The Richmond Register

Local News

July 12, 2014

McConnell warmly received at county officials convention

LOUISVILLE — Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell told county officials from across Kentucky on Friday that electing his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, would mean “a dramatic reduction in influence in the Senate” for Kentucky.

McConnell told a convention of Kentucky judge/executives, magistrates and commissioners that if they don’t like the current direction of the country they can start this fall by changing control of the U.S. Senate.

The five-term incumbent is the minority leader of the Senate and dreams of switching jobs with Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., if Republicans can capture the majority in this fall’s elections. The GOP needs a net gain of six seats but enjoys a generally favorable political climate with plunging popularity of Democratic President Barack Obama.

But capturing those six seats would become far more difficult if McConnell were to be defeated. Most polling shows the race close between him and the young, first-term Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State.

So McConnell made his pitch here Friday – one day after Grimes spoke to the same group. Both made overtly political speeches – but McConnell seemed more warmly received, despite the fact that a majority of the officials are registered Democrats.

McConnell knows his audience. He said he realizes that many of the officials “are registered in the same party as the president – you don’t talk about it much anymore, but I know you are.”

But he also knows many of them don’t like Obama or Reid, even if some who do like Grimes.

So McConnell tried to make the case that electing Grimes strengthens Obama while diminishing Kentucky’s influence.

He reminded the crowd that every senator has a vote but “one job is more important:” that of Majority Leader who controls the flow of legislation.

Even his current job as minority leader, McConnell said, is better for Kentucky than that of a freshman senator (though he didn’t mention that Kentucky’s other senator is freshman Rand Paul who is considered a potential presidential candidate).

“My opponent,” McConnell said, “is a new face for the status quo – for no change at all” and will support the policies of Obama and Reid.

Grimes told the same audience on Thursday that she is “not a rubber stamp, not a cheerleader” and will cast votes based on what is best for Kentucky.

McConnell never mentioned “my opponent” by name, and in fact, said very little about Grimes. He talked about Obama wanting “to Europeanize” the country with “big deficits, big spending and higher taxes.

(Actually, federal deficits have fallen over the course of Obama’s administration and McConnell himself sometimes brags that federal spending decreased two consecutive years after passage of federal sequestration.)

He said Obama has “been bad for the country and very bad for Kentucky,” accusing Obama, as he always does, of waging “a war on coal.”

He didn’t quite brush off the science that indicates the atmosphere is warming because of carbon emissions, but he said the problem can’t be solved by the U.S. alone. And he made sure to remind the group that Reid once said “coal makes you sick” and that Kentucky gets 90 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants.

McConnell also criticized Grimes, “my opponent,” for deflecting questions from reporters about the recent surge across the southern U.S. border of Central American children fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

He said the solution is simple: “secure the borders; treat the children humanely; and return them immediately.” McConnell said that would end the problem, and his comments on immigration produced applause from the audience.

He provided examples of his influence in the Senate after five terms and nearly 30 years, trying to turn to advantage a criticism leveled by Grimes – that he’s been in Washington too long and is out of touch with Kentucky.

He reminded the local officials that his position as Minority Leader allowed him to appoint conferees on the federal farm bill who agreed to insert a provision allowing Kentucky to experiment with pilot crops of hemp. And he said his influence allowed him to dissuade the U.S. Corps of Engineers from holding down water levels on Lake Cumberland after discovery of an endangered fish species there.

Then the five-term incumbent who might be considered vulnerable to calls for a change, ended his 25-minute speech saying he believes it’s “time to change America” which drew warm applause from the crowd, many of whom stood as they clapped.

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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