Kentucky Politics Distilled: Rand Runs Aground Friday, Feb 5 2016 

This week in Kentucky politics, Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race to focus on his Senate re-election campaign. The first-term Kentucky senator finished fifth in the Iowa Republican Caucuses, taking just 4.5 percent of the vote.

The state lost two trailblazing politicians over the course of the week: state Sen. Georgia Powers, the first woman and African American elected to the legislature, and Sen. Marlow Cook, just the second member of Congress to call for President Nixon’s resignation.

And, as usual this session, the Kentucky General Assembly acted on anti-abortion bills.

All that, and more, in this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled. Listen to the latest episode with the player above.

Suggested reading

In Other News… Paul exits presidential race, top Kentucky restaurants, Lawrence and Schumer TV series Friday, Feb 5 2016 

Rand Paul Official PortraitSuspended: On Monday, Sen. Paul placed fifth in the Iowa caucus, the first major electoral event of 2016 in the race for the presidency. The senator received just 4.5 percent of the vote, finishing behind Sen. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson. Given 483 people are running for the GOP presidential nomination, […]

Kentucky Republican 2016 Presidential Caucus. When And Where. Thursday, Feb 4 2016 

A friend of mine asked me if I was going to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Primary. I explained to her that I was a Democrat and I couldn’t vote in the Republican 2016 Presidential Primary. When … Continue reading →

The post Kentucky Republican 2016 Presidential Caucus. When And Where. appeared first on Hillbilly Report.

Rand Paul’s Presidential Bid Altered Kentucky’s Political Landscape Wednesday, Feb 3 2016 

Rand Paul returns to the Kentucky campaign trail relatively unscathed, despite worries from his fellow Republicans and critiques from Democrats that he’s devoted too much of his time to running for president, political analysts say.

Paul suspended his presidential bid on Wednesday. The impact of his White House aspirations on the national conversation remains to be seen, but the presidential bid did reshape some aspects of politics in Kentucky.

Republicans here are now left with a strange residue of Paul’s campaign for executive office: a presidential caucus that would have allowed him to run for White House and the U.S. Senate at the same time.

Scott Lasley, chair of the Warren County Republican Party, said even without its home-state candidate, the caucus — the first of its kind for the state GOP — will be exciting for Republicans because it’s two months earlier than the primary.

“Hopefully the race will still be undecided and maybe be able to attract the attention of some candidates, and have voters actually have some impact on the ultimate outcome,” Lasley said.

Kentucky’s May presidential primaries have historically had little bearing on the nomination process.

The Republican Party of Kentucky said Paul will still appear on the ballot because no mechanism exists to remove the names of the 11 candidates who have signed up.

Paul engineered the caucus switch because state law forbids political candidates from appearing on the ballot twice. He would have appeared as a candidate for U.S. Senate on the primary ballot.

Lasley said Paul’s departure from the presidential campaign might make Kentucky a more competitive battleground because his supporters will be up for grabs.

“The fact that Sen. Paul is not a frontrunner for the race makes Kentucky even more competitive, and there’s more incentive for candidates to come in and compete for the 42 delegates that are going to be decided based on those results,” Lasley said.

Paul’s political attention is now entirely focused on winning a second term in the Senate.

For months, political analysts and others said his attention to the presidential race could end up hurting him in Kentucky.

Paul will face two political newcomers in the Republican primary and, if he wins there, the survivor of a seven-way Democratic primary that includes the mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray.

Former state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, a Democrat and attorney at Frost Brown Todd, said he believes Paul’s White House bid has opened the Senate race to a strong Democratic challenger.

“The nature of being out of state and focusing on the concerns of people in Iowa and New Hampshire has hurt his standing in Kentucky,” Miller said.

Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010. The son of Ron Paul, a favorite of the GOP’s libertarian faction, Rand Paul rode a wave of Tea Party support to beat then-Attorney General Jack Conway by 8 percentage points.

Over the course of his first term, Paul distinguished himself in the Senate with libertarian and isolationist views on surveillance and foreign policy. He was the winner of the Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll three years in a row and was famously declared “the most interesting man in politics” by Time Magazine in 2014.

But over the course of 2015, Paul’s brand grew out of favor as the threat of terrorism at home and abroad grew.

“So much of his core base realized that maybe he wasn’t the guy that should be their leader,” Miller said. “They went with other candidates, and I think you’re going to see that really hurt him with fundraising nationally and could hurt him here Kentucky as well.”

Paul’s two Senate primary challengers — Lexington financial analyst James Gould and Stephen Slaughter, an engineer from Louisville — will have to overcome his significantly higher profile.

In the general election, Paul will likely face Lexington Mayor Gray, a wealthy businessman who has shown that he’s willing to self-fund his political campaigns.

Soon after Paul dropped out of the presidential race, Gray criticized Paul for not being a “full-time senator.”

“Paul spent years preparing for his presidential campaign and then took even more time away from Kentucky to pursue his personal ambitions,” Gray said. “Now that he’s failed to catch fire with voters in other states, he’s coming back. Well, we deserve to be more than just a fall-back plan. And we certainly deserve a senator whose focus is on Kentucky, not one focused on planning his next run for president.”

But Steve Voss, a University of Kentucky political science professor, said Paul’s presidential run may have helped him more than it hurt him.

“What we all saw was him standing shoulder-to-shoulder with famous and powerful, important people, and that gave him visibility and helped sustain his name recognition in Kentucky at a time when we weren’t much interested in the Senate election,” Voss said.

Paul has $1.4 million in his Senate campaign account, and he’ll be allowed to transfer some of the $1.27 million remaining in his presidential campaign account as long as the donors aren’t put over their individual per-election contribution limits.

Gray hasn’t reported any fundraising numbers yet, but it’s expected that he will be able to supplement donations with his personal wealth. He contributed $800,000 to his first race for mayor and $250,000 to his second run.

The outcome of the race will depend on the issues voters care about, Voss said.

“Is it about same-sex marriage and abortion and things like that? In which case the swing voters tend to be Republican,” Voss said. “Is it about pocketbook issues, jobs, government programs that come back home to help the poor? Then you see these voters not being so conservative and voting for a Democrat like outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear.”

Rand Paul Quits Presidential Race To Focus On Senate Run Wednesday, Feb 3 2016 

Rand Paul is suspending his presidential campaign, saying that he’ll focus his energy on running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat.

“Although, today I will suspend my campaign for President, the fight is far from over,” Paul said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“I will continue to carry the torch for Liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term.”

The pressure for Paul to drop out of the presidential race had been mounting after spending much of the past six months polling in the single digits.

Paul finished fifth in the Iowa Republican Caucus, taking 4.5 percent of the vote.

The Rand Paul for President committee had a $1.27 million cash balance, with $248,367 in debts/loans, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Paul’s decisions to drop out of the presidential contest will prove financially useful to his Senate bid. WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting notes:

According to the FEC’s Campaign Guide, a withdrawn candidate’s unspent campaign balance can be spent on campaign operating expenses, campaign loan repayments, refunds to contributors, donations to charity and transfers of up to $2,000 to the campaigns of other federal office candidates.

The money cannot go toward personal expenses, although there are exceptions. And candidates seeking more than one federal office can transfer money from the discontinued campaign to the ongoing campaign as long as it does not include contributions that would put donors over their individual per-election contribution limits.

With name recognition and $1.4 million in his U.S. Senate campaign account, Paul has the advantage in the Senate race. But the election won’t be a easygoing.

Paul has two challengers in the Republican primary election in May and in the general election he’ll likely face Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

Gray is popular in Lexington and has shown that he’s willing to self-fund his political campaigns, having spent $800,000 on his first run for mayor.

“Across the country thousands upon thousands of young people flocked to our message of limited government, privacy, criminal justice reform and a reasonable foreign policy,” Paul said.

“Brushfires of Liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.”

Paul’s departure from the GOP presidential race was met with kind words from a couple of the candidates still running.

This story has been updated.

Rand Paul Won Among Kentucky Presidential Donors Wednesday, Feb 3 2016 

This story and headline has been updated to reflect Rand Paul’s suspension of his campaign.

For all the popularity of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential primary races, the biggest recipient of individual campaign money from Kentuckians last year was a home-state favorite — Rand Paul.

According to new figures posted Monday on the Federal Election Commission’s website, Kentucky residents have donated a total of $1.39 million to candidates for president through Dec. 31.

Paul, Kentucky’s junior U.S. senator from Bowling Green, received $350,304. Behind him in the Republican Party race for Kentucky donors were Ben Carson ($163,633), Ted Cruz ($114,690) and Marco Rubio ($80,805).

screenshot from

screenshot from

On the Democratic side, Kentuckians made $294,721 in direct contributions to Hillary Clinton, and $82,775 to Bernie Sanders. Individuals are limited by law to donating no more than $2,700 per federal election.

Paul suspended his campaign Wednesday morning, saying he’ll focus on his U.S. Senate re-election campaign.

“Although, today I will suspend my campaign for President, the fight is far from over,” Paul said in released statement.

Paul had managed to remain the top recipient among Kentucky donors in spite of weak showings in national polls. His fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucus Monday boosted his standing, but he still received less than 5 percent of the vote there.

Longtime Kentucky politics reporter Al Cross, director of The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, said it came as no surprise that Paul’s popularity in Kentucky translated into fundraising success.

Earlier this week, Cross suggested Paul would no longer be a candidate come Kentucky’s own Republican caucus on March 5. “You don’t get 5 percent in Iowa and likely about the same in New Hampshire and stay in the race,” Cross said.

According to the FEC’s Campaign Guide, a withdrawn candidate’s unspent campaign balance can be spent on campaign operating expenses, campaign loan repayments, refunds to contributors, donations to charity and transfers of up to $2,000 to the campaigns of other federal office candidates.

The money cannot go toward personal expenses, although there are exceptions. And candidates seeking more than one federal office can transfer money from the discontinued campaign to the ongoing campaign as long as it does not include contributions that would put donors over their individual per-election contribution limits.

As of Dec. 31, the Rand Paul for President committee had a cash balance of $1.27 million and debts/loans owed of $248,367.

Other takeaways from the FEC data:

* Reflecting the state’s rightward shift — and the vigor of the GOP race — about 65 percent of the $430.9 million donated by Kentuckians went to Republicans, 35 percent to Democrats. Nationally, the breakdown was 55 to 45 percent in favor of the GOP.

* Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate in national polls and second-place finisher in Iowa, raised only $11,840 in Kentucky as of Dec. 31, putting him in ninth place among Republicans and below now-former candidate Mike Huckabee.

* Even larger sums of money are donated into the presidential race through Super Political Action Committees. Much of that money is difficult to trace to individual candidates because many Super PACs are issues-based or haven’t thrown their weight behind a single candidate.

In Kentucky, though, a Super PAC supporting GOP contender Ben Carson, called The 2016 Committee, has raised $150,329 from Kentuckians. Cintas Corp. Chairman Robert Kohlhepp, a Covington resident, gave $44,000 to New Day for America, a Super PAC backing John Kasich.

* Among the leading donors to Rand Paul are the founders of Sun Tan City, the Louisville-based tanning parlor chain. Richard and David Kueber gave a combined $8,100 to Paul along with Suzanne Kueber.

* Among those who gave personal maximum amounts to Clinton last year were Louisville businessmen David Jones Jr., Steve Wilson and Bruce Lunsford.

* Among Carson’s biggest givers was B. Wayne Hughes, the founder of PublicStorage and owner of Spendthrift Farm near Lexington. Ted Cruz’s biggest donors were four executives of Kentucky Rivers Wood Products in Sacramento, Ky.

Kohlhepp and Hughes are two of Kentucky’s biggest contributors to political candidates and parties. The two made the state’s list of top 10 “power players” in 2014, according to data compiled by the Investigative News Network.

Nationally, more than $400 million was given to all presidential campaigns combined through Dec. 31. Going forward, candidates who receive more than $100,000 per month in contributions will have to file monthly reports to the FEC. The next such report is due Feb. 20.

Reporter James McNair can be reached at and (502) 814.6543.

Disclosure: David Jones Jr. is an officer of the C. E. & S. Foundation, a private, nonprofit family foundation that is a donor to KyCIR.

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

This story has been updated.

Rand Paul Places 5th in Iowa GOP Caucuses, Shows No Signs of Stopping Tuesday, Feb 2 2016 

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky placed fifth in the Iowa Republican Caucuses on Monday, raising further questions about the viability of his presidential campaign and when he might divert his attention to defending his Senate seat in earnest.

Paul’s attention has been primarily focused on the presidential race, in which he has fallen from being “the most interesting man in politics,” as proclaimed last year by Time magazine, to sharing a tiny piece of the Republican electorate dominated by frontrunners Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

Paul gained 4.5 percent of the vote in the Iowa Republican Caucuses. Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, won the Iowa caucuses ahead of businessman Donald Trump.

But Paul will face two Republican challengers in the May U.S. Senate primary election. More daunting is the General election, where he’ll likely square off against Democratic Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, a wealthy businessman.

Steve Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said the pressure will continue to mount on Paul to prioritize his campaigning after the performance in Monday’s Iowa Republican Caucuses.

“Any candidate performing poorly in early nomination contests will face headwinds that hinder progress,” Voss said. “They struggle to access campaign cash, and insiders who previously supported them start looking for positions with competitive campaigns.”

Paul’s Senate campaign has a modest $1.4 million on hand, and Gray has shown that he’s willing to self-fund his political endeavors, having spent $800,000 on his first race for mayor.

Paul’s next presidential contest will be the New Hampshire Primary on Feb. 9, where he’s hovering around 3 percent in the polls.

Voss said that despite the lackluster run for president, Paul still has name recognition with Kentucky voters, and he hasn’t had embarrassing episodes on the presidential campaign trail.

“In a contest with Trump and Cruz and (Ben) Carson it’s hard to get national attention,” Voss said. “Paul has managed to avoid any especially damaging gaffes during his presidential run, so on balance I do not see how he’s hurting himself back home.”

At Paul’s request, the Kentucky Republican Party opted to hold a presidential caucus this year instead of the traditional primary election, allowing him to simultaneously vie for the presidency and his Senate seat.

The caucus will be on March 5.

That may be a strong reason for Paul to stay in the race a little longer. Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said Paul will feel pressure to not drop out before the Kentucky caucus.

“It would be a huge embarrassment for him to not make it to Kentucky’s caucus, given that Kentucky’s Republican Party change the rules specifically for Rand Paul so he could do this,” Clayton said.

But at the same time, Clayton said that Paul “no longer has the luxury of just totally ignoring the Senate race.”

“He’s had to come out and defend his voting record in the Senate and his time in the Senate from accusations that he’s too busy flying around raising money and campaigning for the presidency than looking after his job that he was elected to do by the citizens of Kentucky,” Clayton said.

The Paul campaign characterized his result in Monday’s Iowa Republican Caucuses as a “strong top-five finish,” noting that he placed ahead of candidates such as Jeb Bush and John Kasich.

“Tonight’s vote reveals that the race for the White House is wide open,” the Paul campaign said in a news release Monday night.

On Monday night, Paul tweeted that he would continue his presidential campaign after taking in 4.5 percent of Republican votes in the Iowa Republican Caucuses.

“We fight on! Thank you for all of your support,” Paul said.

Democrat Sellus Wilder Will Run For U.S. Senate In Kentucky Monday, Feb 1 2016 

Sellus Wilder made his announcement on his Facebook page that included a link to GoFundMe Wilder for Senate startup fund. Some of you may be familiar with Sellus Wilder’s film “The End of the Line.” Sellus Wilder’s Facebook announcement. After … Continue reading →

The post Democrat Sellus Wilder Will Run For U.S. Senate In Kentucky appeared first on Hillbilly Report.

On The Bubble: Whose White House Dreams Will Burst First? Monday, Feb 1 2016 

The Iowa caucuses are known for hoisting the little-known hopeful to glory. But for each skyrocket that actually launched here, many more have fizzled on the pad.

The slick talkers auditioning for media gigs.

The household name whose prominence fails to translate.

The ambitious up-and-comer seeking name recognition for the future.

The nonpolitician who strikes a nerve the year before the election year.

After Iowa, the bell tolls for these.

For every Obama …

When you think about Barack Obama breaking out in Iowa in 2008, think also of the candidates whose bids broke down: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. And that’s not to mention John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, who fought on but never quite overcame what happened in Iowa.

You may recall that John Kerry caught the brass ring by winning the Iowa caucuses in 2004 and marching on to the Democratic nomination. Among others reaching for that ring that time were Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Dennis Kucinich, Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton.

Do not expect a parade of once-hopefuls trudging to microphones to quit the very next day. There may be a few “no mas” moments this week, but there will be more the following week, after New Hampshire concurs (more or less) with the caucuses. Still others may wait to hear a third strike called in South Carolina later in the month.

It doesn’t matter. The die will have been cast. Iowa does not so much kill candidacies outright as weaken them to the point of being on life support.

So who will be the first to acknowledge it?

The Democrats are momentarily exempt here. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will likely continue regardless of the results in Iowa and New Hampshire. (Martin O’Malley may decide to stick it out, especially with more debates on the horizon. He has never been an actual factor in the contest and can probably stay in the race as long as he can endure the put-downs.)

Clinton would suffer a huge blow if she loses Iowa badly. A close loss or virtual tie in Iowa, coupled with an expected defeat in New Hampshire, would still be survivable given her national numbers and standing in other states.

Sanders can easily survive a disappointment in Iowa, where he never expected to win.

So who will be first to go in the GOP?

The “Undercard” Players: In this cycle, with such a welter of notable hopefuls, the Republicans tried a two-tiered approach. They allowed most of the candidates to debate each other but created an undercard or “cocktail hour” debate for those at the low-end of the polls. A dubious solution from the start, the “kiddie table” began to seem like CPR for the barely breathing campaigns. ABC News has said there will not be an undercard at the Feb. 6 debate in New Hampshire, and that could be the end of it.

Carly Fiorina: While the undercard lived, it provided a brief boost to Fiorina, whose early performance there was enough to move her to the main stage. It was not enough to keep her there, however, and she has slumped to low single digits in national polls. Will she drop out? Given the key role the debates have played in her strategy, the end of the undercard augurs an end to her viability. But she will not be alone.

Rick Santorum will also lose his main purchase on public attention. Santorum actually won Iowa in 2012 and has spent plenty of time there since. But all that time has availed him little. Assuming he is an afterthought Monday night, he will be gone tomorrow. (See the New Hampshire proviso above.)

Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa in 2008 and stuck around longer than any of nominee John McCain’s other rivals, has done a little better in Iowa than Santorum thus far. But he has never been a threat to the top four. He has little visibility in New Hampshire, but he may wish to plow on into South Carolina, where his team still blames Fred Thompson for costing him the Palmetto State in 2008.

Jim Gilmore, who did not even make it to the kiddie table through most of debate season, may remain an official candidate but will matter less than ever. If he drops out, don’t look for it on Page 1.

Rand Paul: It seems hard to remember now, but when Paul declared for president last year, he had already been on the cover of Time magazine several times since his first Senate election in 2010. He was, as Time put it, the new face of the Grand Old Party. Paul was, at first, regarded as a first-tier contender, yet by year’s end he had been dropped from the main stage debate and had refused to participate in the undercard. Last year, Paul persuaded legislators to change Kentucky law to allow him to seek the White House and re-election to the Senate. The latter race will need his immediate attention after Iowa and New Hampshire.

Ben Carson: A respected brain surgeon and successful inspirational speaker, Carson overcame a faltering start as a candidate to become the early leader in Iowa polls. His career story, mild demeanor and clear commitment to his faith appealed to the evangelical voters who have often dominated GOP caucuses there. But late in the fall, terrorist massacres in Paris and Southern California refocused voter concerns. Carson seemed lost in the new landscape, and his support decayed. His campaign infrastructure teetered on collapse, and his debate performances faded even more. In Iowa, his voters largely decamped to Cruz. Carson has no prospects in New Hampshire, but might stick around for South Carolina.

Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor entered this cycle with known problems back home, including the bridge-closing affair and various state fiscal woes. But his worst problem was that Donald Trump utterly expropriated the bombastic tough-guy style that is Christie’s stock in trade. He has always had his eye on New Hampshire, so losing Iowa won’t be fatal. But the lack of any bump out of Iowa will mean Christie is back in the pack, battling three or four others for second place in New Hampshire. If he’s second in the Granite State, or third after Cruz, he stands a chance of becoming the candidate the anti-Trump forces rally behind.

John Kasich: Another governor who fit the profile of past Republican winners well was Kasich, the current and popular governor of pivotal swing state Ohio. Kasich has not caught on with Iowans, however, and needs to survive a low finish there to break through in New Hampshire. Like Christie, he has his hopes pinned to a top-three finish there, and he has had a good January in that state. If it doesn’t work out that way, the next question is how long Kasich should stick around if he wants to be vice president. Why wouldn’t he want to be vice president? After Marco Rubio, Kasich offers the most as a running mate for any of the remaining prospective nominees.

Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor and dynastic insider may be the ultimate case of a front-runner who never really got out front (and took a long time to start really running). Bush still hopes the fierce rivalry of Cruz and Rubio will weaken both, and Trump will somehow disqualify himself. If those things happen, Bush may still be the most logical choice for establishment Republicans, officeholders and major donors to fall back on.

The first President Bush survived a third-place embarrassment in Iowa in 1988, and the younger George Bush got past a disastrous showing in New Hampshire in 2000. So there is resilience built in this campaign. The Bushes will battle on at least through February. The Super Tuesday primaries on March 1 could mean rebirth — or the end of the road. In any event, like Christie and Kasich, Bush is loath to leave the field and concede the contest to Trump and the two sons of Cuban emigres arguing about who’s toughest on immigration.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

In Other News… Paul debates, Bridgewater to Pro Bowl, Top Food City, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Evans Friday, Jan 29 2016 

Rand Paul Official PortraitUp for Debate: The final, once-and-for-all, what-could-they-possibly have-left-to-say GOP debate was Thursday night; USA Today has the highlights. Many headlines surround your Kentucky junior Senator, Rand Paul. At least the non-Trump headlines. Mr. Trump opted not to participate in the debate because FOX News correspondent and debate moderator Megyn Kelly had said something or other or asked him a […]

Next Page »