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KY House Democratic leaders talk road projects with Rogers, Paul and Boehner

Four Kentucky Democratic House leaders met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, to discuss road projects in the state. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attended the meeting with Rogers.

The discussions involved Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s efforts to extend the Mountain Parkway in Eastern Kentucky from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., and widening the Hal Rogers Parkway in south-central Kentucky, bringing it up to interstate standards and extending it southeast to Tennessee.

The combined projects would become part of the Interstate 66 project that Eastern Kentucky leaders and Rogers have long championed.

“These meetings went exactly as we had hoped and show that the support is growing in our nation’s capitol,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, in a release.

“They realize, as we do, that projects like these can open up the region in a way no other can. Eastern Kentucky needs a major interstate route to the east and south, and these plans are the best way to do that.”

Kentucky House members with Stumbo were House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards of Bowling Green and House Majority Whip Johnny Bell of Glasgow.

They arranged the meetings while in Washington for the National Conference of State Legislature’s Symposium for Legislative Leaders.

Stumbo has asked the state Transportation Cabinet to look at how the project from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., could be accomplished.

He supports using up to $1 billion of federal abandoned mine land funds.

“Rather than sitting idle, these funds can be used to improve the coal region’s infrastructure and economic future,” he said.

The Kentucky House leaders support expanding the project’s scope to include the Hal Rogers Parkway and tying it together under the I-66 umbrella.

“I want to thank Rep. Rogers, Sen. Paul and House Speaker Boehner for meeting with us and offering their suggestions,” Stumbo said. “These billion-dollar projects can’t be built overnight, but the sooner we can lay the groundwork and planning, the sooner we can begin turning this dream into reality.”

–Jack Brammer

Country ham, redeye gravy and political speculation

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James ComerBy Jack Brammer

LOUISVILLE – Political talk spiced up the 51st annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast early Thursday morning at the Kentucky State Fair.

Dozens of politicians gave as many media interviews as possible and circulated among the 1,600 early risers to feast on country ham, redeye gravy, scrambled eggs, grits, hot biscuits and political speculation.

Republican candidates for governor

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he has chosen his running mate in next May’s Republican primary election for governor, but would not announce his choice until he officially declares his candidacy at a Sept. 9 news conference in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

Widespread speculation has focused on state Sen. Christian McDaniel of Kenton County.

Comer repeated his belief that a millionaire Republican from Jefferson County – a reference to Louisville businessman Hal Heiner – will not be the next governor of Kentucky.

He said he is “strong” in the state’s largest city, noting that state Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, is supporting him.

“After Sept. 9, you are going to see a steady stream of key endorsements from Republicans leaders in Jefferson County,” Comer said.

Heiner, who announced his candidacy in March, dismissed Comer’s prediction.

“What I am hearing is that the Democratic candidate (Attorney General Jack Conway) is from Jefferson County and that the Republican nominee had better be able to hold it close in Jefferson County,” said Heiner, a former Louisville mayoral candidate. “I know from my past involvement in Jefferson County, I’m the candidate who could do that.”

Heiner said he is traveling “full-time” across the state, visiting 60 counties in the last five months.

Heiner said he will be a governor who will create jobs, protect the state’s “best natural resource – coal,” and be as transparent as possible.

Conway, the only other announced candidate for governor, did not attend the breakfast. He was in Washington for a news conference with five other state attorneys general and U.S. Department of Justice officials to announce a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America Corp. to resolve federal and state claims about mortgage-backed securities.

2016 race for U.S. Senate

Two prominent Democrats have been mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

That’s when the seat now held by Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green is up for election. Paul is considering a possible run for the U.S. presidency in that year that could take him out of the U.S. Senate race.

State Auditor Adam Edelen of Lexington said before Thursday’s breakfast that “Rand Paul is in the business of running for two jobs at once. I’m not. I’m looking forward to being a candidate for state auditor (in 2015).”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, “I’m hearing a lot of people tell me that’s a good idea for me to do. But what I’m telling them is that I am awfully happy being mayor of Louisville and we have a lot of work left to do.”

For the health of it

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who arrived early at the breakfast, said he was prepared for all the political talk that accompanies one of the state’s premier political events.

“I had to take two Pepto-Bismol this morning so I wouldn’t get sick over breakfast hearing (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell and Jamie Comer brag about themselves about all the things they have done,” Stumbo said.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul plays word association game on political figures

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul mostly used short words and phrases in playing a word association game in a recent interview on Kentucky Educational Television but his answers said a lot.

Paul, being interviewed Sunday by Bill Goodman on KET’s “One to One” program, was asked what first came to his mind when he heard certain names.

Several of them turned out to be potential rivals in the 2016 race for president.

When asked about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Paul simply replied, “Bridges,” and chuckled.

That was a reference to the controversy in which former aides and appointees of Christie created a traffic jam on a bridge apparently for political retribution.

Paul also was ready to respond quickly with comments about former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (“Yesterday’s news”) and President Barack Obama (“Affable but often ineffectual”).

The interview has drawn national media attention, getting write-ups in publications such as The Washington Post and Business Insider.

How beautiful is Rand Paul?

RandPaulFelonVotingBy Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, known for his unwieldy curls, has been named the ninth most beautiful person on Capitol Hill by The Hill newspaper.

Paul, 51, told The Hill about his sense of fashion, which he described as “unconventional or uncoordinated.” He said his wife, Kelley, would describe it as “none at all.”

“Typically, I come out in things, (and) I’m made to re-dress on occasion at home,” said the Bowling Green Republican who is considering a run for president in 2016.

The congressional newspaper and website has annually compiled a 50 Most Beautiful list for 10 years. The highly-subjective list covers members and employees of Congress, the White House, executive branch employees and members of the political press.

The Hill accepts nominations from its “loyal fans” to come up with the list. The list puts the “Top Ten” in order, but does not rank numerically the bottom forty.

Paul said he tries to stay fit by doing various outdoor activities — usually doing laps in his Endless Pool (sort of like “swimming on a treadmill,” he says,) golfing, picking up sticks to make a bonfire with his kids or tending to his lawn at home.

“I have to have time to mow my grass on the weekends. You’ll see me mowing if you come in my neighborhood,” he told The Hill.

Paul acknowledged he does not always keep a good diet and said he can’t avoid a post-Capitol pretzel binge.

“The worst thing I probably do is I go home, eat some chips, or eat some snacks,” he said. “I’m not the best after work. If I would just avoid that, I’d probably be better off.”

Rand Paul will speak at Fancy Farm picnic

Rand Paul spoke Oct. 23, 2013, in Morehead. Kentucky's junior senator made 15 stops at restaurants and small rallies in the state during the week. Photo by John Flavell.By Sam Youngman

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul will be among the politicians speaking at the annual Fancy Farm picnic this year in far Western Kentucky.

Paul, who is considering a presidential run in 2016, will speak at the event for the fourth time. The picnic — attended by thousands seeking barbeque pork, bingo and old-fashioned political speaking — will be held on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church on Aug. 2.

“Sen. Paul is looking forward to being at Fancy Farm again and helping united Kentucky Republicans press for victory this fall,” said Dan Bayens, Paul’s spokesman.

Hillary Clinton says Rand Paul will be ‘fair game’

RandPaulFelonVotingBy Sam Youngman

Former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Monday night that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul can bring up the affair President Bill Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky, but she warned that Paul will also be scrutinized if he runs for the White House.

In an interview with ABC News anchor Dianne Sawyer, Clinton was asked about Paul’s remarks this year about the former president’s affair. Paul has leaned into criticisms of the former first couple, accusing Bill Clinton of “predatory behavior.”

Sawyer noted in her interview with Clinton that Paul “said it’s fair game to talk about Monica Lewisnky, said it’s fair game to talk about how bosses treat people.”

“You know, he can talk about whatever he wants to talk about,” Clinton said. “And if he decides to run, he’ll be fair game too for everybody.”

At least one top Democratic operative seemed eager to get in on that game.

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, tweeted Tuesday morning: “I’m even more excited for World Cup kickoff than I am thinking @SenRandPaul being the R ’16 nominee! Both are great!”

Political Paddock leftovers: McConnell and Bevin in the same room; Rand Paul talks marijuana

bevin_mcconnellBy Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer

Some leftover notes from Saturday’s Republican Lincoln Day dinner in Louisville

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went off-script Saturday night when he praised Matt Bevin, the senator’s rival for the Republican nomination just a few weeks ago.

“We don’t own these seats,” McConnell said. “We don’t own the nomination, and we don’t own the general election. And none of us are above having competition and having to fight to represent our party in the general election.”

To that end, McConnell recognized and asked Bevin to stand, telling the crowd that the Louisville businessman who garnered 35 percent of the GOP vote in the May 20 primary “made me a better candidate going into November.”

Bevin stood as the crowd applauded, but after the dinner, as he stood at the end of a small receiving line in the corner of the emptying ballroom, Bevin was not in the mood to talk about McConnell, or anything else, with the Herald-Leader.

A small but steady stream of people lined up to thank Bevin for running, offer condolences or words of encouragement. One man told Bevin that he was “sorry what happened happened, but…,” trailing off as he pointed to the “Team Mitch” sticker on his chest.

“You got battles to fight, brother,” Bevin replied.

When Bevin was asked if he also had that battle to fight, or whether he might endorse McConnell, Bevin turned his back after responding: “I’m at a place where I’m talking to people.”

Rand Paul talks marijuana

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, in his remarks at the dinner, continued his call for reforming federal sentencing guidelines for drug-related crimes. Given the meager smattering of applause that greeted Paul when he changed the subject to criminal justice reform, the senator might have felt compelled to explain that he is no fan of marijuana use.

“I’m not saying any of this is good,” Paul said. “In fact, I think Colorado might have gone too far. I really think that drugs, even marijuana, they’re not benign drugs. They’re bad for our kids. People who use it all the time are wasting their lives, they’re never going to get ahead. But kids make mistakes.”

McConnell predicts Republican midterm ‘wave’

After being introduced at the dinner by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as “the next majority leader of the United States Senate,” McConnell offered his usual cheery assessment of Republican hopes for taking back the upper chamber.

“We’re going to have a good election this year, we just don’t know how good yet,” McConnell said. “There’s going to be a wave. It may be a little wave, a medium-sized wave or a tsunami.”

The senator closed his remarks with what sounded like a new campaign refrain: “On Nov. 4, Kentucky will lead the Senate.”

Former U.S. Sen. Santorum to CNN: Rand Paul’s ‘not my leader’

By Sam Youngman

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said on CNN’s “Crossfire” Monday night that Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is “not my leader.”

Santorum, who was one of the last remaining Republican presidential candidates in the field in 2012 after a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses, was pressed by host and former Obama administration official Van Jones about whether Paul, a possible contender for the 2016 Republican nomination, is the leader of the party.

“Well, no, he’s not my leader,” Santorum said. “I can tell you that for sure. But his father and I had some disagreements during the last campaign.”

Jones pressed Santorum, saying “if a Libertarian like” Paul wins the nomination, would the former Pennsylvania senator vote for him.

“Well, I don’t think that will happen,” Santorum said. “Because the Republican Party is not a libertarian party. It is a conservative party. And it will nominate a conservative, not a libertarian.”

Political Paddock: Kentucky politicians made gorilla-sized gaffes at every turn this week

Sam YoungmanBy Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer

Did you have a good week? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably not a Kentucky politician.

Gorilla-size gaffes over jobs, cockfighting, “secret club” meetings and slavery have haunted the candidates running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, plus U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

Spring fever has given way to spring screw-ups, and as the Bible says, there is none righteous. But the prize for the most self-inflicted damage goes to Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin.

Bevin claimed in early April that he didn’t know he had attended a pro-cockfighting rally in Corbin on March 29, telling The News Journal in Corbin that he thought the event was a rally for states’ rights. “I was the first person to speak and then I left,” Bevin said at the time.

Problem is, WAVE-TV in Louisville had a reporter with an undercover camera at the rally.

When asked directly at the event whether he would vote to legalize cockfighting in Kentucky, Bevin responded:

“I support the people of Kentucky exercising their right, because it is our right to decide what it is that we want to do, and not the federal government’s,” Bevin told the crowd. “Criminalizing behavior, if it’s part of the heritage of this state, is in my opinion a bad idea. A bad idea. I will not support it.”

McConnell’s campaign quickly issued a news release titled “Matt Bevin caught lying to Kentuckians.”

“Matt Bevin’s cockfighting episode will go down in history as one of the most disqualifying moments in Kentucky political history,” McConnell press secretary Allison Moore said.

For McConnell, this week produced a gaffe that, although not as cartoonishly devastating as Bevin’s, could leave a wound that the senator carries with him to November.

Rand Paul named one of Time’s 100 most influential

RandPaulFelonVotingBy Sam Youngman

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has been listed among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for the second year in a row.

In a short profile written by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Paul was described as “the libertarian champion.”

“Any political party worth its salt is always on the lookout for converts,” wrote Kentucky’s senior senator. “But no one in either party today brings the level of missionary zeal to the task that Rand Paul does. From Berkeley, Calif., to Detroit, my Kentucky colleague has been cheerfully clearing a path for Republican ideals in the unlikeliest precincts.”

McConnell wrote that the “real secret” to Paul’s rise is his authenticity, which is “obvious to anyone who has seen him come out of a D.C. television studio in Ray-Bans and shorts, or hold the Senate floor for half a day to get answers from an imperious White House.”

“Spend five minutes with Rand and it’s clear he doesn’t care what you look like or where you’re from,” McConnell said. “He’s beating the bushes for anyone who prizes liberty, and he’s forcing people to rethink the Republican Party. He’s showing them we’re as serious about the Bill of Rights today as we were in 1860, when another Kentucky Republican built our party’s first great coalition. He’s having fun too. And that’s contagious.”

Among others included in the “leaders” part of the list were Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, profiled by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Secretary of State John Kerry, profiled by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and President Barack Obama, profiled by Time’s Joe Klein.