By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service
It’s on for the first Saturday in August: Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and the woman who wants to unseat him, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, will both speak on the same state at Fancy Farm in far western Kentucky.
McConnell, the five-term incumbent and minority leader of the U.S. Senate, was the first to confirm Tuesday he’ll attend Fancy Farm, and in doing so, poked some fun at Grimes.
Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, said, “We invite Secretary Grimes to join us so we can hear her views on Obamacare, the War on Coal, the Second Amendment and all the other critical issues facing Kentucky.”
McConnell’s campaign and the Republican Party of Kentucky have been regularly sending out press releases asking where Grimes has been since she announced last week she’ll run for the Senate.
Grimes campaign spokesman Jonathan Hurst said Grimes will also attend and speak at Fancy Farm, the unique political gathering in the small parish in Graves County near Paducah.
“Alison has never missed a Fancy Farm since she’s been in office,” Hurst said. “Of course she’s going. She’s always enjoyed very strong support in western Kentucky.”
Hurst said Grimes hasn’t been missing from public view as the McConnell team claims. She has been busy organizing her campaign and fund raising operations while also visiting troops at Ft. Knox and National Guard. Hurst said she will is scheduled to speak at a meeting of the state’s Kentucky County Judge/Executives and Magistrates Thursday in Louisville.
The McConnell operation has poked fun at Grimes since hastily organized news conference announcing she would run while standing in front of a sign from her 2011 campaign for Secretary of State and following a private meeting with supporters at which she asked them for their opinions on whether she should challenge McConnell.
But Hurst said Grimes plans a formal “campaign rollout,” which will likely occur prior to the Aug. 3 Fancy Farm event.
Also on Tuesday, McConnell’s campaign began airing a radio ad in 35 coal-producing counties, according to the Associated Press.
In the ad, McConnell says, “In some parts of the commonwealth, coal is a proud way of life that binds together generations. But President Obama and his allies view coal as a threat to their liberal ideology and green energy policies cooked up in Washington.”
The one-minute ad doesn’t mention Grimes by name but McConnell said the Obama policies are really “a war on Kentucky” because it will drive up energy prices which fuel aluminum smelters and the auto industry in Kentucky.
“I’ve fought President Obama’s job-killing agenda every step of the way,” McConnell says.
McConnell notoriously said during Obama’s first term his number one goal was to ensure Obama wasn’t re-elected and is labeled by Democrats’ as the “chief obstructionist” in Washington, a theme Grimes has used at times since she announced.
McConnell’s campaign has made clear he intends to link Grimes with President Barack Obama and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a conservative state which depends heavily on coal.
But Hurst says that won’t work.
“Alison will stand up and always put Kentucky families first,” Hurst said in an interview last week for a CNHI story about the how the issue of coal might affect the 2014 race. “One of her first endorsements when she ran for Secretary of State came from the United Mine Workers and she got strong support from eastern and western Kentucky in both the primary and general elections.”
The story also quoted several Democratic state lawmakers from coal producing regions who said Grimes will not be vulnerable to claims she doesn’t support the coal industry.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.