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Memorial service set for Larry Van Hoose, aide to GOP leaders

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

A memorial service in Lexington has been scheduled for Larry Van Hoose, a gubernatorial press secretary, aide to congressmen and director of the state Republican Party who died last month in Cape Coral, Fla. He was 76.

The service will be Nov. 1 at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home at 3421 Harrodsburg Road.

Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m. and a memorial program will start at 10:30 a.m.

Van Hoose, after working as a stringer for Sports Illustrated, was press secretary and aide for Republican Louie B. Nunn, who was governor from 1967 to 1971.

After working in the Nunn administration, Van Hoose was executive director of the Kentucky Republican Party before becoming chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Larry Hopkins of Lexington. He later worked for other Republican congressmen, including Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, Martin Hoke of Ohio and J.D. Hayworth of Arizona.

Van Hoose was preceded in death by his wife Martelle. He is survived by two sons, Todd and Howard, and two grandchildren.

Republican Hal Heiner gave $4 million to his campaign for governor

Hal Heiner, a former Louisville Metro councilman, announced Tuesday that he has entered the race for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor. Heiner announced his candidacy at Star Manufacturing in Lexington. PHOTO BY PABLO ALCALA | STAFF By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republican Hal Heiner gave $4 million of his own money to his campaign for governor during the second fundraising quarter of the year, Heiner’s campaign said Monday.

Heiner, a wealthy businessman and former Louisville Metro councilman, reported to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance that he had more than $3.9 million in cash on hand at the end of June after having amassed a total of more than $4.3 million since getting in the race in early March.

“It is going to take a political outsider to bring much needed changes to Frankfort, and Hal’s success in job attraction and growing a business makes him ideal for the job of governor,” campaign manager Joe Burgan said. “It is obvious that Hal is deeply committed to public service, and believes that the future of Kentucky is worth investing in.”

Heiner gave his campaign $200,000 during the first three months of the year and raised about $86,000.

While Heiner is the only announced Republican candidate for governor, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told the Herald-Leader last week that he will announce his intentions in late July or early August, with an official announcement likely in mid-September.

Comer said Monday he was not surprised by the massive cash injection Heiner made to his campaign.

“I believe with all my heart that you cannot buy a race for governor,” Comer told the Herald-Leader. “You need grassroots support, and I do not see that support for Hal Heiner as I travel around the state.”

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.”

National Republican legislative committee aims to help flip control of Kentucky House

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A national campaign committee will help Kentucky Republicans this year in their effort to take control of the state House for the first time in almost a century.

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee has spent more than $1 million on legislative races in Kentucky since 2008, and according to a memo provided to the Herald-Leader, the committee plans to play big in the Bluegrass State again this year.

“We believe we’ve got a great shot in Kentucky,” said Justin Richards, political director for the RLCC. “We’ve already invested $1 million in legislative races since 2008 and expect the dwindling Democrat majority and our better candidates to put us in a position to invest a record amount of resources to ensure Republicans capture control.”

The RLCC spent more than $400,000 in Kentucky during the 2010 election cycle and more than $355,000 in 2012. The group spent more than $200,000 in Kentucky last year. The group spent more than $200,000 in Kentucky last year and expects to top its previous spending records this year.

“In the Bluegrass State, Republicans have the momentum, plan and money to win the majority,” according to the memo.

Democrats now hold a 54-46 majority in the House, where they have maintained control since 1921. The RLCC said it has identified nine seats Republicans can win in November.

Daniel Logsdon, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said Thursday that he’s confident Democratic House candidates will have plenty of money to compete this fall and that voters will reject the “radical, obstructionist, Washington D.C.-style politics that House Republicans want to bring to Frankfort.”

“Kentuckians do not want to see a war on education, on working families, on voting rights, and on women that has happened in other states where Republicans control the state legislature,” Logsdon said in a statement. “Kentuckians want their legislators from both parties to come together to work with Gov. Beshear to move the state forward.”

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

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

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.”

Republican fundraising group announces ‘Contract with Kentucky’

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

In a dining room at the Triple Crown Country Club in Union, a group of Northern Kentucky Republicans gathered in late February to announce they were revving up a dormant Super PAC with the goal of flipping the state House to GOP control.

After speaking, Richard Knock, a prolific Republican fundraiser and chairman of AmeriGOP, opened the meeting up for a discussion, leading one audience member to suggest that Republicans create a written philosophy for the 2014 elections similar to the “Contract with America” that congressional Republicans rode to control of the U.S. House in 1994.

On Thursday, Knock’s group announced its “Contract with Kentucky,” a list of 10 economic beliefs that candidates must share to win the financial backing of the group.

Noting recent job loss announcements at Toyota in Erlanger and Fruit of the Loom in Jamestown, Knock said that “the loss of more than a thousand Kentucky jobs calls for bold action.”

“We want people to know that the AmeriGOP is raising money to send men and women to Frankfort who will support reforms that ensure we don’t lose one more company to states like Texas that are charging forward with conservative policies,” Knock said.

According to a news release first obtained by the Herald-Leader, the group’s 10 guiding principals are “job-friendly policies; opposition to over-regulation of energy and natural resources, particularly the coal industry; health care liability reform; opposition to redistribution of tax dollars; telecommunications reform; debt reduction; eliminating job-killing regulations; pension transparency; amending the tax structure; and pushing back against government takeover of our health care system.”

“If current leadership in the Kentucky House of Representatives won’t move Kentucky forward, then we will move forward with candidates who will put Kentucky’s interests first,” Knock said. “Like most business owners in Kentucky, I am so tired of watching my state get left in the dust while our surrounding states pass this legislation.”

Democrats hold a 54-46 majority in the House.

At the February announcement, Knock said the group would not get involved in primaries, releasing a list of candidates the Super PAC planned to raise money for that includes Keith Travis in the 6th District, Alan Braden in the 13th, Alex LaRue in the 24th, Jim DuPlessis in the 25th, Jerry Miller in the 36th, Jonah Mitchell in the 39th, Mike Nemes in the 49th, James Allen Tipton in the 53rd, Mark Hart in the 78th, and George Myers in Lexington’s 79th District, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom.

Knock’s group helped elect U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in 2010 and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie in 2012.

Kentucky GOP seeks pledge from McConnell and Bevin to support party’s nominee

bevin_mcconnellBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

The Republican Party of Kentucky has begun the tricky task of trying to unify its party nearly three weeks before GOP primary voters choose between U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Louisville challenger Matt Bevin.

The state party is asking the candidates to sign a letter pledging their support for the Republican nominee. McConnell and Bevin were notified Tuesday that the letter, addressed to “fellow Republicans,” will be mailed to the candidates Wednesday morning in hopes that they will sign it before the May 20 election.

“We stand united to help ensure GOP unity for the general election next November,” the pledge reads. “We pledge our full endorsement and support to the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate immediately following the declaration of a winner in the primary election on the night of May 20, 2014.”

McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in an email Tuesday that “from day one, Sen. McConnell has committed to supporting the winner of the primary election. ”

“The stakes of this election are too high to give President Obama another vote in the U.S. Senate with Alison Lundergan Grimes,” Moore said.

A spokesperson for Bevin had no immediate comment.

Mitch McConnell raises $2.4 million, Matt Bevin raises $1.1 million in first quarter of 2014

Matt Bevin, left, is challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell in the battle to be the GOP's nominee in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had his best fundraising quarter of this election cycle, pulling in $2.4 million in the first fundraising quarter of 2014.

But McConnell is also spending heavily. His campaign will report $10.4 million in cash on hand, which is down more than $500,000 from the cash position McConnell started the year with.

The McConnell campaign stressed that the spending is not in response to a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, noting that the majority of expenditures are for the fall campaign.

An ad McConnell’s campaign ran earlier this year featuring Paducah cancer survivor Robert Pierce ran statewide at a cost of more than $840,000.

“Team Mitch has invested early in ground-game infrastructure that will help deliver unprecedented voter contact in Kentucky,” the campaign said in a statement to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Additionally, last quarter, Team Mitch made their first major television expenditure with an ad that media guru Frank Luntz recently called the best of the cycle.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner gives his campaign $200,000

Hal Heiner, a former Louisville Metro councilman, announced Tuesday that he has entered the race for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor. Heiner announced his candidacy at Star Manufacturing in Lexington. PHOTO BY PABLO ALCALA | STAFF

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former Louisville Metro councilman Hal Heiner, the only announced candidate in the 2015 governor’s race, gave his campaign $200,000 of his own money in the first fundraising quarter of 2014.

After officially announcing his run at the beginning of March with Lexingtonian KC Crosbie as his running mate, Heiner raised just more than $86,000 in the first fundraising quarter.

After giving his campaign $200,000, Heiner started the second quarter with a little more than $191,000 in cash on hand.

“Hal and KC are thrilled with the level of support the campaign has received in the first few weeks since announcing their intentions,” campaign manager Joe Burgan said in a statement. “In that time, the candidates have traveled all across Kentucky beginning the process of building a statewide network of support.”

Burgan said the campaign is in a “strong financial position” and will have the funds needed “to communicate their positive message for Kentucky’s future.”

A Republican poll released just before Heiner got in the race suggested Heiner, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Louisville in 2010, has his work cut out for him.

The poll, conducted Feb. 26 and 27 by Robert Blizzard at Public Opinion Strategies, found Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is considering a bid for governor, leading Heiner 42 percent to 14 percent among 400 Republican primary voters. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Bevin to highlight McConnell’s UK-Duke mix-up in ad during Kentucky-Louisville game

bevin-screengrabBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

With most of the eyeballs in the Bluegrass State glued to their televisions Friday night for the match-up between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals, Mitch McConnell’s allies and enemies are looking to leave voters with a different kind of March Madness memory.

Matt Bevin, the Louisville businessman struggling to gain traction in his bid to oust McConnell in the May 20 Republican primary, is determined to make McConnell’s Duke debacle earlier this week something that sticks with the Senate minority leader well beyond the NCAA basketball tournament.

Bevin is running a basketball-themed spot in Louisville and Lexington poking fun at the embarrassment that befell the McConnell campaign when it released a web video that included brief footage of a team in blue and white celebrating a national championship. The problem, as reported across the nation, was that those players were Duke University Blue Devils, a reviled team in the commonwealth.

After compounding the misstep by replacing the footage with an image of Kentucky standout Julius Randle — that move prompted a cease-and-decist letter from the University of Kentucky — the McConnell campaign pulled the ad.

“March Madness in Kentucky. Commitment. Courage. You gotta love it,” Bevin says before turning to a cutout of McConnell wearing a Duke jersey. “Even if your team is already out of the tournament.”

The cutout is wearing Number 32, which Christian Laettner wore for Duke when he spat on the hopes and dreams of Kentucky fans with his last second shot against the Wildcats in the 1992 NCAA tournament.

The Bevin campaign’s response is similar to that of likely Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, both of whom argue that the video fiasco proves McConnell is “out of touch.”

In response, the McConnell camp pointed to troubles that have allowed the campaign to question Bevin’s credibility, like the inaccurate suggestion by Bevin on a social media page that he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or his varied explanations for signing a letter in 2008 that praised the Troubled Assets Relief Program, more commonly known as a bank bailout.

“Given Bailout Bevin’s undying commitment to a fictional account of himself and Sen. McConnell, we actually expected this ad to be about the time he won a national championship back in the 80s as a point guard for the MIT Engineers,” Allison Moore, McConnell’s spokeswoman, said. “Matt Bailout Bevin is not who he says he is, and he’s certainly not a Kentucky conservative.”

Meanwhile, two groups supportive of McConnell are planning to run ads during the game in the Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green and Paducah markets.

The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, is running an issues ad that boasts of McConnell’s efforts to help troops and veterans. The ad is part of a $1.8 million ad campaign the Herald-Leader first reported last week.

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a pro-McConnell super PAC, is running an ad attacking Grimes’ credibility and painting her as an ally of President Barack Obama.

The ad, “Burned,” features Obama saying “if you like your private insurance plan, you can keep your plan,” before shifting to clips of a burning house that were used in a web ad by Grimes last October called “Fire.”

Grimes’s ad featured a burning house and cast blame on McConnell for last fall’s 16-day federal government shutdown. It mocked the senator’s efforts to win credit for helping to end the Washington stand-off.

“Mitch McConnell can’t light the house on fire, then claim credit for putting it out, especially while it’s still burning,” the Grimes’ video said.

The “Fire” ad was widely praised by pundits and Grimes allies, but fact-checkers said it was either inaccurate or misleading. The Washington Post’s fact-checking column, called The Fact Checker, gave it three out of four “Pinnochios.”

The latest pro-McConnell ad points to The Fact Checker’s ruling, using its arguments to poke holes in Grimes’s credibility.

“When liberals don’t tell the truth, Kentucky gets burned,” the ad says.