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Retired military officer files to run for Congress from 2nd District

Ron Leach

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Democrat Ron Leach, a retired military officer from Brandenburg, filed Thursday to run for the U.S. Congress from Kentucky’s 2nd District that stretches from western Jessamine County to Owensboro.

Leach, 49, is making his first bid for public office. He filed his candidacy papers at the secretary of state’s office with his wife, Kelly, and other family members at his side.

So far, Leach is the only Democrat to file for the office, now held by Republican Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green. The district includes Bowling Green and Elizabethtown. It primarily covers west central Kentucky. State lawmakers last year moved Garrard, Mercer and Boyle counties from Central Kentucky’s 6th to the 2nd.

McConnell not among GOP heavyweights making calls in special election

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A short list of Kentucky Republican all-stars has in recent days recorded automated phone calls on behalf of a Republican state House candidate in Western Kentucky, but U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is not among them.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer have all recorded calls advocating support for Suzanne Miles in Tuesday’s special election in the 7th House District against Democrat Kim Humphrey.

McConnell’s name adorns the state party’s headquarters, making it’s absence on the list of Republicans recording calls conspicuous.

Miles told the Lexington Herald-Leader late Sunday that she didn’t ask McConnell — or any other GOP officials — to record calls on her behalf. Miles has previously noted that McConnell was the first person to give her a check for her campaign, and she said Sunday that he has “been supportive since day one.”

In polling, a high rate of Kentuckians have consistently said they have a negative view of McConnell, numbers that have led analysts to almost universally declare McConnell’s seat in jeopardy.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie pays his dues as he mulls his future

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

BARDSTOWN — For a man who seems to spend his time either touring factories or raising money, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie is happy to sit and talk Kentucky politics until well after the check has come.

While keeping a full constituency outreach schedule, Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, has been burning up the fundraising trail over the last several weeks, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader over a pimento cheese sandwich and chili at Mammy’s Kitchen that he’s using the money to keep his political options open and grow his influence within the Republican Party.

After declaring he wouldn’t run for governor in 2015 despite a frenzy of rumors and a chat with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Guthrie said he is not looking at any specific office in the future. Instead, he is paying his dues to the National Republican Campaign Committee, giving the most to the Republican Party of Kentucky and giving heavily to his fellow Republican House members for their re-election campaigns.

Guthrie’s politically charitable habits amount to the traditional road map that members of Congress follow to move from freshman members to subcommittee chairmen and maybe someday committee chair, growing influence within the party and Congress immeasurably.

Shutdown brings D.C. fundraising to halt for most of Ky. delegation

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

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.

Barr, Guthrie, Yarmuth get an earful about health care law at Lexington hearing

By Jack Brammer — jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Sharp opinions on the federal Affordable Care Act were aired Tuesday in Lexington at a U.S. Congressional field hearing and a news conference by two conservative groups that said U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell should do more to block the law.

The two events underscored just how politically dangerous the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, remains for Democrats and Republicans alike as major parts of the law take effect in coming months.

The health insurance overhaul has become a major issue in Kentucky’s 2014 U.S. Senate race, especially in the Republican primary election between McConnell and Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.

At the Lexington Public Library Tuesday, the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pension held a public hearing where several business owners complained of too much uncertainty about the law and expressed fear that it will hurt them financially.

Their testimony came in front of U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Lexington; Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green; John Yarmuth, D-Louisville; and subcommittee chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn.

Beshear says lawmakers may redraw Kentucky’s congressional districts

Gov. Steve Beshear

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers may have to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts later this year when they meet in a special session to remake state legislative districts, Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday.

Beshear said he expects to announce the date of a special legislative session by Friday, when a hearing is scheduled in a federal court case filed by northern Kentucky officials and residents who say they are disadvantaged by the legislature’s inaction on redistricting.

The House and Senate passed new boundaries for congressional districts and state legislative districts in 2012, but the maps for state districts were ruled unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed that seek to force lawmakers to create new boundaries for legislative districts or allow a federal court to draw the boundaries. Lawmakers are required to set new boundaries once each decade to account for shifting populations.

A key point of contention between House Democrats and Senate Republicans has been whether to include federal prisoners in their population counts when redrawing district boundaries.

U.S. Rep. Guthrie on Romney’s VP selection

U.S.Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, issued this statement Saturday on Republican presummptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential candidate:

“I am excited that my colleague Paul Ryan is now part of America’s comeback team. As the Republican nominee for Vice-President, he will continue to champion his message of fiscal responsibility. Paul is a man of character and has what it takes to make a difference for our nation’s future.

“I am proud to support the Romney-Ryan ticket because these two great leaders will not duck the serious issues facing our country, but rather face them head on in our mission to restore fiscal sanity in Washington D.C.”

–Jack Brammer

Beshear signs into law new boundaries for Kentucky’s congressional districts

UPDATED AT 5:12 P.M.

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Friday a compromise plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts after the plan rocketed through the General Assembly on Friday.

The new map in House Bill 302 moves part of Jessamine County, including Wilmore, and all of Garrard, Mercer and Boyle counties from Central Kentucky’s 6th District to the 2nd District, which extends west to Owensboro. Lincoln County was moved to Eastern Kentucky’s 5th District.

The 6th District gained the remaining portion of Scott County, a southern strip of Harrison County, and all of Robertson, Nicholas, Fleming, Bath, Menifee and Wolfe counties.

Those changes are expected to make it tougher for Republican Andy Barr to successfully challenge U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles.

Legislators may finally be ready to approve congressional redistricting

By Jack Brammer and Janet Patton
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — After weeks of contentious negotiations, the state legislature is expected to produce a map Friday that redraws boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said late Thursday there will be a vote Friday on a congressional redistricting map.

Stivers declined to say what the map will look like, “but we believe it will be a plan that will pass both chambers.”

He said the Senate has made no changes yet in a map the House sent it earlier this week, but “there’s always the possibility. Because of the sensitivity of the issue in discussions that will continue tonight and tomorrow, it probably will be premature to comment on what we have discussed with leaders of both houses.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this week that the latest map proposal basically protects incumbents.

No compromise on congressional redistricting; issue probably headed to court

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

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.