public affairs

Governor’s Race Moves to Center Stage

By John Gregory | 12/01/14 7:06 PM

Between visiting with family, shopping, and watching football, the long holiday weekend also offers an opportunity for reflection.

So the panel on the Black Friday edition of Comment on Kentucky decided to reflect on the big election contest of this year, and look ahead to what may make political news in 2015.

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The dust has finally settled on the U.S. Senate contest between Sen. Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service says the seeds for McConnell’s victory were sown during the primary season. In addition to building a strong get-out-the-vote operation, Ellis says McConnell established the two arguments he would use throughout his campaign: It’s a chance for Kentuckians to vote against an unpopular president and to make one of their own the leader of the Senate,

Early Mistakes Costly for the Challenger
Ellis says early decisions by Grimes ultimately cost her the race. He points to Grimes’ failure to hire a campaign manager experienced at running a high-profile federal contest. Ellis says a second mistake was how Grimes focused on fundraising rather than defining herself with voters during the primary.

Amanda Van Benschoten of The Kentucky Enquirer agrees, saying Grimes never gave voters a reason to elect her other than the fact that she wasn’t Sen. McConnell. She says Grimes lost crucial votes among her Democratic base when she failed to adequately address her support of President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

At 35 years old, Grimes still has a future in politics, according to Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader. He says Grimes could enter the Kentucky governor’s race or run for re-election as secretary of state in 2015. Or she could look to 2016 and a run against 6th District Congressman Andy Barr or Sen. Rand Paul.

The Governor’s Race Moves to Center Stage
The three journalists concur that several issues prominent in the Senate race will resurface in the governor’s race. Ellis says coal will remain a point of contention as policies for new federal limits on greenhouse gases take shape.

Brammer thinks the debate over the Affordable Care Act will continue. He says he’s curious to see how strongly Republican candidates Hal Heiner and James Comer attack Kynect, the state health insurance exchange.

Ellis says the state’s required contribution to expanded Medicaid coverage will be part of the Kynect debate. States will have to pay 10 percent of Medicaid expenses by 2020. Ellis contends Kentucky’s portion will likely be lower than current estimates of $90 million. Even if it is that high, Ellis says that’s a fraction of the total state budget.

Deja vu in the General Assembly
Finally the panel listed a number of measures that failed in the last legislative session that lawmakers will likely revisit in the abbreviated 2015 session.

  • A bill to allow a candidate to simultaneously campaign for two federal offices. The measure is designed to enable Sen. Rand Paul to run for re-election and for president in 2016. Ellis says the measure stands no chance in the Democratically controlled state House, so Republicans are considering alternative measures to assist Paul.
  • Legislation to address the heroin epidemic in the commonwealth. Van Benschoten says Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is also a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, will introduce that legislation.
  • Van Benschoten says a bill to allow public-private partnerships for large projects will return. That legislation stalled in the last session over a debate about using tolls to help pay for a new, northern Kentucky bridge.
  • And the so-called AT&T bill to lift requirements for phone companies to provide land line services. This will be the third attempt for this legislation and Ellis says it still faces significant opposition from some rural lawmakers.

-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.