Gray: Kentucky Farm Bureau Should ‘Adapt To The Times’ On Gay Marriage Thursday, Aug 25 2016 

Lexington Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray says the Kentucky Farm Bureau should change its policies that oppose same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues.

“I think the Farm Bureau needs to adjust and adapt to the times, and that means adjusting their policies,” Gray said after wading through a crowd of pro-LGBTQ protesters outside the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual Ham Breakfast event in Louisville on Thursday morning.

A Democrat, Gray is openly gay and running against Republcian Sen. Rand Paul in his bid for reelection.

The Kentucky Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, has demonstrated outside of the annual event for years, opposing the Farm Bureau’s stances against same-sex marriage, domestic benefits for same-sex couples and abortion.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, said his group’s opposition to the Kentucky Farm Bureau “is not going away.”

“People’s awareness is being raised about the fact that they’re buying into discrimination when they’re buying Kentucky Farm Bureau insurance,” Hartman said.

Last year, Hartman and activists Sonja de Vries and Carla Wallace were arrested while protesting the event. The charges were eventually dropped, though the activists later filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky State Police, alleging false arrest, First Amendment free speech violation, First Amendment retaliation and malicious prosecution.

Gray said he shares the concerns of the protesters and that he attended the event “to engage those who often have different points of view than I have.”

“I’ve learned that as mayor of the city and as a public servant that we often have to engage those who have different points of view in order to find common ground and shared values,” Gray said.

During his welcome address, KFB President Mark Haney defended the organization, which he said “does not discriminate” and bases its positions on input from members.

“We will not apologize for our democratic, grassroots process, the principles of which have served our nation very well for a long time and our organization for 97 years,” Haney said.

During his speech, Gov. Matt Bevin joked that the protesters outside the event were demonstrating against ham, the ostensible centerpiece of the event.

“I know some people don’t like ham, but I don’t know if you saw some of these people outside, they’re taking it to an extreme,” Bevin said. “Somebody asked me what I thought about these protesters and I thought, well, just don’t eat the ham, it’s alright.”

No protesters were arrested this year, though Hartman said state troopers told them they had to take down a large sign prohibited by longstanding Kentucky State Fair rules.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, and 6th Congressional District candidate Nancy Jo Kemper also joined the protests.

Yarmuth purchased a table at the Ham Breakfast in previous years but declined to go into the event on Thursday.

“Gay marriage is legal, so why you would have a policy saying you don’t recognize it is bizarre to me,” Yarmuth said.

Paul vs. Gray Headlines This Weekend’s Fancy Farm Picnic Wednesday, Aug 3 2016 

The 136th Fancy Farm Picnic, a fundraiser for St. Jerome Catholic Church, will take place this weekend in Graves County.

The contest between Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic challenger Jim Gray is the most high profile race this year and both candidates will be in attendance, as will former agriculture commissioner James Comer and Hopkinsville Army veteran Sam Gaskins. They’re running for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Ed Whitfield, who is retiring and will not attend Fancy Farm this year.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is also skipping this year’s event, but he is speaking at the Marshall County Democratic Party’s bean supper on Friday night.

“This weekend I’m dividing my time between the political events in west Kentucky and my family,” Beshear said in a statement. “I will be in west Kentucky for Friday’s events. Saturday I will attend my children’s first ever play. After the last two years running for AG, it’s important Fancy to spend the last weekend before school starts with my kids at their play.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ invitation to speak is still pending.

All of the Republicans elected to statewide office last year will take a victory lap at Fancy Farm, led by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will also speak this year. McConnell recently indicated a “great likelihood” he will seek a seventh term in 2020.

Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado will speak on behalf of Trump’s campaign. Alvarado, a first-term lawmaker from Clark County, previously called for Hispanic voters to support Trump at last month’s Republican National Convention.

Michael W. Wallace will speak on behalf of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. Fancy Farm organizer Mark Wilson says an invitation to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign is still pending, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Conservative columnist Scott Jennings is the emcee of this year’s event. A full list of confirmed speakers is below:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R)
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R)
  • Lexington Mayor and Senate candidate Jim Gray (D)
  • Gov. Matt Bevin (R)
  • Treasurer Allison Ball (R)
  • Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles (R)
  • Auditor Mike Harmon (R)
  • Candidate for Congress James Comer (R)
  • Candidate for Congress Sam Gaskins (D)
  • Kentucky 1st District State Sen. Stan Humphries (R)
  • Kentucky 2nd District State Rep. Richard Heath (R)
  • Kentucky 2nd District candidate Jesse Wright (D)
  • Kentucky 28th District State Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R)
  • Michael W. Wallace (Surrogate for Libertarian Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign)

Rand Paul Pushes For Criminal Justice Reform At Louisville Stop Friday, Jun 24 2016 

Sen. Rand Paul stopped at a Louisville Goodwill on Friday to talk about ways to help people with criminal records return to the workforce.

Paul has made criminal justice reform a key initiative during his time in Washington, though the Senate hasn’t passed any major proposals.

Goodwill operates programs that help people with criminal records enter the workforce. On Friday Goodwill and KentuckianaWorks presented their “Re-Entry By Design” program, which helps people on probation or parole put together resumes, prepare for interviews and ultimately find a job.

At the event, Paul said family values-oriented Republicans should logically support legislation that helps people find work despite their criminal records.

“If I’m a Republican and I say ‘I’m for family values’ and ‘I want families to be together’ and ‘I want dads to be around,’ well, dads can’t be in prison for 20 years for a nonviolent crime they committed when they were 21 or you don’t have family values,” Paul said.

Paul voiced support for the felony expungement bill that Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law in April. The bill makes people with certain Class D felonies eligible to have the offenses cleared if they pay a $500 fee. Applicants only become eligible five years after their sentences are complete.

Paul also called for a compromise on state legislation to restore voting rights to some ex-felons. In 2014, Paul voiced support for a bill that would have automatically restored voting rights to felons once they completed their sentences. The bill failed, with House Democrats opposing a five-year waiting period Senate Republicans tacked onto the measure.

Paul said he disapproved of former Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive order that automatically granted voting rights to about 180,000 non-violent ex-felons — a move that Bevin rescinded during his first weeks in office.

“Some of us want to see it done by the legislature,” Paul said. “[Beshear] was sort of doing it transiently by executive order. If we’re going to do it, let’s fix it and change the law.”

Paul has pushed several pieces of federal criminal justice reform, including reduction of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, expungement of felony records and restoration of voting rights, though the proposals haven’t garnered enough support to get a floor vote.

A Republican, Paul is running for reelection to his Senate seat against Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, a Democrat.

In Other News… Kentucky primary winners, Calipari wants to stay at UK, Lawrence talks ‘X-Men’ return Friday, May 20 2016 

sanders clinton

Primary Colors: Your Kentucky Democratic Primary was this past Tuesday, allowing the state to weigh in on its choice: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or former Sen. of New York and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. The winner: too close to call, at least at first, until finally, with the narrowest of margins, Hillary Clinton was […]

With Primary, Rand Paul Eases Back Into Kentucky Politics Saturday, May 14 2016 

Riding a wave of notoriety from his failed presidential campaign, Sen. Rand Paul has returned to Kentucky, relatively unscathed, to run for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat.

Paul has an easy path to securing the nomination in Tuesday’s primary election. With no major challengers this year, he hasn’t run TV ads or participated in public debates. Paul has appeared in a series of town hall meetings across the state, touting his platform, which is essentially the same as it was during his 2010 race.

A vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act, environmental regulations and intervention in foreign wars, Paul voted against budget compromises that would have avoided a government shutdown in 2013. On the campaign trail in Kentucky this spring, he defended the move.

“My point is that maybe it needs to shut down so we can fix it,” he said. “We have to do something about it.”

There are two Republicans running against Paul — Lexington financial analyst James Gould and Louisville engineer Stephen Slaughter. Both are political newcomers and haven’t run high-profile campaigns.

On his website, Slaughter says he supports construction of the Keystone-XL pipeline and creating jobs by re-industrializing  the country.

“This will provide options for those that are currently or formerly working in the coal industry,” he states.

Gould says on his website that he wants to lift economic sanctions against Russia and “freeze domestic national spending on programs to respond to the rate of inflation and population growth.”

According to the Morehead News, Gould’s only other run for public office was for Morehead City Council when he was a 21-year-old student at Morehead State.

During the 2010 primary, Paul summoned Tea Party support to defeat former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who had been endorsed by Sen. Mitch McConnell. Paul’s isolationist views on foreign policy and surveillance fell out of favor on the national level, though, after growing worries about terrorism at home and abroad.

Paul mitigates his isolationist stance by saying he favors Ronald Reagan’s “Peace through Strength” mantra — that force is a necessary means to achieve peace. And the main plank of his platform is the same as it was when he was first elected in 2010: reduce federal spending.

“As a government, we have to do what you all do: Spend what comes in,” he says. “We have to balance our budget. I’m afraid they’re not listening to us, that maybe what we really need is an amendment to the Constitution that says ‘enough is enough,’ you can only spend what comes in.”

Paul won the influential Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll three years in a row. He suspended his presidential bid earlier this year, after a poor showing in the Iowa Republican Caucus.

The primary is Tuesday, May 17.

Kentucky’s Democratic Candidates For Senate Debate Tuesday, Apr 19 2016 

A crowded field of Democrats wants to unseat Republican Sen. Rand Paul this fall, even though Kentucky hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992.

During an hour-long debate hosted by Simmons College and WHAS-11 Tuesday evening, the six candidates weighed in on how Democrats could turn the political momentum around in Kentucky and declared why they were the best man to beat Paul in the general election.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, owner of Gray Construction, said Democrats need to rally around broad economic policies that create jobs.

“The Democratic Party has been at the front edge of raising the economic boat, always,” Gray said, highlighting New Deal-era polices like the Works Progress Administration and infrastructure projects like the interstate highway system.

Gray said Kentuckians would come out to vote for him over Paul because people are tired of “politics as usual.”

“Citizens are tired of the gridlock in Washington, and there is a lot of economic anxiety. All of that translates into a high turnout in the fall,” he said.

Sellus Wilder, a former city commissioner in Frankfort and environmentalist, said he’s running to provide a “progressive voice” in the Democratic Party, which he feel has skewed conservative.

“I realize an authentic progressive campaign might be a longshot in Kentucky, but I think it’s the only shot we’ve got in taking down Rand,” Wilder said.

Wilder criticized past Democratic candidates who joined Republicans in demonizing federal regulations of the coal industry even though market pressures have contributed as well.

Wilder said he won’t beat Jim Gray in fundraising, but he said he’s thrown hope behind on-the-ground campaigning, social media and attention from the press.

“The hope is just that this message is strong enough that it resonates through these channels, and so far that’s been going pretty well,” he said.

Ron Leach, a physician’s assistant and military veteran, criticized the nominating process for favoring candidates who have money to self-fund their campaigns, like Gray.

“The process that says only millionaires and billionaires need apply will lead to the same results we keep getting election after election,” said Leach, who lost to Rep. Brett Guthrie in a race for the second congressional district in 2014.

According to his campaign, Jim Gray raised $1.75 million in the first quarter of this year — $1 million of which he loaned to his cause.

“This primary will be bought by someone who will lose in double digits in the general election and will take other candidates down with him,” Leach said.

Jeff Kender, a factory worker from Phelps; Tom Recktenwald of Louisville; and Rory Houlihan of Winchester are also running for the nomination.

Grant Short of Owensboro dropped out of the race ahead of the debate.

The Democratic primary election is May 17. The winner will face the victor of the Republican primary: Rand Paul, James Gould or Stephen Howard Slaughter.

Climate Hawks Vote Endorses Sellus Wilder For U.S. Senate. Friday, Apr 8 2016 

Click here to visit Sellus Wilder’s Wilder for Senate Facebook Page and here to visit his Wilder for Senate website. Some of you may be familiar with Sellus Wilder’s film “The End of the Line.” Climate Hawks Vote We’re delighted … Continue reading →

The post Climate Hawks Vote Endorses Sellus Wilder For U.S. Senate. appeared first on Hillbilly Report.

Can A Liberal Democrat Win A Statewide Election In Kentucky? Friday, Apr 8 2016 

When they’re running for statewide office, Kentucky Democrats and Republicans usually have something in common: They embrace the state’s coal culture and attack federal regulations of the signature industry.

But Sellus Wilder, a Democrat running a longshot campaign for U.S. Senate this year, wants his party to stop pandering.

“We never have honest conversations on the state of the coal industry,” Wilder said. “Environmental regulation has contributed to the decline of the coal industry, but it’s hardly the most important factor.”

Wilder is running in the crowded seven-person field for the Democratic Senate nomination. The winner will face Sen. Rand Paul in November.

The man to beat in the primary is Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who, according to his campaign, raised $1.75 million in the first quarter of this year — $1 million of which he loaned to the cause.

Wilder said Gray is avoiding progressive policies and that Kentucky politicians generally focus too much on EPA regulations of the coal industry.

“People in Kentucky aren’t stupid,” he said. “They know that they’ve been sold the same story over and over again, and that their lives haven’t been getting any better.”

In last year’s gubernatorial race, Democratic candidate Jack Conway touted his record as attorney general suing the EPA for its regulations of the coal industry. In the 2014 race for Senate, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes similarly framed herself as a pro-coal candidate.

And for years, Democratic elected officials — especially, but not exclusively, ones outside of Kentucky’s major metropolitan areas — have run against coal regulation.

Wilder said Democratic politicians haven’t made an effort to “challenge the paradigm.”

“Nobody’s even tried to run a campaign that actually puts coal mining communities and the people in them above industrial profits,” he said.

Wilder is getting attention for his position. He’s garnered the endorsements of activist group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and philanthropist Christy Lee Brown, who co-hosted a fundraiser for him in Louisville last week.

But the political realities of running a pro-environment campaign in Kentucky are steep, according to Steve Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.

“The typical voter is not an ideologue and isn’t looking for grand, sweeping solutions,” he said. “They just want people to solve problems in a practical way.”

Gray has run a quiet campaign so far. In a late-February interview with Kentucky Public Radio, he said the coal industry is “in a major transformation.”

“That means that a really meaningful and intentional and deliberate effort to diversify the economy is essential,” he said.

Gray said he supports the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative, a program designed to bring awareness to the region’s future co-founded by Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, to help in those efforts.

Brown, the Louisville philanthropist, has in the past held sway over candidates’ fortunes via a strong network of donors, said she’s supporting Wilder because of his focus on the environment.

“My hope is that it will begin to solidify a progressive, healthy voice for Kentucky,” she said. “Because I think it’s been desperately lacking. It is what will empower those of us who have become not so inspired by the political system.”

The Democratic primary is on May 17. Voters have to register by April 18 to participate.

More Kentucky Democrats Opening Wallets For 2016 Presidential Election Wednesday, Mar 30 2016 

Six months of heated competition by their presidential candidates led Republicans in Kentucky to make campaign donations early and enthusiastically. Now, the state’s Democratic Party donors have snatched the fundraising momentum.

Last year, Kentucky residents gave $898,581 to the campaigns of Republican candidates, compared with $493,489 to Democrats — 82 percent more — according to the Federal Election Commission. Individual donations in January were evenly split between the parties’ candidates, but Democrats stepped up in in February, out-giving Republicans by 24 percent.

Laurie Rhodebeck, an associate political science professor at the University of Louisville, said the wide-open Republican field last fall and the frequency of debates spurred contributions for GOP candidates.

“That competitive element stimulates interest, and one form of interest is campaign contributions,” she said. “Maybe even as late as the end of December, I’m not sure Democrats would have had the sense that there was a truly competitive race there, and if it’s not perceived as especially competitive, I think the contributions will be lower.”

Of course, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has livened up the primary by winning contests in Michigan, Colorado and Washington state. Among individual donors in Kentucky, Sanders has received more money than any other candidate — of either party — in 2016. The $97,539 he raised through Feb. 29 was nearly a third of all direct contributions made by Kentuckians during that time.

In Kentucky’s total haul, Sanders trails Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul. Clinton, with $388,274 in the bank, has still raised 72 percent more money than Sanders in Kentucky. Paul raised $366,179 through Feb. 29. He dropped out of the race earlier that month.

FEC - KY donations through Feb.

Total individual candidate contributions through Feb. 29, 2016.

Sanders has raised almost 10 times the amount that Republican front-runner Donald Trump has received in Kentucky. Unlike Trump, who is mostly self-financed, and candidates supported by parties and political action committees, Sanders is gathering steam from small — even $20 — contributions.

“Twenty dollars may not seem that much to many of us, but people want to feel that they’re not wasting that money, and to see Sanders doing well and hanging in there — his enthusiasm never flags — I think that sends a message to contributors that their money will be well spent,” Rhodebeck said.

The individual contributions do not include donations from PACs and party committees. Individuals are limited by law to giving $2,700 per election. Some PACs and party committees have $5,000 limits.

The Republican caucus, which Trump won, took place March 5. The Democratic primary will be on May 17.

“Based on these (contribution) numbers, I’m thinking that Sanders is likely to do quite well,” Rhodebeck said. “Will he win? I’m not sure I want to go out on a limb there. Clinton did well here in 2008 against Obama, but Sanders is a very different opponent.”

Reporter James McNair can be reached at jmcnair@kycir.org or (502) 814.6543. 

This story was reported by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

The All Grass and No Roots DSCC Endorses Jim Gray Monday, Mar 21 2016 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) wants Kentuckians to forget about supporting Rory Houlihan, of Winchester; Jeff Kender, of Phelps; Ron Leach, of Brandenburg; Tom Recktenwald, of Louisville; Grant T. Short, of Owensboro; or Sellus Wilder, of Frankfort during the … Continue reading →

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