The crowd at the United Steelworkers Hall on Tuesday got its share of exercise at likely Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' jobs tour visit here.
“Well this will be a little bit like church. You'll be up and down and up and down and before you're out the door, Billy is gonna pass that collection plate not once, but twice,” Grimes said jokingly to the couple hundred people in the room who gave the Senate hopeful standing ovations before she had the chance to step behind the podium.
Chanting and clapping aside, the audience remained glued to her 10-minute speech on how to grow the economy in Kentucky, a speech she will give across the state on her 50-county, 10-day jobs bus tour that will lead her into the May 20 primary.
With each major proponent of her jobs plan was explained to listeners, she added how her vision for Kentucky contrasted against current Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's ideals.
“I am the Kentucky woman who my Republican counterparts here in this state and across the nation so gentlemanly and southernly refer to as an empty dress that seeks to retire Mitch McConnell,” she said. “Now, they don't have the first part of that sentence right. Each and every one of you all know that. But. with your help, we will make the latter part of that sentence a reality.”
But since her tour is supposed to be devoted to discussing ways to grow the middle class and “get Kentuckians back to work,” she delved into the topics of the coal and steel industries, a subject that perked up a few ears in the room full of Boyd, Carter, Lewis and Greenup countians.
Both industries are facing major hurdles in the northeastern part of the state, and Grimes said she realizes the value of these workers, unlike her opponent.
“Kentucky and this nation, they are ready for someone who won't vote against a transportation bill, as Mitch McConnell did. He votes against the very infrastructure needs that we need,” she said. “Our roads and bridges crumbling? Mitch McConnell wants to do nothing about it. You will have a United States Senator who knows it’s the steelworkers that are building a brighter and better future for the Commonwealth of this state.”
But Grimes admits there is no “silver bullet” to fix all the problems with Kentucky's job industry.
As the kickoff to the East Kentucky leg of her tour, issues of diversifying the economy and ways to progress with the coal industry were also sprinkled into her speeches.
After the event in Morehead earlier in the afternoon, she told The Independent she is willing to work across the aisle with Republicans and Independents, if they have the best interests of Kentucky's economy at heart with their legislation.
“That is what the work I’ve done as Secretary of State reflects, in contrast to Mitch McConnell, who has put partisanship ahead of this state,” she said.
But despite Grimes’ advocacy for coal on the road, Allison Moore, spokeswoman for the McConnell campaign, said she is not a friend of the industry.
“After spending exactly zero effort on behalf of Kentucky's coal families while the president she supported waged war on them, Alison Lundergan Grimes was recruited to run for Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid who says 'coal makes us sick.' The simple reality is that her entire candidacy was hatched by the very people waging war on Kentucky coal and if she won it would ensure they continue to set energy policy rather than the Kentucky champion for coal, Mitch McConnell,” Moore said in an email from the campaign on Monday.
State Rep. Brandon Smith posted similar reaction to Grimes' stance on coal in the email sent by Moore.
“While Sen. McConnell has a long record of being a champion for Eastern Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes was handpicked by Barack Obama and Harry Reid,” Smith said. “Grimes may tell Kentuckians she supports coal, but she was recruited, funded, and supported by the very people dedicated to ending the coal industry in Kentucky.”
The jobs plan Grimes is discussing on the tour was devised through the product of a listening tour she took last year around the Commonwealth.
She will be traveling down the eastern and southern parts of the state for the next seven days.
In response to the expansive tour, Moore said, “It is no surprise that Alison Lundergan Grimes is continuing to abdicate her responsibility as Secretary of State to boost herself politically after she's spent the last eight months everywhere but Kentucky pandering to Barack Obama donors. Perhaps somewhere in Hollywood, Alison realized she’s in her own primary race against a man who hasn’t filed an FEC report, so anything below 99 percent of the vote is a massive failure.”
LANA BELLAMY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.