Grimes' ad attacks McConnell's wealth; Libertarian enters the race

by John Gregory | 08/18/14 2:07 PM

The panel on Comment on Kentucky had a full plate of campaign news to digest this weekend as a new U.S. Senate political ad hit the airwaves, and a new candidate entered that contest.

After running a series of television commercials featuring citizens posing questions, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes released a more traditional attack ad last week. The 30-second spot features a faceless narrator who claims incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell has become a multi-millionaire during his 30 years in Washington, while he also cast votes that hurt working-class citizens. The spot is critical of McConnell for opposing increases to the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits, and supporting tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas.

Joe Arnold of WHAS-TV in Louisville says the new ad continues Grimes' focus on pocketbook issues. He says the ad infers that McConnell has benefited financially at the expense of ordinary Kentuckians. While McConnell's income has increased during his five terms in Washington (he now earns about $193,000 a year as Senate Minority Leader), Arnold says the majority of McConnell's personal wealth came from the estate of his mother-in-law, who died in 2007.

A Family Affair
The McConnell camp remains critical of a recent Yahoo News story about his wife's participation on a non-profit board that supported anti-coal efforts. Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service says this won't be the last time family members come into the Senate campaign. Ellis says McConnell told a fellow reporter that Grimes should be careful about making family an issue given the ethics problems her father faced during his time in public office.

Jerry Lundergan has been a Democratic Party operative for decades. Ellis explains that during his time as a state representative in the 1980s, Lundergan was charged with a felony for using his influence to gain a state catering contract. An appeals court overturned the ruling, saying the charge should've been a misdemeanor. The case was never retried.

Ellis says he expects Republicans will use Lundergan against Grimes at some point during the campaign, which will force Democrats to respond with their own family-based attacks. "I think this could get very dirty, very quickly," Ellis laments.

A Libertarian Makes the Ballot
Last week a new challenger filed his paperwork to join McConnell and Grimes in the Senate race. David Patterson, a 42-year-old policeman from Harrodsburg, will run as a Libertarian candidate. He collected more than 9,000 signatures to secure his place on the ballot.

The Kentucky Gazette's Laura Cullen Glasscock contends that third party and write-in contenders rarely make a difference in state elections. She points to the 2010 U.S. Senate contest between Jack Conway and Rand Paul in which a write-in candidate netted 338 votes out of 1.4 million ballots cast.

But the most recent data from Public Policy Polling shows 7 percent of voters favor Patterson. Ronnie Ellis argues that since Grimes and McConnell remain in a virtual deadlock, support for Patterson could make a difference in the final outcome.

Watch highlights of the discussion about the U.S. Senate race.

Coal Issues Remain Dominant
Last Friday, Kentucky Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters explained the Obama Administration's proposed new greenhouse gas regulations to a state subcommittee comprised largely of lawmakers from coal-producing counties. Ellis covered the meeting and says Peters remained diplomatic despite tough questions from legislators. The secretary refused to criticize climate science and he supported public surveys that list climate change as a serious issue.

Ellis notes that the new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines were especially lenient in the standards proposed for Kentucky. He contends the agency recognizes the state's dependence on coal.

Laura Glasscock says the issue is bigger than just the shrinking number of miners. She argues that Kentucky's growing manufacturing base depends on low-cost electricity generated by burning coal.

"Yes, there's 7,000 coal jobs that have been lost in the mines in eastern Kentucky, but the guys making brake pads in Lebanon could be affected by this stuff, too, so it does have broader tentacles," Glasscock says.

The Governor's Race
Joe Arnold says one of the most intriguing aspects of the new Public Policy Polling numbers for the 2015 gubernatorial contest is how well Matt Bevin performs. In that poll the Louisville businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate leads the announced Republican challengers, Hal Heiner and state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

Arnold also reports that some Democratic business leaders in Louisville may push Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen to reconsider his decision not to run for governor. He says they have private polling that indicates education could be a winning issue for Democrats, and that Edelen would be the best candidate to run on that platform.

Watch the full Comment on Kentucky program for more on these topics, as well as discussion about state revenue projections and Sen. Rand Paul's comments about overly militarized police.

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