By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in this fall’s elections, went after the five-term incumbent in a speech here to a convention of local county officials.
Grimes said Kentucky is “feeling the pain of a Washington, D.C. that just doesn’t feel the pain of Kentucky,” adding that after 30 years Kentucky has “a senior senator who is out of touch.”
McConnell will get his chance to respond Friday when he speaks to the same group of county officials at the annual Kentucky County Judge/Executives and Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners convention.
Grimes was hoping they’d both appear Thursday.
Grimes last week wanted to be on the same stage with McConnell at Campbellsville’s Fourth of July parade only to be disappointed when McConnell, citing a scheduling conflict, skipped the speaking event before participating in the parade. She used the same line Thursday in Louisville she used last week in Campbellsville.
“Many of you were hoping for some fireworks here today — I among them — but, like at Taylor County, Mitch McConnell can’t find his way back here to be on the stage with me,” Grimes said.
Vince Lang, the KCJEA director, said he tried to schedule both candidates on the same day but was unable to do so. Grimes, he said, could only come Thursday and McConnell only on Friday.
State officials typically address the gathering of county officials, but they usually concentrate on accomplishments of their state offices and the concerns of local officials with maybe a few nods to the political scene.
Grimes spent a few minutes on what she’s done in her first term as Secretary of State but then quickly turned to the Senate campaign and the economic issues on which she’d like to fight the battle. McConnell wants the race to be about Barack Obama, the president who is widely unpopular in Kentucky, and about coal, and has kept Grimes on the defensive on those issues for the first part of the general election campaign.
Grimes gave her usual disclaimer, telling county officials she will work with anyone of either party to advance the interests of Kentucky and will oppose anyone of either party on policies which hurt Kentucky. But then she turned to economic themes.
Grimes compared her positions on several working class economic issues — relieving student loan debt; increasing the minimum wage; and job development — with McConnell’s opposition of such measures.
And she hit the other theme some of her supporters wish her to talk about — McConnell’s 30 years in Washington, saying McConnell is only concerned about keeping his own job.
McConnell turns that issue the other way, telling prospective voters they would be foolish to trade the leader of his party for a freshman, back bencher. On top of that, McConnell hopes his party can win majority control of the Senate and he’ll become the Majority Leader with control over the flow and schedule of major legislation.
Kentucky remains Democratic in registration even if it votes mostly Republican in federal elections and a majority of the county officials here are Democrats, so it was a mostly welcome audience for Grimes.
But Hardin County Republican Judge-Executive Harry Berry said McConnell will win his part of the state and he expects him to win re-election.
Greenup County Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter, a Democrat, says Grimes is doing well in his northeastern part of the state and he thinks she’s gaining momentum. But he said Grimes has to talk more about the economic issues she highlighted in her remarks here Thursday.
“It’s not just about coal,” Carpenter said. “We’ve got other issues we’re facing in Kentucky and she nailed them today. She needs to stick to those and stick to her guns.”
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.