Former President Bill Clinton waves to the crowd with Kentucky congressional candidates John Yarmuth, left, and Mike Weaver during a Democratic Party fundraiser Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006, in Louisville, Ky.

A tired, but determined Bill Clinton rallied about 2,400 of the Kentucky Democrat faithful Tuesday evening at the Louisville Convention Center, telling them Republicans have mortgaged America to foreign bankers and taken the country into an unwise war while depleting a surplus he had built before leaving office.

He said Democrats represent both the conservative and progressive choices for voters this November and urged Democrats to contribute financially to Democrat Kentucky congressional candidates John Yarmuth, Mike Weaver, Ken Lucas and Tom Barlow.

Clinton accused Republicans of “ideology, divisiveness and ignoring the facts” during a 40-minute speech as the headliner at a state Democrat Party effort to raise $500,000. Ticket prices ranged from $150 to $2,500 and about 2,400 attended, according to Jonathan Hurst, who works for the Kentucky House Democrat caucus. Hurst wouldn’t say how much money the event raised but he said it should easily eclipse the $500,000 goal.

Clinton criticized President George W. Bush and the Republican Congress for tax cuts for the wealthy, saying he favored middle class tax cuts rather than tax relief for “8,000 families of millionaires.” He joked he was now one of those 8,000, benefiting from the Republican policies, but he’d rather government spend that money on education, health care and Social Security.

“People know we face an unprecedented challenge and the nation’s political system is not rising to the challenge,” Clinton said. He accused Republicans of increasing congressional pay while opposing an increase in the minimum wage.

He said the country borrows money daily from foreign countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Mexico “to pay for my tax cut.”

His remarks followed speeches by Terry McBrayer, Attorney General Greg Stumbo, House Speaker Jody Richards, and party chairman Jerry Lundergan. He was introduced by Yarmuth, the Democrat challenger to Republican Congresswoman Anne Northup in the 3rd District in Jefferson County.

Yarmuth accused the administration and Republican Congress of involving the country “in a senseless war, which has made us less safe and lost us the respect of the rest of the world.”

Stumbo perhaps got off the best line of the night, referring to Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who was indicted for alleged violations of the Merit System law before agreeing to a deal with Stumbo to drop the charges.

“In Kentucky, a governor serves four years at a time,” Stumbo said. “Some of us believe this governor’s term should’ve been one to five.”

But it was Clinton they came to see, the young and old, from all over Kentucky. Nearly every well-known Democrat in Kentucky was there: former Sen. Wendell Ford, former governors John Y. Brown, Martha Layne Collins and Paul Patton, state Auditor Crit Luallen, and many others.

Blondell Emberton, 78, of Glasgow, sat in the front row. When Clinton finished speaking, he worked the front of the crowd, shaking hands, including Emberton’s. “I’m not going to wash my face anymore,” said Emberton, beaming after Clinton gave her a hug and kissed her cheek. “Honey, it was just wonderful,” she said of the kiss.

State Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, said Clinton gave “a nice, positive message to all Americans that we can be better than what we have been.”

Rep. Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, called Clinton’s remarks “wonderful.” He agreed with the former president that Democrats have recruited outstanding candidates this year and are poised to take back power in Washington.

Before Clinton spoke, individuals read brief obituaries of about half a dozen of the 46 Kentucky military personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and giant screens showed videos and at one point scrolled the names of those from Kentucky who have died in combat.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. He can be reached at rellis@cnhi.com.


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