By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service
By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service
FRANKFORT Mitch McConnell is no longer the only U.S. Senate candidate running against Democratic President Barack Obama.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s Democratic opponent, began broadcast of a radio ad Wednesday in coal counties blasting Obama for his coal policies. The ad is airing in both the eastern and western portions of the state where coal is mined.
In the ad, Grimes directly addresses Obama about what she says is the effect of his “pie-in-the-sky” policies on coal industry employment.
“Mr. President, Kentucky has lost one-third of our coal jobs in just the last three years,” Grimes begins. “Now your EPA is targeting Kentucky coal with pie-in-the-sky regulations that are impossible to achieve. It’s clear you have no idea how this affects Kentucky.”
The Grimes campaign knows she’s vulnerable to attacks by McConnell and his allies which assert that she will be beholden to Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who once said, “Coal makes us sick.”
Grimes easily won the Democratic primary against three relatively unknown challengers who raised and spent no money, pulling in 76 percent of the vote. But in coal-producing counties, Grimes’ margins were much less – 60 to 65 percent.
At the same time, McConnell, who defeated his challenger, Matt Bevin, 60 to 35 percent statewide ran ahead of his statewide margins in those same eastern and western Kentucky coal counties.
Clearly Grimes is hoping to get out in front of more attacks from McConnell with what her campaign spokeswoman said is a “significant, six-figure, multi-media campaign” in the coal field regions.
A day earlier Grimes began running newspaper ads in the region displaying a photo of a miner holding a lump of coal with the caption, “President Obama and Washington don’t get it . . . Alison Grimes does” and promising to “oppose anyone who works against Kentucky’s coal industry.”
McConnell has from the start used the issue of declining employment and production in Kentucky’s mining industry against Grimes. While most industry analysts blame the decline thus far largely on market forces and the abundance of cheaper natural gas, they and groups like the Kentucky Coal Association have blamed the environmental policies of Obama.
Then on Monday, the Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced long-awaited regulations calling for carbon emission reduction targets. While the plan offers coal-dependent states like Kentucky flexibility, time and lower targets than many other states, the new rules are viewed in the industry as an attack on coal because coal-fired electrical generating plants are the biggest source of CO2 emissions.
McConnell immediately filed a bill in the Senate he calls the “Coal Country Protection Act” and called the new regulations “a national energy tax” and “a dagger aimed right at the heart of the middle class.” The bill would require certification that such regulations won’t cost jobs, affect the economy or raise electrical rates before they could be enforced.
Also on Tuesday, Kentuckians for a Strong Leadership, a 527 Super PAC supporting McConnell and advised by former McConnell staffer Scott Jennings, went up with its own radio ad which says, “Here in Kentucky Obama is supporting Alison Lundergan Grimes.” It goes on to say Grimes continued to support Obama even “after he declared war on our coal community.”
The McConnell campaign had this to say about the new Grimes ad:
"It is a fact that Alison Lundergan Grimes lined up as a delegate behind Barack Obama after he announced he would wage a war on coal and said nothing as thousands of Kentuckians lost their jobs,” said spokeswoman Allison Moore. “Her belated concern about the war on coal now that she's a candidate, after helping to ensure it by backing Obama, is insulting and transparently political."
In her radio ad, Grimes says coal supplies 92 percent of Kentucky’s electricity and Kentucky has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation and the regulations will increase electrical rates. Then she includes McConnell in her criticism.
“It’s bad enough we’ve lost 18,000 coal jobs since Mitch McConnell became Senator. It’s even worse that Sen. McConnell says it’s not his job to bring jobs to Kentucky.”
That’s reference to a comment McConnell made to the editor of the Beattyville Enterprise in Lee County a month ago. Grimes has hammered McConnell with the quote while McConnell said his answer was “lost in translation” and misunderstood.
Grimes goes on to say she’s running “to protect coal jobs because coal keeps the lights on in Kentucky. I approved this message and Mr. President, you’ll be hearing it a lot more when I’m in the Senate.”
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.