The Richmond Register

Local News

January 23, 2014

Senate candidates heating up ad campaigns

FRANKFORT — Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign went up with a new television ad on Wednesday touting his clout and ability to help folks back home.

Within 24 hours, his Republican primary challenger, Matt Bevin, began airing two radio ads attacking McConnell’s long tenure in Washington, and presumptive Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes put up a web video that portrays McConnell as out of touch with folks back home.

Allison Moore, McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman, described the new ad, called “Cares,” as a “major television buy.” Unlike previous negative ads, this one is positive and features Robert Pierce, a former worker at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah who suffered from throat cancer after exposure to radiation at the plant.

Pierce, speaking in a raspy whisper, tells viewers McConnell stepped in and “helped create cancer screenings” and secured compensation for workers at the uranium enrichment plant. While Pierce said he can now speak only with a whisper, McConnell is “a strong voice” in Washington for Kentucky.

“Mitch McConnell gives a voice to Kentucky’s working families,” Pierce says. “I know he cares.”

The message also seems to respond to criticisms from Grimes and Bevin that McConnell is out of touch and cares little about what happens back home while he is in Washington. At the same time, it reinforces one of McConnell’s campaign themes, that his influence in Washington helps Kentucky and would be lost if McConnell isn’t re-elected.

Grimes often highlights votes McConnell cast against raising the minimum wage and pay equity for women and accuses McConnell of being at the center of Washington gridlock.

The “Cares” ad tries to soften those edges by showing a powerful senator who “knocked down walls” to help someone back home.

Both of his challengers responded with messages of their own Thursday.

Grimes introduced a 60-second web video featuring David Kennedy from Cumberland in Harlan County. Several times, Kennedy mentions how long McConnell has been in Washington, and he takes on McConnell’s claim of influence and clout.

Kennedy says he knows McConnell is powerful and could help, but he doesn’t know why he hasn’t. He talks about a McConnell visit to the county 30 years ago with promises to improve roads and the economy.

“Well David Kennedy is still driving those same roads and you can’t show me a job Mitch McConnell created,” Kennedy said. He goes on to say McConnell visited again five or six years ago. “He talked for a few minutes; he got in his bus and he drove away, and we haven’t seen him since.”

Kennedy says Grimes has a jobs plan and will support coal jobs. McConnell has said Grimes is too close to enemies of coal like Sen. Harry Reid, who once said “coal makes us sick,” and President Barack Obama.

Bevin released two radio ads Thursday. The first — called “Change” — says “a lot has changed” in the 30 years McConnell has been in Washington “including Mitch McConnell. He’s lost touch with Kentucky,” and says McConnell voted to fund Obamacare.

The ad is referring to larger spending legislation to keep the government running. But even had the government shut down, implementation of most aspects of the Affordable Care Act would have continued anyway — just like Social Security. Only a small portion of its costs were contained in the larger spending measure.

In the ad, Bevin says, “I will always put Kentucky’s conservative values first, and the constitution will always guide my votes.”

He later promises he will “never vote to fund Obamacare.” (McConnell consistently tells audiences Republicans will repeal Obamacare “root and branch” if they gain control of the Senate.)

The second ad, “Future,” contrasts McConnell’s statements that the Republican primary poses a front in the fight over the future of the Republican Party but Bevin says it’s really about the soul of the country. He goes on to say the race is really “about the future of Kentucky, and it is about the future of the United States of America.”

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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