show overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage, a central tenet of Grimes’ campaign.

McConnell’s troubles with the issue were exacerbated when a secret recording emerged recently of the senator telling a gathering of wealthy donors hosted by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch that if he becomes majority leader, the Senate won’t debate “gosh darn proposals” like raising the wage.

Portraying Republicans as beholden to wealthy special interests and donors, specifically the Koch brothers, has been a key part of Democratic efforts to retain the U.S. Senate this year.

The new ad is the second in a series called “Koch sisters,” the first of which was unveiled last weekend by the union. They feature Karen and Joyce, two women “who share the same last name, but not the same values as the Koch Brothers,” the group said when it first announced them.

“The Koch Sisters will bring the issues most Americans care about – from fair wages to protecting Social Security – to the forefront of the political debate,” an AFL-CIO release said.

In the latest ad, called “Almost Evil” and timed to coincide with Reid’s introduction of a minimum wage proposal, the two women blame Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage on the Koch brothers.

“I think it’s deplorable that the Koch brothers would want to take away minimum wage,” Joyce Koch says in the ad, provided to the Herald-Leader Sunday.

She adds in the end: “That’s a misuse of wealth and power and I really think it’s almost evil.”

To support its claim that the Koch brothers want to eliminate the minimum wage, the AFL-CIO cites a July 2013 article from The Whichita Eagle, in which Charles Koch said he wants to help the disadvantaged by eliminating a “culture of dependency.”

“We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country, rather than saying ‘Oh, we’re just fine now.’ We’re not saying that at all,” Charles Koch said. “What we’re saying is, we need to analyze all these additional policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations, all these things that are creating a culture of dependency. And like permitting, to start a business, in many cities, to drive a taxicab, to become a hairdresser. Anything that people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we’ve got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor.”

The most recent Bluegrass Poll found that registered voters in Kentucky favor raising the minimum wage by an 18-point margin, 55 percent to 37 percent.

Under fire from the Grimes campaign for his recorded remarks at the Koch brothers’ retreat, McConnell said last week that raising the wage would be a “job killer,” citing a Congressional Budget Office report that estimated raising the wage could cost as many as 500,000 jobs.

“This is the exact wrong thing to do when you are having such slow growth,” McConnell said, according to WHAS-TV in Louisville. “There are circumstances under which you have a better economy that raising the minimum wage might make sense.”

Grimes and other Democrats have argued that raising the minimum wage is necessary to make it a “living wage,” pointing to examples of people struggling to make ends meet despite working full-time at $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage.

Poll shows McConnell opening up clear lead over Grimes in Kentucky

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A new poll released Sunday morning shows U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opening up a clear lead over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race.

An NBC News/Marist poll shows McConnell’s strongest positioning yet. His 8-point lead among likely voters, 47 percent to 39 percent, is outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Libertarian candidate David Patterson pulled 8 percent.

Chuck Todd, moderating his first episode of “Meet the Press” on Sunday, noted the success Grimes has had fundraising when he announced
the new numbers.

“In red-state Kentucky, Alison Grimes, a Democrat, tons of money, she’s behind eight,” Todd said. “Not looking very good for her.”

McConnell’s advantage is up significantly from the deadlocked race the same poll found in May when McConnell and Grimes were essentially tied with McConnell nominally leading 46 percent to 45 percent among registered voters.

The most recent poll was conducted between Sept. 2-4, indicating that recent stumbles like the resignation of his campaign manager and the
release of a secret recording of McConnell speaking to a Koch brothers retreat have not yet had a detrimental effect on the senator’s re-election efforts.

There also is evidence to suggest that Grimes’ national party identification, combined with a relentless effort by McConnell and his
allies to tie Grimes to President Barack Obama, has taken its toll on the Democratic challenger.

The poll found that Obama’s approval rating in Kentucky is a woeful 31 percent.

Meanwhile, an online poll released by CBS News/New York Times/YouGov shows McConnell leading Grimes 47 percent to 42 percent.

Two other polls released in the last week also show McConnell with a small lead. A Bluegrass Poll showed McConnell leading Grimes, who is Kentucky’s secretary of state, 46 percent to 42 percent.

A CNN/ORC poll showed McConnell leading Grimes 50 percent to 46 percent.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls now shows McConnell with a +5.2 percentage point advantage.