By Sam Youngman
LOUISVILLE — Hal Heiner and his wife Sheila call their stately home and the 170 acres surrounding it Dovelyn, a reference to its large dove population and the peace he says those birds bring them.
Heiner’s peaceful days are probably about to end.
With about a year and half to go until the primary elections for Kentucky governor in May 2015, Heiner is nearing an announcement that he will run, looking to make it official early in the new year.
“I’m a firm believer in marathon campaigns where people get to know the actual candidates and don’t have to rely on a 30-second TV spot produced by some group out of Washington, DC to decide who to vote for,” said Heiner, a Republican.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader on a wooded bluff just a short ATV trek from his house, Heiner said it will take “most of 2014 and 2015″ for Kentuckians to get to know him.
A multimillionaire and former Louisville metro councilman, Heiner said he plans to spend some of his own money at the beginning of his campaign to offset his lack of name identification outside of Louisville and Kentucky’s “strict” campaign finance laws.
Heiner, a soft-spoken man clad in jeans, a flannel shirt and barn coat, said he thinks early jockeying for the Republican nomination will die down over the next year. That behind-the-scenes maneuvering exploded into public view after likely gubernatorial candidate James Comer, the state’s agriculture commissioner, declared his independence from GOP “party bosses” during an October speech.
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.
By Sam Youngman
The three candidates hoping to replace Kathy Stein in the state’s 13th Senate District kept their elbows in Sunday, sticking to the issues instead of attacks that have framed the race in recent days.
Democrat Reggie Thomas and independent Richard Moloney, a former Democrat, varied little on the issues put before them at Operation Turnout’s candidate forum at Greater Liberty Baptist Church. Only Republican Michael Johnson, a former Democrat, broke sharply from the field, especially on charter schools and “stand your ground” laws.
Thomas and Moloney have been trading barbs in the days leading up to the Dec. 10 special election to replace Stein, who was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to a Fayette Circuit Court judgeship in October.
The most recent exchange came after Thomas’ camp accused Moloney, a Democrat until about six weeks ago, of being a Republican, a potentially dangerous label in a district that leans left.
Moloney contended Thomas’ campaign made the accusation in a mailer while neglecting to note the 34 years Moloney said he was a Democrat, or that Moloney served as Beshear’s housing, buildings and construction commissioner for three years.
On Sunday, moderator Patrice Muhammad sought clarity on the matter as she noted that all three men have been Democrats and asked them to “please explain your current party affiliation or non-affiliation and which party you intend to caucus with if elected.”
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.”
By Sam Youngman
Herald-Leader Political Writer
It was one of those full-body laughs where the person rears their head back.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul had just stood next to Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in Louisville and praised Comer for returning $1.65 million to taxpayers when the Lexington Herald-Leader asked the senator what lessons he had learned from weeks of media scrutiny and criticism over multiple accounts of plagiarism.
“Not everybody likes me,” Paul said, cracking up.
He was in a great mood, back on friendly soil with one of his top allies in the state.
Looking ahead to 2015, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Paul and Comer will unite to make a powerful duo as one man runs for the White House and the other vies to move into the governor’s mansion in Frankfort.
The two men, both underestimated by their opponents at almost every turn, have each others’ backs. While both are at least a year away from making any formal announcements, they are making moves behind the scenes that will make them more powerful when they do.
Plans are underway to base Paul’s presidential run in Louisville, where on Friday night Republicans from all over the state gathered for a Paul fundraiser. Comer introduced the senator, and Jesse Benton, a longtime Paul operative and campaign manager to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced to the crowd that both McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, were maxing out donations to Paul, including a check from McConnell’s PAC.
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.
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.”
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 Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Louisville businessman Phil Moffett, who lost the 2011 Republican nomination for governor, is running for the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Moffett said Monday in a news release that he will run for the 32nd House District in Jefferson County next year. That seat has been occupied since 2011 by Republican Julie Raque Adams, who said she is running for the state Senate’s 36th District seat. It will be open with the retirement of Republican Sen. Julie Denton.
Moffett had been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2015 but he said Monday he will not enter that contest.
“I am interested in the state legislature, so that’s where I am placing my attention,” he said, adding that he will file for the state House seat on Wednesday.
Moffett will face former Jefferson County Republican Party Chair Shellie May in next spring’s GOP primary election. May announced last month that she would run for the seat.
State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said Monday that Ashley Miller of Louisville may seek the Democratic nomination for the 32nd House District.
Moffett ran for governor in 2011, coming within 10 percentage points in the GOP primary to then-state Senate President David Williams even though he was outspent 10-to-1. He had the support of several Tea Party groups.
By Sam Youngman — firstname.lastname@example.org
At first, the sound of Mitch McConnell attacking Matt Bevin last week hit the ears like the start of a train wreck with the potential to consume the Senate Minority Leader.
Turns out, it was a battle cry.
McConnell caused widespread whiplash last week when he unleashed a blistering attack on Bevin, his Republican primary challenger, just days after the Kentucky senator had signaled he was looking past Bevin to likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Instead, several allies of McConnell and other Senate Republicans say the senator is now planning a two-front war: one against Grimes and the other against the fundraising groups that are supporting Bevin. McConnell’s real targets are the Senate Conservatives Fund, which announced its endorsement of Bevin on Oct. 18, Heritage Action for America, Madison Project, FreedomWorks and other outside groups.
If McConnell can crush Bevin, the thinking goes, he can expose a lack of ideological consistency in the outside groups, allowing him to separate Tea Party voters from Tea Party fundraising groups.
“Leader McConnell will beat his opponent because he is more in line with Kentucky Republicans and in doing so will send a message to the groups that purity for profit is a losing strategy,” said Billy Piper, a longtime McConnell ally.