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Andy Barr’s first quarter fundraising leaves him with more than $1.1 million

Jensen_barrBy Sam Youngman

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr raised more than $361,000 for his re-election bid in the first quarter of 2014, leaving him with more than $1.1 million in cash on hand at the start of spring, his campaign reported Monday.

Barr, R-Lexington, began the year with just more than $900,000 in cash.

During the first quarter, Barr raised more than $257,000 from individuals and about $104,000 from political action committees.

Elisabeth Jensen, the likely Democratic nominee to challenge Barr in November, has not yet released her first-quarter haul.

Jensen finished 2013 with about $245,000 in cash on hand after she loaned her campaign $100,000 and raised $100,000 in the fourth quarter.

Barr challenger runs radio ad praising health care law

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen of LexingtonBy Sam Youngman

Democratic congressional candidate Elisabeth Jensen embraces the federal health care law pushed by President Barack Obama and Gov. Steve Beshear in her campaign’s first radio ad.

Jensen, who is the likely Democratic nominee to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, released an ad Monday morning that praises Beshear for implementing a Kentucky version of the health care law and blasts Barr and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for threatening to repeal it.

“Thanks to Gov. Beshear, Kentucky Kynect provides health care to Kentuckians who had no insurance,” Jensen says in the ad. “But Barr, along with Mitch McConnell, voted to end Kynect and let insurance companies drop coverage, deny care and charge women more.”

The ad notes that Barr has voted to repeal the controversial health care law 19 times and charges that the congressman has taken $148,000 in contributions from insurance companies.

“I often say Kentucky moms like me get more done by noon than Congress gets done in a week,” Jensen says in the ad. “So when I learned Congressman Andy Barr voted 19 times to repeal health care reform, I was disappointed.”

Kentucky officials said last week that enrollment was surging in the state in the lead-up to the self-imposed sign-up deadline of Friday night.

As of Friday, officials said more than 400,000 people had signed up, with the majority of participants joining Medicaid as part of an expansion of the program ordered by Beshear.

Jensen’s campaign did not disclose how much money it was spending on the ad, which is scheduled to start running in Central Kentucky starting Tuesday.

In the Democratic primary, Jensen faces retired Lexington engineer Geoff Young, a former Green Party member. Young said earlier this month that he has loaned his campaign $50,000.

Click here to listen to the ad.

Mitch McConnell raises $2.4 million, Matt Bevin raises $1.1 million in first quarter of 2014

Matt Bevin, left, is challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell in the battle to be the GOP's nominee in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.By Sam Youngman

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had his best fundraising quarter of this election cycle, pulling in $2.4 million in the first fundraising quarter of 2014.

But McConnell is also spending heavily. His campaign will report $10.4 million in cash on hand, which is down more than $500,000 from the cash position McConnell started the year with.

The McConnell campaign stressed that the spending is not in response to a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, noting that the majority of expenditures are for the fall campaign.

An ad McConnell’s campaign ran earlier this year featuring Paducah cancer survivor Robert Pierce ran statewide at a cost of more than $840,000.

“Team Mitch has invested early in ground-game infrastructure that will help deliver unprecedented voter contact in Kentucky,” the campaign said in a statement to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Additionally, last quarter, Team Mitch made their first major television expenditure with an ad that media guru Frank Luntz recently called the best of the cycle.”

Last pro-McConnell ad of $1.8 million buy focuses on coal, Obama

By Sam Youngman

The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition (KOC), a nonprofit group running ads promoting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is focusing the last ad of a $1.8 million buy on coal and President Barack Obama.

The group has already run two ads — one on veterans’ issues and one on the estate tax — as part of the three-week campaign.

Because the KOC is a 501(c)4 nonprofit, it is only permitted to run issue-oriented ads that do not advocate voting for or against a particular candidate.

The last ad to run begins with footage of Obama saying “so if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

The narrator says the president’s energy policies are “crushing our communities, threatening our way of life.”

McConnell, the ad says, is “fighting back to save Kentucky jobs.” It boasts of legislation the senator has proposed, the Saving Coal Jobs Act, saying the proposal “would make it tougher for Obama to block new coal mines so we can save good Kentucky jobs.”

Grimes ‘disappointed’ by ethics panel’s decision to forgo punishment of former lawmaker

McConnellGrimesBy Sam Youngman

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

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

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.

Humane Society’s political arm calls for Matt Bevin to withdraw from Senate race

Flanked by his wife and 9 children, Matt Bevin announced he will run against Mitch McConnell for U.S.Senate on Wednesday July 23, 2013 in Frankfort, Ky. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff By Sam Youngman

The lobbying arm of the Humane Society of the U.S. and two other animal-protection groups called Thursday for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin to withdraw from the race, citing his attendance this weekend at a pro-cockfighting rally.

“Matt Bevin showed appalling judgment in associating himself with this band of lawbreakers and perpetrators of unspeakable animal cruelty,” Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, wrote Thursday in a blog post. “He’s brought discredit upon the state of Kentucky, and he should withdraw from the Senate race.”

Bevin, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, told The News Journal in Corbin that he didn’t know he was addressing a pro-cockfighting rally last Saturday when about 700 people gathered at the event that was organized by Michael Devereaux, director of the Gamefowl Defense Network.

Bevin told The News Journal that he thought the event was a rally for states’ rights. “I was the first person to speak and then I left,” he told the newspaper.

However, organizers told the paper there was “never any ambiguity” about the purpose of the event, which was to rally support for changing laws that outlaw cockfighting.

In his blog post, Markarian said “it’s hard to imagine anyone accidentally stumbling into a cockfighting meet-up.”

“Bevin’s claims about not knowing ring hollow, as he is now parroting the language of anyone who defends animal cruelty but masks their true intent by speaking of ‘states’ rights’,” he wrote.

Ads for the event, which Markarian included in his blog post, are labeled in large type as a “call to action” for “cockfighters.”

A message to Bevin spokeswoman Rachel Semmel seeking comment was not returned Thursday. On Wednesday, Semmel said “Matt doesn’t believe this is a federal issue, and the state government can handle it.”

Groups that support cockfighting were furious when McConnell voted in favor of the federal farm bill in February because it included a provision that criminalized being a spectator at animal fights.

Supporters of the controversial practice, in which two roosters often fight to the death, have said they want the sport to be legalized and regulated by the state.

Say Cheese! Paul Ryan and Andy Barr bet on UK-Wisconsin

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington By Sam Youngman

If Kentucky manages to beat Wisconsin in Saturday night’s Final Four game, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr will have some Badger State cheese to go with the bourbon he won off U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth last week.

Barr and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., have a placed a friendly wager on the Wildcats-Badgers game, and the stakes are cheesy.

If Wisconsin wins, Barr has to give Ryan some Kentucky beer cheese. If the Cats move on, Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, owes Barr some Wisconsin Gouda.

“Between their unprecedented tournament play and the Julius-Randle-home-court advantage, I am confident that the Cats’ 16th Final Four appearance will be just the next step in their path to number nine,” Barr said. “I am looking forward to adding some of Congressman Paul Ryan’s famed Wisconsin gouda cheese to my winnings after we beat his Badgers.”

Ryan responded that Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan “and the Badgers are on a roll and that’s going to continue on Saturday against Kentucky.”

“Frank Kaminsky has been playing lights out, and they are going to give a talented Wildcats team more than they can handle,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be a great game but you can’t beat the Badgers’ experience and efficiency. I look forward to enjoying Congressman Barr’s Kentucky beer cheese as UW plays for the NCAA championship.”

Barr won a collection of bourbons distilled in Yarmuth’s Louisville district after the Cats beat Louisville last weekend in the Sweet 16.

Obama says UK-Michigan ‘as good of a game as we’ve seen the entire season’

President Barack ObamaBy Sam Youngman

President Barack Obama told an Ann Arbor, Michigan crowd Wednesday that the Kentucky Wildcats’ defeat of the Michigan Wolverines in the Elite Eight Sunday was “as good of a game as we’ve seen the entire season.”

Visiting Michigan to rally support for raising the minimum wage, Obama directed some of his opening remarks to the Wolverines, praising their season and the dramatic battle they lost to the Cats.

The president, who has long endured abysmal approval numbers in the Bluegrass, called out a number of Michigan players by name, but not surprisingly, did not mention any Kentucky players.

“You guys had a great run,” Obama said. “That last game was as good of a game as we’ve seen the entire season. I know you wish that that turned out a little bit later — if you’d had five more seconds, it would have been helpful. But I wanted to congratulate the coach, Coach Beilein, and the team for a great season.”

Obama predicted in his brackets that Wichita State would beat Kentucky. The Cats prevailed in that game 78-76.

Obama joked in his remarks that his “bracket is a mess.”

“I’ve learned my lesson — I will not pick against the Wolverines,” Obama said. “It’s not going to happen. This is the problem with doing these brackets — people just trash-talk you non-stop. It’s terrible.”