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-a-thon” on climate change.
McConnell seized on the Democrats’ discussion of climate change and a news report suggesting that a member of 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.
In late February, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul played golf with Donald Trump at Trump’s course in Palm Beach. Trump shot par and walked away with the win.
That’s about the only thing that hasn’t gone Paul’s way in 2014 as he continues to eye a run for the White House in 2016.
More than a year removed from the 13-hour filibuster that sent his star rising and less than a year before Paul could announce that he is running for president, Kentucky’s junior senator is winning over skeptics daily.
What once seemed like a parlor game punchline is growing more realistic by the day: Rand Paul could very well win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
The road map Paul and his team put together — growing his brand outside of Tea Party voters, making inroads with establishment Republican donors, and wooing millennials — appears to be on track.
Black leaders are increasingly inviting Paul to speak and listen to their constituents, top donors are sitting down for lunch with the Tea Party darling — nearly matching what Paul is raising from his strong base of small-dollar donors — and a couple thousand millennials made sure Paul walked away from last weekend’s CPAC convention with his second straight straw-poll win.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has noticed that some of his would-be rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination are using this week’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting to portray him as a foreign policy isolationist.
“I think people ought to spend their time trying to sell their own ideas instead of trying to mischaracterize mine,” Paul said Friday.
Hours before Paul was set to speak at CPAC, a conference that is in many ways the first audition for Republican presidential candidates, Kentucky’s junior senator told the Herald-Leader his position on what is happening in the Ukraine is in line with what most Americans are thinking.
Paul said neither Republicans nor Democrats are calling for military intervention in the region, where Crimea is attempting to secede from the Ukraine amid a heavy Russian military presence, drawing sharp rebukes the U.S.
“So I’m definitely within the mainstream of opinion that I’m not proposing we send soldiers to the Ukraine,” Paul said.
As The New York Times reported Friday, potential candidates such as Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio have used the CPAC conference to not only stake out hawkish positions on Russia, but also to portray Paul as outside the mainstream of the party, following his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, on a policy of nonintervention.
A national Tea Party fundraising group aligned with Louisville businessman Matt Bevin plans to launch a radio ad Tuesday that blames Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for a court ruling requiring Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II, who issued a final version of his ruling last week, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush on the recommendation of McConnell. Heyburn served as general counsel for McConnell when he was Jefferson County judge-executive in the early 1980s.
“Republican voters strongly disagree with Judge Heyburn, and Sen. McConnell should admit that recommending him was a mistake,” the Senate Conservatives Fund said in a statement.
The group’s ad also notes that Heyburn ruled in 1998 to overturn the state’s ban on partial-birth abortion.
“Who recommended this liberal judge?” one actor says in the ad.
“Mitch McConnell,” another actor replies.
“McConnell should admit right now that recommending Judge Heyburn was a mistake,” the first actor says. “He knew this judge wasn’t a conservative and promoted him anyway. Now we’re stuck with gay marriage.”
Both actors go on to say they plan to vote for Bevin in Kentucky’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
The group said it will spend $29,000 to run the 60-second ad statewide.
In a statement, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore called the group’s claims “absurd and pathetic.”
“This is the kind of ad voters expect to hear from people who are days away from boxing up their personal effects and auctioning off the remaining printer cartridges in the office,” Moore said. “It is so absurd and pathetic that they ought to stop troubling radio listeners with the obligation of switching stations and admit they have no justification to attack Senator McConnell.”
After Heyburn made his initial gay-marriage ruling earlier last month, McConnell issued a statement condemning the decision and saying that Kentuckians should not have gay marriage “forced on us.”
“I will continue to support traditional marriage and fight to make sure that Kentuckians define marriage as we see fit and never have a definition forced on us by interests outside of our state,” McConnell said.
SCF’s radio ad also accuses McConnell of “political cronyism,” suggesting that he recommended Heyburn because Heyburn had donated to McConnell and served as his county campaign chairman.
“McConnell knew Judge Heyburn was not a conservative, but he promoted him anyway,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “Now Judge Heyburn is forcing his liberal views on Kentucky.”
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — Friday is the last day for filing new bills in the Republican-controlled state Senate and no bill has yet come forward to allow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to run for the U.S. Senate and the presidency in 2016, Senate President Robert Stivers said Wednesday.
Stivers, R-Manchester, said he did not know if such a bill will materialize.
“There’s been quite a bit of discusssion on it,” he said.
Stivers said some states allow federal officeholders like Paul to run for their federal seat while being on the ballot for president or vice president.
Paul, R-Bowling Green, has indicated that he may run for president in 2016. He also is up for re-election that year for the U.S. Senate.
Stivers noted that there always could be a court challenge to the Kentucky law that prohibits a candidate for running for more than one office.
The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is set to begin running radio ads in Kentucky’s coal-producing counties boasting of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pushback against what it calls President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.”
The group, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization that is allied with McConnell, has spent $75,000 to air the 60-second spot in 28 counties. It touts McConnell’s “Saving Coal Jobs Act.”
“There is nothing funny about what they’ve done to Central Appalachia and the Eastern Kentucky coal fields,” McConnell says in the ad. “They want us to sit down and shut up, and I’m telling you we’re not going to take it any longer, we’re going to fight back.”
Scott Jennings, senior adviser to the coalition and a former aide to McConnell, said McConnell “is fighting to save Kentucky jobs from Barack Obama’s job-killing regulations, which have already cost us thousands of jobs and put families and communities at risk.”
The group also is urging supporters to sign a petition in support of McConnell’s proposed legislation.
Under the proposal, which stands little chance of passage in the Democratic-led U.S. Senate, the federal government would face a deadline to issue or deny surface-mining permits.
The EPA has held up about three dozen surface-mine permits in Eastern Kentucky since 2010. The state issued the permits, but federal regulators objected, saying conditions the permits imposed on the coal companies would be inadequate to protect water quality.
There are fewer people employed in coal mining in Kentucky than at any point since the state started tracking the number in 1927. Nearly all the losses have been in Eastern Kentucky, where 2,232 coal workers were laid off in 2013.
Many people in Eastern Kentucky believe tougher federal rules to protect air and water quality are to blame for the sharp downturn in coal production and jobs, but analysts say the picture is more complex. Environmental policies have played a role in the decline, but so have competition from low-priced natural gas and coal from other parts of the country, the depletion of coal reserves in Eastern Kentucky, and higher mining costs in the region.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said in a tweet Thursday that rocker Ted Nugent, known in recent years for some outrageous political comments, should apologize for calling President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
Nugent has come under fire this week for his remarks, and on Thursday, Paul said in a tweet that the remark was “offensive.”
“Ted Nugent’s derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and has no place in politics. He should apologize,” Paul tweeted.
Nugent made the remark last month to guns.com, but it has gained more attention as the singer of “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold” has hit the campaign trail with Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Nugent earned himself a visit from the Secret Service after he said he would be “dead or in jail” if Obama won another term.
FRANKFORT — A constitutional amendment that would restore the voting rights of ex-felons who complete a five-year waiting period without further criminal offenses won unanimous approval in a Senate committee Wednesday despite reservations voiced by Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul testified before the committee, urging progress on the issue that has repeatedly passed the Democrat-led House in recent years but failed to gain traction in the Republican-led Senate.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jesse Crenshaw of Lexington, joined Senate Democrats on the committee in expressing disdain for a substitute version of the bill that is expected to pass the full Senate later Wednesday afternoon.
Crenshaw and others said adding a five-year waiting period, which was proposed by state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, does not improve House Bill 70 “in any form or fashion.”
“I cannot go forward with saying I am in favor of the committee substitute,” Crenshaw said.
Thayer said the waiting period is “reasonable” and the only way to get Republicans to sign onto the measure. He drew the ire of a packed committee room by saying he expected “some level of gratitude” for finding a compromise that could pass.
“I’m trying to break the logjam and keep this moving,” Thayer said.
If the bill passes the Senate Wednesday as expected, then leaders of the House and Senate are expected to appoint a conference committee to hammer out a compromise bill. If the two sides can agree, voters would decide the constitutional amendment’s fate at the ballot box in November.
Crenshaw’s measure passed the House in January 82-12.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will begin running a new television ad in Kentucky starting Wednesday that describes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as someone who is fighting against “Obamacare” and for Kentucky’s future.
The ad features several pictures of women and families and is narrated by two female voices, both of which warn against President Barack Obama’s health care law and portray McConnell as waging war against the law on behalf of Kentuckians.
“Most of us don’t get caught up in politics,” the women say, trading off lines. “Between kids, bills, work there’s just no time for it. But this Obamacare mess is scary.”
The Chamber of Commerce would not say how much money it is putting behind the ad, calling it “significant.”
This is the second ad the Chamber of Commerce has run in Kentucky on McConnell’s behalf.
The first, which ran last December, focused on coal.
A Herald-Leader/WKYT Bluegrass Poll released earlier this month showed likely Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes with a slim 4-point advantage over McConnell, but her lead among women voters was 12 points.
FRANKFORT — After years of languishing in the Republican-led Senate, a constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights for most ex-felons appears poised to win legislative approval Wednesday at the behest of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
The full Senate is expected to sign off on the proposal Wednesday afternoon, following a scheduled appearance by Paul to push the bill through the Senate State and Local Government Committee at noon, said Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.
“I think it has a good chance of passing,” Stivers said Tuesday afternoon.
House Bill 70, sponsored by state Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, has already cleared the state House. If the Senate approves the bill with no changes, voters would decide the amendment’s fate at the ballot box in November. If changes are made, the House must approve the revised version of the bill or set up a committee to negotiate a compromise.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, has said previously that he could not support HB 70 in its current form. Instead, Thayer said he might be able to vote for the proposal if it is changed to include a five-year waiting period for each qualified ex-felon, “to make sure they do nothing wrong during that time.”
Stivers said he has not yet decided how he will vote on the measure.
“There is support,” he said. “I’m not a micro-manager of issues.”
Stivers said Paul, a potential candidate for president in 2016, will not be addressing the full Senate. He said Paul must leave the Capitol before the Senate convenes at 2 p.m.
The bill would affect about 180,000 ex-felons who have completed their sentences, but it would not apply to those who have committed intentional murder, rape, sodomy or a sexual offense with a minor.
Under current law, ex-felons must petition the governor for a partial pardon to restore their right to vote.
Speaking to largely black audiences, Paul has criticized the War on Drugs for locking up a disproportionate number of black youths and taking away their constitutional rights.
“I think particularly for nonviolent drug crimes, where people made a youthful mistake, I think they ought to get their rights back,” Paul said in a Louisville speech last September.
The state House gave Crenshaw, who is retiring this year, a standing ovation last month for his persistence over the years in pushing the constitutional amendment, then voted 82-12 to send his measure to the Senate.