By Bill Estep
Echoing President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call 50 years ago for a bipartisan attack on poverty, President Barack Obama on Thursday sought support from both parties for efforts to boost economic opportunity, as he announced an initiative aimed at doing that in southeastern Kentucky and four other places.
Obama identified the first sites chosen for his Promise Zones program, which will give the areas priority in getting federal money for education and other needs.
An area made up of Harlan, Bell, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, and Knox counties, along with much of Whitley County, was one of two rural zones Obama announced. The Lexington Herald-Leader first reported Obama’s plans Wednesday.
Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, whose district includes the eight-county area, attended the announcement in the East Room of the White House.
All have been critical of Obama on a range of issues, including his health-care overhaul.
Obama noted the country has had a “rancorous political year,” but said he believes that making sure all Americans have a “fair shot” to succeed should not be a partisan issue.
“This should be a challenge that unites us all,” said Obama, specifically acknowleding Paul’s attendance. “I don’t care if the ideas are Democrats or Republican. I do care that they work.”
SOMERSET — In the days leading up to his remarks Tuesday at the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer began referring to them as “the Fort Sumter speech.”
To most of the 100 or so farmers and merchants gathered, Comer’s words appeared far removed from the first battle in the Civil War, but there was a great deal more going on for some, especially in one departure that seemed at odds with the rest of Comer’s routine luncheon speech.
“The days of party bosses hand-picking elected officials in smoke-filled rooms must end,” said Comer, who is mentioned often as a likely Republican gubernatorial candidate. “No more scenarios where party bosses send some guy from, say, Louisville, who has never been to Somerset before and order you to support him because [they] can control him.”
Most of the crowd, subdued by Butterball turkey breast, didn’t know what to make of it when Comer veered and declared, “I cannot be controlled.”
But to a handful, the message was clear: Comer was warning what he views as establishment Republicans — be it U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell or state Sen. Chris Girdler — not to meddle in the 2015 governor’s race.
By Sam Youngman
WASHINGTON — With few exceptions, Kentucky’s federal lawmakers have scrambled to cancel fundraisers after the government shut down midnight Monday.
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, still planned to attend a high-dollar event at the Four Seasons hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., with optional golf for attendees beginning Thursday, according to a fundraising schedule obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Whitfield’s event, planned to raise money for his Thoroughbred Political Action Committee (PAC), included suggested contributions of $2,500 per PAC and $1,500 per individual. Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus was scheduled to join the Kentucky congressman.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the event was still on, but a statement from Whitfield spokesman Chris Pack indicated that might change.
“The congressman’s sole focus right now is getting Harry Reid and the Senate to negotiate with the House to reopen the federal government,” Pack said in an email. “The congressman will assess his schedule as the week progresses.”
U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, both canceled fundraising events planned for Wednesday, and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell canceled a fundraising breakfast scheduled for Thursday morning.
Barr, Guthrie, Whitfield and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, all canceled fundraisers that were scheduled for Tuesday, the first full day of the government shutdown.
U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, managed to attend a fundraiser on Monday at the GOP’s Capitol Hill Club in Washington after a meeting of the House Republican Conference and just hours before the shutdown began.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Rogers, has promoted Chris Girdler as his new district director to replace Bob Mitchell, who retired June 1.
Girdler has been deputy district director for the last 18 months.
FRANKFORT — West Liberty and Morgan County will receive $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission to help rebuild from the devastasting tornado that struck the area March .
Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced the funding Thursday. The money will be used to hire an architect to develop a conceptual plan for the professional rebuilding of the city of West Liberty and Morgan County.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — State lawmakers failed to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts before Tuesday’s candidate filing deadline, which means the issue probably will end up in court.
House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, told House members about 20 minutes after the 4 p.m. filing deadline that a compromise agreement between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate could not be reached.
The House and Senate had delayed the original deadline from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7 to give the two sides more time to reach an agreement.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had worked with members of congress on a possible compromise that late last week looked promising, House leaders said. But Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers said Tuesday afternoon that the two sides appeared to “agree to disagree.”
Stumbo said congressional candidates will run in the state’s existing districts. That means someone — either a candidate or a national political party — will probably challenge the constitutionality of Kentucky’s districts.
By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — House and Senate negotiators appear close to an agreement on new boundaries for Kentucky’s six congressional districts.
“We have a map that shows great promise,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo said late Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate has had “little time to analyze anything” from the House, but “hope springs eternal.”
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the staff of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, has been instrumental in helping the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate come to a consensus after weeks of negotiations.
Senate leaders were looking at a proposed map after the chamber adjourned Thursday evening. If the Senate agrees to the new map, it’s possible for the legislature to approve the plan before the Feb. 7 filing deadline for congressional candidates.
FRANKFORT – The state House and Senate still have not reached a compromise on the redrawing of boundaries for Kentucky’s six congressional districts, but House Speaker Greg Stumbo appeared more optimistic Thursday that the two sides could reach an agreement.
“I think there’s at least some movement,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.
He said the House has offered another compromise plan to Republican Senate leaders. That plan specifically addressed some concerns of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, Stumbo said. Rogers’ district includes most of Eastern and Central Kentucky.
The filing deadline for candidates is Jan. 31, but lawmakers could extend the deadline to give the two sides more time to hammer out an agreement.
Stumbo said he met and talked with Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers about the congressional map on Thursday morning, although no meeting has been set between leaders of the two chambers to produce a new congressional map.
Stivers, R-Manchester, said negotiations are “going slowly.”
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
UPDATED AT 1:13 P.M.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – The state House and Senate adjourned Friday until Monday without approving a bill to redraw boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.
The lack of action means the Jan. 31 filing deadline for candidates for U.S. Congress may have to be extended.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he thinks Monday would be the last day for the legislature to act on House Bill 2, the congressional redistricting bill, without changing the filing deadline.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the Jan. 31 filing deadline for legislative and state Supreme Court candidates should stay in effect if Gov. Steve Beshear signs into law on Friday a bill already approved by the legislature to redraw those districts.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — The state House sent to Gov. Steve Beshear a controversial legislative redistricting bill Thursday that would move the district of Democratic State Sen. Kathy Stein from Lexington to northeastern Kentucky.
House Bill 1, approved on a 58-39 vote, redraws the boundaries of all 100 House districts and 38 Senate districts. It also redistricts the state’s seven Supreme Court districts.
Beshear is expected to sign it into law, though Stein’s supporters were lobbying for a veto. The Democratic governor had nothing to say about the bill on Thursday.
The House did not agree with the Senate on a plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts. A conference committee made up of representatives from both chambers started meeting Thursday afternoon to negotiate a compromise on House Bill 2 but finished about 5 p.m. without any resolution. It is to resume negotiations Friday.