By Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer
The famous psychic Edgar Cayce was born near Hopkinsville.
He died in 1945, but Cayce would have a better chance of telling you the results of next November’s U.S. Senate race than anything that might be gleaned from next week’s special elections in Lexington and Western Kentucky.
While it’s tempting and oftentimes worthwhile to look at off-year special elections as gauges of voter moods and priorities and the strengths of a federal campaign’s ground game, the Dec. 10 elections for the state House and Senate won’t tell you anything about next November.
Trying to learn something about a statewide race from Lexington’s 13th Senate District, where voters will chose someone to replace Democrat Kathy Stein, is a nonstarter. The district, which primarily covers downtown Lexington and the University of Kentucky, is significantly more liberal and more black than the rest of the state.
If there was a race to use as a bellwether — resist the temptation — it would be in the House 7th District, which covers Union County and portions of Henderson and Daviess counties. In that race, Democrat Kim Humphrey and Republican Suzanne Miles are battling it out to replace Democratic state Rep. John Arnold, who resigned earlier this year amid accusations of sexual harassment.
But there’s not a lot to learn there, except that a Democrat is running surprisingly strong in an area that has grown increasingly conservative.
Kentucky women deserve far better than the pandering they will face over the next year. But since they represent almost 53 percent of the vote in the commonwealth, they should probably go ahead and put on their hip waders.
Trying to win favor with such a crucial voting bloc, however, presents plenty of political perils for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republican Mitch McConnell.
For McConnell, let’s call it “the Rick Lazio lesson.” For Grimes, “the Sarah Palin parable.”
Hold on to that hate mail for a second. These are not general or far-reaching comparisons between McConnell and Lazio or Grimes and Palin, but they do carry specific lessons for both campaigns.
In early September 2008, just days after Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a group of high-profile GOP women called a press conference at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Women like Carly Fiorina and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ripped into the assembled media for their sexist approach toward Palin. They were mostly referring to reprehensible Internet rumors and the occasional talking head doing what talking heads do.
MAYFIELD — Likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes took her campaign to a farmer’s roundtable Friday afternoon, hearing concerns about regulations that deal with migrant workers and same-sex marriage.
Grimes, sitting with about a dozen farmers at Guthrie Farms, was asked whether she believes in “Adam and Eve” or “Adam and Steve.” She responded that every couple should have the same opportunity as she and her husband, but noted that Kentucky has passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
As Grimes sat at the roundtable, she repeatedly criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and sought to steer the conversation to the farm bill that has stalled in Congress.
When Grimes asked the group how they felt about immigration reform, a day after she endorsed a legalized path to citizenship, she heard almost to a person that American interests should come first.
“I think we need to be taking care of our own,” Cliff Guthrie said.
Grimes immediately followed by saying Congress should be “taking care of our own” by approving a farm bill that does not cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
“I think we’ve got to balance our budget, but we do it the right way,” she said. “We don’t do it on the backs of Kentuckians who need and deserve to have that help and assistance from the government.”
Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes moved quickly Tuesday to label Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as unfriendly to women after Republican operatives touted a photo of Grimes’ face on the body of a woman in a tight-fighting shirt with her midriff exposed.
The picture, which combined Grimes with the “Obama girl” who gained momentary fame during President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, was described by the Grimes campaign as a “sexualized attack” that shows McConnell does not stand up for women.
An unnamed staffer at the National Republican Senatorial Committee posted a link on Twitter to the altered photo and asked if “Grimes Is The New ‘Obama Girl’?”. The link went to BluegrassBulletin.com, the blog of Kentucky Republican Marcus Carey.
Iris Wilbur, McConnell’s political director, also retweeted the NRSC post on her personal Twitter account.
“The incredibly inappropriate comments from Sen. McConnell’s team mark a developing pattern and demonstrate just how out of touch McConnell is with the women of Kentucky,” Grimes said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the NRSC, which has close ties to McConnell and his allies, said the committee was appalled by the tweet.
“We agree, it’s extremely offensive,” NRSC spokeswoman Brooke Hougesen said. “It was a mistake made by a junior staffer and disciplinary action has been taken. We took corrective action as soon as it was brought to our attention and have taken steps to ensure it will never happen again.”
It was exactly what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had been hoping for.
Except instead of President Barack Obama discussing gun control and his health care law at a New York fundraiser for female Senate candidates, it was First Lady Michelle Obama.
Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was among the female candidates who gathered Monday with the First Lady for a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser, where Michelle Obama spoke of the need to elect more Democratic senators to further the president’s agenda.
The First Lady, talking about how narrowly “Obamacare” passed and the slim margin by which gun control legislation was defeated, said that “it is critical that we elect Michelle Nunn, Alison Grimes, Natalie Tennant.”
“It is critical that we get them to the Senate,” the First Lady said. “And it is just as critical that we elect — reelect Senators Mary Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen — it is critical, because we all know that it’s not enough to elect Barack Obama President if we don’t give him a Congress that will help him keep moving this country forward. We know that now. We’ve seen it. We’ve experienced it.”
Grimes, who has been reluctant to embrace any ties to the Obama White House as she squares off against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has gone to great lengths to avoid using the president’s name, referring to him as “Washington politicians” in a recent interview with WKYT’s “Kentucky Newsmakers.”
LOUISVILLE — Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is a popular guy these days.
A proud Republican and likely gubernatorial candidate in 2015, Comer bookended his week with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell singing his praises on Monday and Sen. Rand Paul adding a verse to that song on Friday.
It could have gone the other way.
It was less than two weeks ago that Comer told a Somerset crowd that he “cannot be controlled,” warning unnamed party bosses about interfering in the governor’s race or trying to jump-start it early.
Pariah was possible. Popularity appears to be the result.
But if McConnell’s fawning at a Veteran’s Day event, where Comer announced a national drive for his department’s Homegrown by Heroes program, was a surprise, Paul’s kind words on Friday were not.
The commissioner was the only state representative to back Paul in his primary against former Secretary of State and McConnell pick Trey Grayson.
But he’s also winning friends in high places by doing something few politicians do: Giving tax money back to tax payers.
By Jack Brammer and Sam Youngman
FRANKFORT — Saying there should be no doubt that he intends to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin filed Friday to try to unseat Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
Bevin’s wife, Glenna, and Larry Forgy, a Lexington attorney who lost the 1995 GOP bid for governor and is an ardent opponent of McConnell, signed Bevin’s filing papers in the office of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Capitol.
Grimes is expected to be the Democratic nominee in next year’s U.S. Senate race, which political observers have estimated will cost $100 million in campaign spending.
Bevin, a well-heeled investment manager in Louisville, had announced in July that he would be a candidate. He has founded several firms and has invested in companies with interests ranging from manufacturing to software.
After making his candidacy official Friday, Bevin held a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda with his wife, their nine children — four adopted from Ethiopia — and Forgy.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and its glitch-stricken website, HealthCare.gov, repeatedly calling for repeal of the law “root and branch.”
“At this point, senators from both parties can agree: HealthCare.gov is a rolling disaster. Every day seems to bring more, newer comic calamity,” McConnell, R-Ky., said Oct. 29 in a Senate floor speech. “The only thing the website seems to be good for right now is creating punch lines for late-night comedians.”
However, since 2011, McConnell has accepted more than $75,000 in political donations from health care giant UnitedHealth Group, which owns the technology company that helped build and launch HealthCare.gov for a reported $155 million and now is responsible for fixing it.
The donations came from UnitedHealth’s political action committee and five of its top executives; they went to McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign and two fundraising committees that he oversees, the Bluegrass Committee and the McConnell-Cornyn Leadership Victory Committee.
UnitedHealth also co-hosted a $1,000-per-person fundraising dinner for McConnell’s campaign last December in Washington, D.C. And the company, based in Minnetonka, Minn., retains former McConnell chief of staff Billy Piper as a Washington lobbyist to work on its behalf in Congress on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Senate records show.
UnitedHealth, which tends to favor incumbent Democrats and Republicans as it gives more than $1 million in political donations during a typical two-year election cycle, has expressed optimism about the health care law.
“UnitedHealth Group strongly supports making high-quality health care accessible and affordable for everyone,” it stated in a news release last year.
Josh Holmes, a McConnell aide on loan to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thursday there is no indication that UnitedHealth’s donations have weakened McConnell’s opposition to the health law.
Two conservative groups, however, said UnitedHealth’s support of McConnell is further evidence that his only true ideology is power. They already have criticized McConnell for not fully supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others who fight to defund the health care law, which they call “Obamacare.”
LOUISVILLE — Calling the nation’s new health care law “a monstrosity,” U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes will follow other “red state” Democrats in trying to distance themselves from the law.
McConnell, addressing reporters at his campaign headquarters, again called for the full repeal of “Obamacare” and accused his opponent of following other Democrats in calling for tinkering with a law that he said has caused “chaos.”
“The panic has set in,” McConnell said. “The troops are restless. And on a daily basis, you will see some Democrat in some red state come up with a new way to try to distance themselves from Obamacare.”
Tuesday’s news conference represented a new chapter in McConnell’s re-election effort, as the senator and his campaign seek to draw out Grimes as a supporter of the new health care law and other issues backed by national Democrats.
LOUISVILLE — One by one, Republicans and Democrats stood in front of veterans and farmers Monday and lauded the work of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
Perhaps nobody had more nice things to say about Comer than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who put to rest for the time being any lingering suspicions about whether he was covertly backing Louisville businessman Hal Heiner over Comer in the 2015 GOP primary for governor.
Comer, a likely Republican candidate in the race, told a Somerset audience last week that he “cannot be controlled,” warning unnamed party leaders about interfering in the race more than two years out.
“I just appreciate the opportunity to come by and pat you on the back for another good idea,” McConnell told Comer and the assembled crowd, which included U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
Comer was lauded at the Frazier History Museum for his stewardship of the Homegrown by Heroes program, a marketing tool that allows farmers who are also veterans to display the program logo on their goods or services.
The event Monday was to announce that the program will become a national model and to accept a check for $250,000 from Farm Credit Mid-America for the expanded program.
Comer was ebullient at the event, emceeing as officials spoke, and delighting in the early success of the program his office created in January.
“When you see the Homegrown by Heroes label, that means that Kentucky Proud product was produced in Kentucky by a Kentucky military veteran or by a Kentucky military veteran-owned small business,” Comer said.
McConnell, who noted the “mess over in Frankfort” that Comer inherited from convicted former commissioner Richie Farmer, said he had “never seen anybody clean up a mess faster.”
“I’m here today… to salute you, commissioner, for the great job that you’re doing, and to thank all our veterans, particularly those that are going into agriculture, for all you do,” McConnell said.
McConnell and his two Senate race opponents — veteran and Republican businessman Matt Bevin and Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes — participated in Monday’s Veteran’s Day parade in Louisville.