KET Legislative Coverage

New Ads, New Tactics in Senate Race, But What's the Truth?

by John Gregory | 07/28/14 11:54 AM

With just days before the annual Fancy Farm political picnic, the U.S. Senate race continues to gain momentum as the candidates unleash a new round of television ads.

This time, the commercials focus on jobs. The opening salvo from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says the state's senator should bring jobs to the commonwealth. Sen. Mitch McConnell's response focused on his efforts to save jobs in Louisville from illegal foreign subsidies.

The panel on this weekend’s Comment on Kentucky discussed the impact of those ads, and how the candidates are trying to out-maneuver each other. Guests are Joe Arnold of WHAS-TV in Louisville, Gregory Hall of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and Theo Keith of WAVE-TV in Louisville; moderator is Bill Bryant of WKYT-TV in Lexington.

As for Fancy Farm, Keith says he expects Grimes to hurl barb after barb at McConnell during her speech. Arnold agrees, saying the Democrat will also say her campaign is a grassroots effort by and about Kentuckians, while McConnell is about Washington dysfunction.

Immigrant Children and Military Bases
Kentucky's junior senator made news during his speech to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce business summit in Louisville on July 21. Sen. Rand Paul told the gathering that some of the Central American children who had recently entered the country illegally would be detained at Fort Knox. But when questioned later by reporters, Paul said he had heard that rumor and couldn’t confirm it.

Joe Arnold explains that the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services do have the Kentucky base on a short list of sites to temporarily house the children - but there are no plans to do that at the moment. Arnold says 237 immigrant children are in the commonwealth now. Families and social service organizations are fostering those youth until they can be returned to their home countries.

Meanwhile, the state is fighting to keep federal jobs at Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission is slated to further reduce the military's footprint by 2020. Fort Knox has already lost some 3,000 jobs in earlier reductions, and Arnold says state officials fear another 4,000 positions could be lost there and countless more at Fort Campbell. Gov. Steve Beshear will petition the Secretary of the Army to prevent any additional cuts in Kentucky.

Race Tracks And Gambling
Gregory Hall reports that Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc. has been quietly building an online gaming platform, using 30 highly paid workers hired with state tax incentives. While the company had secured the incentive package, it had not disclosed it was actively constructing the platform. Hall explains that news came to light only when Churchill sued one of its partners in the project. Internet gaming is legal in only three states, so although Churchill's site would be based here, Kentuckians would not be allowed to use it.

Meanwhile, Keeneland officials have placed their plans for an instant racing parlor on indefinite hold. The parlor would have featured slot-type gaming machines that allow visitors to bet on historic horse races. Hall says the Lexington track wants to instead focus its resources on hosting the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.

There is some dispute whether instant racing games are legal in Kentucky. The legislature has debated gambling issues for two decades. While House Speaker Greg Stumbo says expanded gaming could be enacted without an amendment to the state constitution, Hall contends that legislators generally prefer putting the issue up for a public vote. He says a constitutional amendment would preclude any legal challenges to expanded gambling, and would give legislators political cover. They could say, "The people voted for it, not me," Hall explains.

Watch the full Comment on Kentucky program to see more on these issues, and to hear discussions about a testy meeting between state legislators and White House officials over coal, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's campaign comfort level, and the return of cattle rustling to the commonwealth.

–The opinions expressed on Comment on Kentucky and in this program synopsis are the responsibility of the participants and do not necessarily reflect those of KET.