KY Senate Race 2020: Kentucky needs a change. Tuesday, Oct 20 2020 

By Catherine Brown-

Senator Mitch McConnell does not deserve a place in office anymore. It’s up to us to vote for Democrat Amy McGrath for Senate.

On Sept. 30, McGrath spoke to University of Louisville students at the Red Barn on the Belknap Campus. In her speech, she discussed the corruption of individuals in the government such as Sen. McConnell and President Donald Trump.

McGrath spoke to students about matters like registering to vote, racial injustice and preserving democracy.

“Kentucky has never made it easier to vote than this year,” McGrath said. “Your vote matters just as much as Mitch McConnell’s or Donald Trump’s or anybody else’s. They only get one vote, too.” 

McConnell has been in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. If he wins on Election Day, it could become 42. 

Over his 36 years in office, McConnell has left over 250 bills sitting on his desk, unread. This includes bills on gun control reform, health care and shielding survivors of domestic abuse.

U of L Young Democrats Treasurer Julia Mattingly plans to vote for Amy McGrath on Election Day.

“It’s about time we get Mitch McConnell out of office,” Mattingly said. “Considering the cards she’s been dealt, McGrath and her team have done their best to campaign throughout the state and promote her platform.”

Mattingly further explained that McGrath’s safe and socially-distanced campaign events are effective in promoting her platform. McGrath’s campaign also offers volunteer sign-ups after her speeches, where students can volunteer to make calls or canvass on her behalf.

Certainly, the young voters that she looks to appeal to appreciate her choice to take COVID-19 safety seriously.

Furthermore, McGrath and McConnell took part in the first Senate debate on Oct. 12. The candidates were questioned on multiple topics including whether Breonna Taylor received justice, Supreme Court nominations and handling of COVID-19.

Neither candidate actually answered whether they believe Breonna Taylor received justice. This is problematic because two white politicians can easily avoid talking about this, as it doesn’t directly affect them. Avoiding the actual question doesn’t do much to show that they care about this particular topic, so each politician needs to do better with their answer.

Both candidates denied wanting to defund the police and condemned the acts of looting and violent protests.

“We have to follow the laws that were written,” McConnell said. McGrath responded saying that she believes “leaders have to take a step back and recognize that we need change in this country.”

Sen. McConnell doesn’t want to bring change to a system that he doesn’t lose against.

Election Day is Nov. 3 and all eligible students, faculty and staff are encouraged to register to vote. 

Absentee ballots must be mailed by Nov. 3 at 6:00 p.m. Early voting started Oct. 13.

Don’t miss out on Election Day. Do your part as a voter.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

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KY Senate Race 2020: Kentucky is already in good hands. Tuesday, Oct 20 2020 

By Zachary Baker-

In less than one month, a very critical election to determine the path of the country will take place. Several important races are happening, one of which is for Kentucky’s seat to the U.S Senate. The Republican incumbent, Mitch McConnell, is running against Democrat Amy McGrath and there are high stakes, which is why many Kentuckians are fighting hard for their candidate. 

Despite what others would say, there are benefits for keeping Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate and it is very important to acknowledge them. 

For starters, Mitch McConnell is one of the most powerful men in the U.S Senate.

McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader, a position that holds a significant amount of influence over the path that the country takes. As Kentucky doesn’t hold a lot of power, it is important for the state to find its heroes wherever it can—anyone that gives Kentucky an advantage is vital to protect. It would be foolish to ignore that influence and throw away a significant seat at the national level in exchange for a first term senator entering the national political game.

Caleb Childers, senior history and political science double major, plans to vote for McConnell.

“I’m voting for Senator McConnell because he’s the most powerful man in Washington, his experience and connections matter. His role in transforming the federal judiciary has earned him a spot as the most influential American politician, that’s not a president, since Henry Clay,” Childers said. “He’s shepherded millions of dollars into Kentucky that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. So, voting against Senator McConnell is like benching LeBron in the 4th quarter when it’s a tied game.”

That opinion is invaluable for also understanding that McConnell has done well for Kentucky during his time in office. There is a reason that McConnell has continued to hold his senate seat for decades, besting his opponent every time an election comes up.

McConnell expresses the values of many Kentuckians while also changing the national conversation to fit those values. 

On top of protecting values, McConnell has helped Kentucky receive better funding for Kentucky businesses and industries. He’s holding Kentucky up in a country that wouldn’t ordinarily look after a state like ours. 

McConnell’s power extends beyond the U.S Senate as well. His power reaches all the way to the executive branch.

McConnell is the man to please in the Senate but also the man guiding along the President of the United States. Regardless of anyone’s opinions of President Donald Trump, it is valuable that Kentucky has a seat so close to one of the most powerful men in the world. That seat is McConnell’s and it would be devastating to Kentucky’s interests to lose all that influence. 

While many people across the country are arguing against Mitch McConnell and telling Kentucky to choose their best option, it doesn’t seem like they actually care about Kentucky.

There are only a few times that people will mention Kentucky in a good light. The few times that people consider Kentucky is from the influence it has through McConnell. Yet they often still insult Kentuckians when doing so.

Only Kentuckians have the ability to decide what is best for Kentucky, so it isn’t hard for me to admit that Mitch McConnell brings opportunity with him. Mitch McConnell is leading in the polls and is likely to be reelected, so it is important for everyone to look at the benefits that he brings to Kentucky.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

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KY Senate Race 2020: Get out and vote in Kentucky’s local elections. Tuesday, Oct 20 2020 

By Catherine Brown-

Local elections are around the corner and students are encouraged to vote. On Nov. 3, Kentucky voters will have the opportunity to vote for our next state senator. 

Republican candidate and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces opposition from Democrat Amy McGrath, a former U.S. Marine fighter pilot.

The intensity of this election has been building up for the past several years. 

In a red state like Kentucky, McConnell is already seen as a given winner. He has the power of incumbency that could easily bring him a win this fall. 

But Amy McGrath is certainly making a name for herself in this campaign cycle. Her campaign is known for many ads that catch viewers’ attention, including a cartoon series titled “Swamp Turtle.” The animation depicts McConnell as the titular swamp turtle, with episodes depicting his interactions with other politicians and reporters. The cartoon portrays McConnell as slow and apathetic towards current events.

However the decision is ultimately Kentucky voters’. Those who vote are able to make a difference for those who can’t vote.

By voting, you impact the future for millions of children, non-citizens, and those who can’t vote due to physical restrictions.

This election is probably not going exactly how everyone expects it should. With COVID-19 affecting polling locations and voting procedures, it’s hard to get used to a new Election Day. But every registered voter should know that when they first registered, they were signing up to exercise their constitutional right to vote. 

The Cardinal has created two articles on both Senate candidates with U of L student’s opinions on who you should vote for.

For an opinion on why you should vote for Amy McGrath, click here.

For an opinion on why you should vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell, click here.

Remember, the time to vote is now. Early voting has already started. Have you made your plan to vote this year?

For more information on how to vote this year, visit the Jefferson County Clerk’s website, or Kentucky’s official voting resource website.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

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In Wake Of Justice Ginsburg’s Death, Protests At Kentucky Home Of Sen. McConnell  Saturday, Sep 19 2020 

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Leslie Marlin stood in front of a row of nondescript brick condominiums in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood, the home of the city’s best-known politician, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It was the day after the news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died from pancreatic cancer at age 87. Marlin held a sign with two lines of Sen. McConnell’s own words. 

“Oh, this is just the quote from Mitch McConnell from four years ago.” she explained. 

That quote, from February, 2016, was scrawled on a number of placards among the hundred or so demonstrators who had gathered here on Saturday afternoon. 


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Gov. Beshear Endorses McGrath In Kentucky’s U.S. Senate Race Monday, Sep 14 2020 

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Gov. Andy Beshear has endorsed Amy McGrath in her race against Mitch McConnell during Kentucky’s race for U.S. Senate this year.

The endorsement isn’t a surprise—Beshear and McGrath are both Democrats—but does put Beshear at odds with McConnell, the senate majority leader, as he tries to seek more federal assistance for Kentucky during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Beshear wrote that he believes McGrath has the right character and vision to lead the state through crisis.


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Economists Grapple With Pandemic’s Effects As Ohio Valley Officials Brace For A Fiscal Blow Tuesday, May 26 2020 

Kentucky’s state budget officials told lawmakers Friday that general fund receipts may decline by 495 million dollars next fiscal year. It’s just the latest example of the unprecedented financial hardships ahead for the Ohio Valley’s state and local governments due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

More than 38 million Americans have applied for unemployment insurance in the past nine weeks, about 2.5 million of them in the Ohio Valley states of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. 

Even economists find figures like that hard to reckon with. John Deskins directs the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University. He says the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic challenges standard approaches to economic modelling and forecasting, which rely on recent patterns in data. But data since mid-March are completely unprecedented.

“The notion that the national economy would go from 3-point-something percent unemployment to 20-something over the course of 6 weeks? We’ve never heard of that before!” he said. 

Then there are the unknowns regarding what happens with the virus itself: Will there be a large second wave of infections? When will a vaccine arrive? But even with those uncertainties, economists like Jason Bailey say the outlook is grim. Bailey is the executive director of the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and says even the rosier scenarios in his control forecast show economic conditions will likely be worse than those during the 2008 financial crisis. 

“The control forecast is still a terrible forecast when it comes to the economy, when it comes to the unemployment, when it comes to revenue for government,” he said. “It’s still worse, by far, than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes.” 

So while details of the economic forecast for Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia remain murky, the existing data reveal the outlines of mammoth losses that economists and local leaders expect the coronavirus to have on state and municipal budgets. Experts say the unprecedented budget shortfalls could lead to layoffs for public-sector workers like school guidance counselors and city maintenance workers; cuts to funding for local festivals; and the shelving of arts and cultural programming.

Just how big those cuts will be may largely depend on the outcome of the current Congressional debate about further federal aid.

Cities and Towns

Without further stimulus from the federal government, Kentucky cities expect to lose about $85 million between them by the end of the next fiscal year, and as much as $180 million the following fiscal year, according to a survey of mayors conducted by advocacy group the Kentucky League of Cities. 

Mayors reported the shortfalls could result in cuts to parks budgets (85 percent of respondents), public works (80 percent) and police services (54 percent). Of Kentucky’s 416 mayors, 102 responded to the KLC’s survey. 

In recessions, the experts say, education, social services and the arts are the first budget items to go. 

“Some people disagree about whether cities should be in the business of parks and recreation,” said KLC executive director J.D. Chaney. “But if this crisis has shown us anything, it’s that people can work from anywhere. So if you want people to live in your town, you have to make it a nice place to live.” 

A March bill from the federal government, the CARES Act, included $150 billion to reimburse cities for expenses related to the coronavirus. But that funding is limited to cities with more than 500,000 people, leaving small and mid-sized cities worried. Besides, Chaney said, he started hearing from mayors across Kentucky that the issue wasn’t an expenditure problem: It was a revenue problem. Residents weren’t paying their utility bills; property, retail and income taxes were expected to plummet. 

“Before this all came about, we were sort of doing a balancing act to provide services with the limited budget we already had,” said Todd DePriest, mayor of the eastern Kentucky city of Jenkins, population less than 2,000. “Just looking at utilities, we’re somewhere between 10 and 20 percent in terms of collections compared to where we were before. That don’t sound like a lot, but when you’re already borderline operating anyway, it really cuts into what you can do.” 

DePriest has already started making changes: Police cars will receive maintenance less frequently, and purchases like new tires for utility vehicles will be put off for as long as possible. 

Seeking Federal Aid

The state of Kentucky also expects significant revenue loss related to the pandemic. In a recent report, the Governor’s Office for Economic Analysis projected a revenue shortfall ranging from $318.7 to $495.7 million, and fourth quarter totals may be as much as 23.7 percent lower than in the same quarter the previous year.

The shortfall is largely a consequence of skyrocketing unemployment in Kentucky and around the country, with roughly 2.5 million people in the Ohio Valley filing for benefits since mid-March. 

The unemployed, explained Jason Bailey, “Are not buying, so they’re not paying sales taxes, and they’re not employed, so they’re not having income taxes withheld.”

Corporate taxes are also expected to fall short of original estimates, as commercial and industrial activity will likely remain low in the coming months. “If movie theaters start going bankrupt, all of a sudden you’re going to see a lot of urban real estate that’s not paying taxes,” said Rea Hederman of Ohio’s right-leaning Buckeye Institute. 

“As these budget cuts start to come down,” said Policy Matters Ohio executive director Hannah Halbert. “Looking at those cuts through an equity lens, and even just a health-disparities lens, that will tell its own story: What gets cut first, which districts are harmed, and how that deepens or lessens people’s shots at a fair future.” 

Since states and localities have to balance their budgets, the depth of those cuts will largely depend on how much stimulus comes from the federal government. Organizations including the National Governors Association, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties have called on Congress to provide additional aid. 

“Many state and local governments are facing a June 30 deadline to adopt budgets,” the groups wrote in their appeal to Congress. “Without federal assistance, states, territories and local governments will be forced to make drastic cuts to the programs Americans depend on to provide economic security, educational opportunities and public safety.”

A $3 trillion bill dubbed the HEROES Act passed the Democratic-led House, but faces opposition in the Republican-led Senate. The 1,800-page bill includes items from the Democratic wish list that will surely face scrutiny, like student loan forgiveness and payments of up to $6,000 per family. Kentucky Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed skepticism about further spending until there’s more data on the effects of previous bills. 

Ky. Rep. Charles Booker Announces Potential U.S. Senate Bid To Challenge McConnell Monday, Nov 11 2019 

Kentucky state representative Charles Booker says he is exploring a run for U.S. Senate in 2020, potentially challenging Democrats Amy McGrath and Mike Broihier in the primary in hopes of taking on incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell next November. Booker announced the formation of his exploratory committee by video on Monday.

Booker, 35, is a liberal legislator and lawyer from Louisville who was elected to his first term last year. He serves on the Natural Resources and Energy, Judiciary, and Economic Development and Workforce Investment committees. Booker is a member of the Louisville Metropolitan and Kentucky Black Legislative caucuses.

McConnell, the longtime senator and now Senate majority leader, has never lost a Senate race. First elected in 1984, he has over time consolidated his power, a fact conservative supporters love and opponents lament.

He is also the subject of Booker’s campaign announcement video.

“He doesn’t need hope or faith. He’s got money and power,” Booker says, of McConnell. “And the more power he’s winning Washington, the more we lose in Kentucky.”

Forming an exploratory committee allows candidates to raise money to pay for polling and other campaign expenses while deciding whether to officially run.

In the video, Booker criticizes McConnell’s polices, through explicit references and allusions to climate change, gun violence and health care. He calls for a Green New Deal and for Medicare for All.

His support for those policies puts him to the left of McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot who narrowly lost a challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Barr.

The other Democrat who has filed to run in next year’s primary election is Mike Broihier, a retired Marine, news editor and farmer.

Radio host Matt Jones has also formed an exploratory committee, but has not decided whether to officially run.

Former Republican state Rep. Wesley Morgan is the lone Republican who has filed to challenge McConnell in next year’s primary election.

The primary election is May 19, 2020.

Booker did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Murray Energy’s Bankruptcy Could Bring Collapse Of Coal Miners’ Pensions Monday, Nov 4 2019 

The recent bankruptcy of Ohio Valley coal giant Murray Energy has renewed fears about the already shaky financial foundations of the pension plan that tens of thousands of miners and their families depend upon.

The seismic collapse of yet another coal employer has lawmakers from the region renewing their push to fix the United Mine Workers pension fund, and has even raised broader concerns about pensions for a range of other trades.

Murray Energy has a substantial footprint across the region. It is also the last major employer contributing to the UMWA pension plan. In its bankruptcy filing, the company reports $2.7 billion in debt and more than $8 billion in obligations under various pension and benefit plans. More information will likely come out as the bankruptcy court takes up the matter.

IMG_0129 2Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Bob Murray speaking at an event in October, 2019.

Bankruptcy proceedings often take months, and it’s not yet clear if the company will be relieved of its pension obligations. UMWA spokesperson Phil Smith said if recent history is any guide, that is a likely outcome.

“We don’t think any company should be able to be relieved of its responsibility to any retirees, whether they’re in the coal industry or not,” Smith said. “But it has happened in the coal industry time after time after time.”

Smith said if the bankruptcy court relieves Murray’s pension obligations, that could be another $6 billion loss for the UMWA retirement fund.

The UMWA health and retirement fund covers the benefits of retirees whose employers went out of business before 2007. The plan was already facing insolvency by 2022, largely due to the industry’s decline in production and a wave of bankruptcies. Smith said now that Murray Energy has filed for Chapter 11 protection, the fund could become insolvent by next year.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts said much of the problem lies in how bankruptcy courts treat workers’ concerns.

“Why should workers stand in line last? Why should it be beneficial to a CEO or CFO to file bankruptcy?” he said. “They ran the company into the ground, they get rich, the workers lose their health care. Sometimes they lose their job. Sometimes they lose their pensions. That needs to be dealt with.”

Murray Energy is among nearly a dozen coal companies to go bankrupt during the Trump administration, despite the repeated claims of a “coal comeback.” Some lawmakers worry that the combined impact could cause a domino effect for other multi-employer pensions across the country.

Virgil2Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley at a UMWA rally for pension protections.

‘Economic contagion’

Insolvent plans fall to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or PBGC, which is a federal backstop for pension plans. Lawmakers from around the Ohio Valley warn that the fund is also already at risk, and it would be in far more financial trouble if it became responsible for the UMWA plan.

Last year a bipartisan group of lawmakers served on the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multi-employer Pensions. The group was tasked with finding a solution to pension problems affecting a range of workers including teamsters, coal miners, iron workers, and bakers and confectioners.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican on the joint committee, warned at a field hearing last year that if even one of the larger plans becomes insolvent that could put the PBGC at risk as well.

“That wave of bankruptcy has the potential to create an economic contagion effect,” Portman said. “In other words, it would spread around our economy.”

IMG_1076Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource

A union miner at the rally for pension protection.

But despite the shared concern, the committee missed a self-imposed deadline to come up with a solution and disbanded at the end of the year.

The UMWA’s Smith said more than $1 billion goes into local economies every year from health care benefits and pensions that are paid directly to retirees. More than $130 million flows into Kentucky alone.

Simon Haeder is an assistant professor of public policy at Penn State University. He said shoring up the UMWA pension plan would have been a lot less expensive and more manageable if Congress had started to address the “inevitable” issue much earlier.

“Coal miners are one of those probably worst-case scenarios here,” he said, “because the balance between people paying into the system and people taking out of the system is so out of whack.”

Haeder said the miners’ pension problems also raise questions about whether people can rely on these pension systems in the future. He said the decline in union membership and the complex actions of bankruptcy courts have given employers an edge over the interests of workers when a business goes under.

“Bankruptcy law and bankruptcy court will certainly side with employers much more than they will side with employees,” he said.

A Legislative Fix?

Sen. Joe Manchin and other coal-area lawmakers introduced the American Miners Act to try to shore up the shaky UMWA pension. The West Virginia Democrat’s bill would transfer some money from interest accrued on the federal Abandoned Mine Land fund – which is used to clean up old mining sites – into the mine workers’ pension plan. It would not take money directly from the fund.

Manchin is attaching the American Miners Act to a spending bill that keeps the federal government running. He said most of the pension checks are for $600 a month or less and many of those are going to widows who depend on that money for basic living expenses.

“When coal companies go bankrupt coal miners benefits are at the bottom of the priority list,” Manchin said.

The bill would also restore a tax on coal used to fund the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which Congress had allowed to be reduced by half last year. Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is a co-sponsor on the bill.

“I won’t stop fighting until we’ve secured the promised pensions and an extension of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for coal miners and their families,” Casey said. “I hope Congressional Republicans will join our mission.”

The Senate bill does not yet have a Republican co-sponsor but there is general bipartisan support for action on the miners’ pensions. In the House two pending bills propose a similar funding method to shore up the UMWA fund. Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia is the lead sponsor on one of those.

Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia proposes a version that also addresses the health care benefits of retirees whose companies went bankrupt last year and have been or will be relieved of those obligations by a bankruptcy court. Both bills have passed out of committee.

But of course one Republican’s voice will matter most, and that is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

McConnell’s Call

McConnell had previously postponed action on miners’ pensions by splitting an earlier proposal to address both retirement funds and health benefits. McConnell introduced his own version in 2017, which provided for miners’ health benefits but avoided dealing with pensions.

In an emailed statement, McConnell said he’s concerned about the insolvency issues facing a number of multi-employer pension plans, and that he supports finding a bipartisan solution for pension reform.

It’s not clear when or if the majority leader will take up the issue of coal miners’ pensions or healthcare benefits.

manchin mcconnellU.S. Senate

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The Miners Act and other similar bills have attracted criticism from fiscal conservatives such as the Heritage Foundation. Heritage calls the proposal a “bail out” that would do nothing to “fix the root of the problem” with the large pension plans.

Manchin said he will attach the American Miners Act to every vehicle possible in Congress in the hope that McConnell will agree to take action.

“And Senator McConnell I know he’s concerned about other pensions, we’re all concerned about other pensions, but this is on the front burner now,” Manchin said, adding that if the miners’ pension plan falls it will likely not fall alone. “When this happens, everything else will tumble and snowball with it.”

ReSource reporter Brittany Patterson contributed to this story.

U of L now owns the downtown Cardiovascular Innovation Institute Monday, Oct 21 2019 

By Jessica Kisling — 

The University of Louisville now owns the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute after the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence handed over their $16 million share as of Oct. 7.

U of L President Neeli Bendapudi took the opportunity to thank the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence for their continuous effort and promised that the hard work would continue.

The main goal of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute is to improve the research done on cardiovascular diseases that affect people’s daily lives. Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death across the United States, and is responsible for about 75 percent of deaths in Kentucky alone said Toni Ganzel, dean of the U of L School of Medicine.

This research has since been declared as the most important and vital medical research for the next decade.

According to the press release, since its original formation in 2006, the institute has developed technologies and devices that will allow for advancement in cardiovascular medicine in space as well as in war. They have also developed therapeutic approaches to the diseases and their diagnoses as well as a high resolution ultrasound that can measure the heart’s structure.

Funding for the institute originally came from different health organizations in the commonwealth. Among these contributors include St. Mary’s Healthcare, Kosair Charities and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Department of Commercialization and Innovation. Senator Mitch McConnell also helped by aiding the institute in receiving federal appropriations.

Since then they have acquired almost $39 million in other grants and contracts. Most of this money has been designated for the development of the innovative cardiovascular technologies and medicine.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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ANALYSIS: Could Matt Jones Actually Beat Mitch McConnell?  Friday, Aug 30 2019 

Sports radio host Matt Jones would be a big underdog in a Senate race against Mitch McConnell. But he might have a better chance than Amy McGrath.

Jones announced on Thursday that he is forming an exploratory committee to consider a run against McConnell, but put off formally deciding if he will enter the race until after this November’s statewide elections in Kentucky. It’s likely that Jones will run if Kentucky Democrats strongly encourage his candidacy and therefore it seems he would defeat McGrath in next May’s Democratic primary. I expect he’ll back off if it’s clear McGrath is too strong of an opponent.

Jones’s potential candidacy raises three big questions:

  1. Would he actually win a primary against McGrath (and also longshot candidate Mike Broihier, who is, like McGrath, an ex-Marine?)
  2. Does Jones have a real shot of defeating McConnell in a general election?
  3. Even if Jones is a big underdog, would he be a stronger challenger to McConnell than McGrath?

These questions are very connected to one another, of course. Kentucky Democrats really hate McConnell, so they are likely to prioritize “electability” in a Senate Democratic primary, looking for the candidate who has the best chance to topple the incumbent. If Jones can present himself as the best candidate against McConnell, then I think he will be a strong contender in the primary.

So does Jones have a real shot of beating McConnell? Yes, but a fairly slim one. Jones’ biggest problem is the same as McGrath’s: he’s a Democrat.

In elections for state-based offices like governor or attorney general, Americans sometimes will vote for a candidate who isn’t from the party they generally align with (so Massachusetts has a Republican governor, Louisiana a Democratic one.) But an Andy Beshear victory in the governor’s race this November doesn’t necessarily portend Democrats beating McConnell in 2020. Why not? Because states increasingly back the same party for U.S. Senate and president. Kentucky leans conservative in federal elections (about 15 points to the right of the country) and President Donald Trump is popular here (61 percent approval, 35 percent disapproval, according to recent polling from the firm Civiqs).

Trump is likely to win by double digits in Kentucky in 2020, no matter who the Democrats nominate against him in the presidential election. McConnell is fairly unpopular (36 percent approve of him in Kentucky, 50 percent disapprove, per Morning Consult). But Trump has already endorsed the senator and I would expect the vast majority of the president’s backers to also vote for McConnell.

Duh, Kentucky is a red state you might say. But does Jones give Democrats a better chance than McGrath, even if that is a fairly small chance? I’m not sure, but I think so.

The results from McGrath’s 2018 House race are not promising for Democrats, in terms of projecting her statewide appeal. The former Marine fighter pilot won the two counties that include most of the cities of Frankfort and Lexington — and lost the 17 more rural ones in Kentucky’s Sixth District. Kentucky is one of the most rural states in the nation — a candidate who can only appeal to more urban voters will struggle to get elected statewide here. McGrath campaigned heavily in the rural areas in her district in 2018. But I suspect her biography (she is a pro-abortion rights Democrat who had bragged about how liberal she is and spent much of her adult life outside of Kentucky) limited her appeal to more conservative and rural voters, who may not have been as moved by McGrath’s military background as Democrats expected.

Jones is known to many Kentuckians because he talks about sports on TV and the radio — so his biography and identity probably seem less stereotypically liberal than many other Democrats. He has listeners in more rural areas of the state. He, at least at first glance, seems more likely than McGrath to not be dismissed by more conservative voters.

But I don’t want to overstate this case. McGrath ran a fairly strong campaign for the House. She has enough of a following in Kentucky and nationally to have raised $2.5 million in her first day as a candidate. Jones has never run for any elective office before. He could be a bad candidate, unable to speak about policy issues fluently. And once he is campaigning for the Senate, Jones will seem more like a traditional politician and lose some of his sports guy brand.

Jones has not detailed his positions yet. But if he enters the race, Democratic activists and the press are going to try to pin down Jones on a number of issues. Does Jones support the Green New Deal? How about Medicare-for-All? Would he embrace getting rid of the filibuster for legislation in the Senate? Does he consider Trump a racist or a white supremacist or neither? Does he think Trump should be impeached? What are his exact views on abortion? Answering all of those questions is likely to further box in Jones as politician — and some of his answers are likely to turn off the people who liked to hear him talk about sports.

I suspect that Jones will end up taking a bunch of left (but not very left) positions on the issues, while trying not to bash Trump too much (because he may need some Trump voters to win the general election.) In short, Jones could end up being another version of McGrath — a Lexington-area based Democrat who might have trouble appealing to the state’s more rural voters because he is both urban and fairly liberal, while also annoying the party’s liberal base by not taking on Trump aggressively enough.

My bottom line — the potential candidacy of Jones is a very interesting development. It seems like Jones, more so than any other Democrat in Kentucky, has the potential to get voters to think about voting for the person and not the party, because he would be such a non-traditional candidate. But I emphasize potential. Jones has to decide if he wants to join McGrath in what might be an ultimately futile enterprise — trying to win a Senate seat in Kentucky as a Democrat when Donald Trump is on the ballot.

Perry Bacon Jr. is a national political writer based in Louisville. You can reach him via Twitter or e-mail.

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