Difference between revisions of "United States Senate elections in Kentucky, 2014"

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===Massachusetts Institute of Technology controversy===
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Revision as of 13:56, 8 January 2014


2014 U.S. Senate Elections in Kentucky

General Election Date
November 4, 2014

Primary Date
May 20, 2014

November 4 Election Winner:
Mitch McConnell Republican Party
Incumbent prior to election:
Mitch McConnell Republican Party
Mitch McConnell.jpg

Race Ratings
Cook Political Report: Toss Up[1]

Sabato's Crystal Ball: Likely R[2]

Other Senate Elections
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2014 U.S. House Elections

Flag of Kentucky.png
Voters in Kentucky will elect one member to the U.S. Senate in the election on November 4, 2014.
Candidate Filing Deadline Primary Election General Election
January 28, 2014
May 20, 20 14
November 4, 2014

Primary: Kentucky has a closed primary system, in which the selection of a party's candidates in a primary election is limited to registered members of that party.

Voter registration: Pending

See also: Kentucky elections, 2014

Incumbent: The election will fill the Senate seat currently held by Mitch McConnell (R). McConnell was first elected in 1984.

Kentucky is a solidly Republican state.[3]


Note: Prior to the signature filing deadline, candidates will be added when Ballotpedia writers come across declared candidates. If you see a name of a candidate who is missing, please email us and we will add that name. As the election draws closer, more information will be added to this page.

Potential candidates

Declined to run

Race background

In 2008, Mitch McConnell won re-election to a fifth term and became Kentucky's longest serving senator.[19] McConnell spent approximately $20 million on his last election, beating Democrat Bruce Lunsford, a Kentucky businessman, by 6 percentage points.[19]

McConnell served as the Republican Party Whip from 2005 to 2007, before he took on the role of Senate Minority Leader in 2007.[20]

Low approval ratings and a primary challenge from tea-party backed Matt Bevin make McConell a vulnerable incumbent in 2014.[21] McConnell was also troubled by the lack of backing from national GOP candidates.[22]

Since Republicans were able to pick up the necessary six seats for a majority in 2014, McConnell is likely to take over as the new Senate Majority Leader.

Primary to watch

The primary battle between Matt Bevin and incumbent Mitch McConnell was highlighted as one of the top five primaries to watch in 2014.[23]

Primary vulnerability

McConnell was named by National Journal as one of the top five incumbent senators at risk of losing his or her primary election. Four of the five most vulnerable senators were Republican.[24]



On April 18, 2013, McConnell's campaign released a new ad pointing to a series of “dirty” attacks by Democratic outside groups.[25] It was the second occasion McConnell’s campaign launched an ad portraying him as the victim.[25] After the Progress Kentucky super PAC got in trouble for racially insensitive tweets about McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, his campaign launched another ad featuring Chao.[25]

In October 2013, Lundergan Grimes released an ad accusing McConnell of "light[ing] the house on fire and then claim[ing] credit for putting it out."[26]

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership June 2013 ad, "Rubber Stamp."

McConnell's April 2013, ad, "How Dirty."

Lundergan Grimes' October 28, 2013, ad, "Fire."

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a super PAC backing Mitch McConnell’s re-election bid, launched a round of TV ads on June 25, 2013 aimed at dissuading Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes from entering the race.[27][28] Grimes announced her candidacy on July 1, 2013.[29]

On September 27, 2013, Kentuckians for Strong Leadership released another campaign ad attacking McConnell's general election challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. The ad, costing approximately $75,000, ran statewide.[30] It touts McConnell’s opposition to Obamacare before making the connection between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Grimes.[30]

“That’s why Harry Reid personally recruited liberal Alison Grimes to run against McConnell, and now Grimes is raising money with Harry Reid in Las Vegas,” the ad’s says. “The choice is clear: Grimes and Reid, pushing Obamacare on us, while members of Congress get a bailout; or Mitch McConnell, a fighter for Kentucky.”[30]

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership ad, "Anarchists."

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership ad, "Whatever."

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership ad, "Burned."

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership released an ad in November 2013 tying Grimes to the President Barack Obama's controversial healthcare promise. The cost to air the ad on broadcast and cable television is $340,000.[31]

The ad begins with video of Obama vowing that under the Affordable Care Act, “If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan” — before citing an NBC News report suggesting the administration was aware all along that many Americans would have to transition to new insurance coverage.[31]

“And how about Obama supporter Alison Grimes?” the ad continues. “Her credibility’s burned, too. Fact-checkers are smoking out her exaggerations … Grimes and Obama: When liberals don’t tell the truth, Kentucky gets burned.”[31]

Kentucky Opportunity Coalition

Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501(c)(4) group aligned with the super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, announced on December 16, 2013, a $382,000 ad buy tying McConnell to Rand Paul. The ad attempts to show the two “working together to stop Obamacare.”[32]

“For Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, fighting Obamacare isn’t about politics. It’s a fight for the Kentucky families who are losing their health coverage,” the ad said. “McConnell and Paul are working together to stop Obamacare — to stop the Washington liberals who are forcing families out of plans that include the doctors they trust.”[32]

What rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?

McConnell's mocking ad, "What Rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?"

In a Web video posted on July 2, 2013, McConnell's campaign took aim at Grimes by making her name the punchline of the video. The nearly two-minute video asks, "What rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?"

McConnell's video responds to its own question with these zingers: "Not ready for prime time," "Sticks to the party line," and "Left wing mime."[33]

The video is a reminder of Grimes' own ad from her successful 2011 race in Kentucky that featured her two grandmothers, Elsie Case and Thelma Lundergan McHugh.[33] In that ad, the grandmas are seen typing away at laptops trying to come up with ads for the candidate. They introduce Grimes by her full name and joked, "It's a long name." At the end of the 2011 ad, Case — Grimes' maternal grandmother — asks, "What rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?"[33]

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

It was announced on July 19, 2013 that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made an online ad buy against McConnell.[34] The ads aimed at hitting McConnell as the “guardian of gridlock,” pointing to the Senate GOP’s frequent filibuster threats.[34]

That same day pro-McConnell Super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership launched a new ad featuring a clip of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) saying she agrees with the national Democratic Party’s platform.[34]

Republican challenger announces candidacy

The same day that McConnell's primary challenger Matt Bevin was set to officially announce his candidacy, McConnell’s campaign announced a new ad buy labeling his primary opponent “Bailout Bevin” and noting that Bevin’s business, which is based in Connecticut, accepted $200,000 in bailout funds.[35]

McConnell's July 24, 2013 ad, "Bailout Bevin"

Matt Bevin's first ad, released July 24, 2013, "Meet Matt Bevin"

In response to McConnell’s ad, the Senate Conservatives Fund, which hasn’t backed Bevin but has suggested McConnell should step aside in favor of a more electable candidate, went after McConnell saying, “It’s the height of hypocrisy for Mitch McConnell to attack anyone on bailouts when he was the one who voted with Barack Obama to bail out the Wall Street banks.”[35]

Bevin released his own ad on the day he announced his official candidacy. The ad, "Meet Matt Bevin," began by Bevin saying, “Mitch McConnell has had a long career in politics. But after 30 years in politics, is his leadership really the best that we can do? America deserves more than failed leadership. We can do better.”[36]

A narrator chimes in, saying that “McConnell has voted for higher taxes, bailouts, debt ceiling increases, congressional pay raises, and liberal judges.” Bevin, on the other hand, is described as a “successful businessman, father of nine, veteran, conservative, Republican.”[36]

Senate Majority PAC

Senate Majority PAC launched its second ad of the campaign, as part of its pledge to meet a pro-McConnell super-PAC ad-for-ad.[37] The 30-second ad titled "Guardian of Gridlock" started running across the state on July 23, 2013 at a cost of about $270,000. It is part of the Senate Majority PAC's "30 Years is Too Long Campaign" against McConnell that started in June 2013.[38] The ad hammers McConnell for calling himself "the guardian of gridlock," and closely echoes attacks from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has launched its own ongoing campaign hitting McConnell for congressional inactivity.[37]

Alison Lundergan Grimes July 25, 2013, ad, "The Campaign Begins"

Senate Majority PAC's July 23, 2013 ad, "Guardian of Gridlock."

"He calls himself the 'guardian of gridlock,' grinding the Senate to a halt even when it hurts Kentucky," a narrator says in the ad.[37]

On September 30, 2013, the Senate Majority PAC announced its radio ad as part of its ongoing “30 Years Is Too Long Campaign.” The ad highlights the disastrous record of failure and gridlock that Mitch McConnell has racked up in his 10,000 days as a U.S. Senator. The ad also fights back against the latest misleading advertising from “Kentuckians for Strong Leadership.”[39]

Alison Lundergan Grimes

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes signaled the beginning of her campaign on July 25, 2013, releasing a video that invited voters to a rally in Lexington and warning Sen. Mitch McConnell that “I don’t scare easy.”[40][41][42][43]

The video, which runs nearly 4 minutes, is filmed in the same room where Grimes recorded an ad during her 2011 Secretary of State race that featured her two grandmothers writing a “commercial” for her campaign and brought her national attention. In that ad, one of her grandmothers asks, “What rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?”[40] Since her July 1 announcement, McConnell’s campaign and the Kentucky GOP have accused her of going into hiding and repeatedly asked, “Where’s Alison?”[40] Grimes responds in the ad saying, "Your campaign wants to play silly games about where I am and where I stand. Well I'm right here in Kentucky senator, where I'll be holding you accountable."[44]

McConnell v. Bevin

McConnell's campaign launched its second ad against primary challenger Matt Bevin on August 5, 2013.[45] The ad hits Bevin for tax issues and labels him “Bailout Bevin.”[45][46][47][48]

Matt Bevin's August 7, 2013, ad, "Finest"

McConnell's second ad against Matt Bevin, "Delinquent"

Bevin's campaign was dismissive of the ad, characterizing it as an attempt to distract from McConnell's record. Bevin spokeswoman Sarah Durand said that the attacks on Bevin's work with his company reflected that McConnell was "out of touch" with Americans.[46]

"If Mitch McConnell had ever run a business or worked in the private sector, he would recognize what a commendable thing Matt did: He took a nearly bankrupt company, turned it around, saved American jobs and kept a historic bell manufacturing company in America. Sadly, Mitch McConnell is so out of touch, he doesn’t even understand that saving American jobs is a good thing," Durand said.[46]

McConnell’s campaign began running ads against Bevin before he even launched his campaign.[45]

In response, Bevin launched his own attack ad on August 7, 2013, calling McConnell's attacks towards him hypocritical in light of McConnell's support of taxpayer bailouts for Wall Street.[49][50]

The 30-second TV spot will run statewide, according to Bevin's campaign. The amount of the ad buy was not disclosed. The ad's narrator says that after voting for bailouts over his 30 years in the Senate, "slinging mud is all Sen. McConnell has left."[49][50]

On August 12, 2013, McConnell released a 75-second YouTube video built around footage of Matt Bevin telling Democrats during the Fancy Farm picnic in early August 2013, “We’re on the same team here, I’ll tell you that much.”[51]

The video has no narrator. The only voice that appears is Bevin’s, telling Democrats on a loop that “we’re on the same team” as a series of text appears on screen.[51]

The video also highlights a story noting that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been highlighting Bevin’s candidacy, “trying to make trouble” for McConnell.[51]

The McConnell campaign again highlights Bevin working with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, saying, “When Bevin’s Connecticut company needed help, he turned to Washington’s most liberal senator…And then, Bevin’s companies got $200,000 in taxpayer bailouts.”[51]

American Chemistry Council's August 2013 ad, "Support for Sen. Mitch McConnell"

McConnell's Youtube ad against Matt Bevin, "Unreliable"

The video, which McConnell's campaign officials have said they might turn into a television ad, ends by saying that “Bailout Bevin [is] not a Kentucky conservative.”[51]

Bevin's campaign said McConnell is trying to distract from his own record. “Mitch McConnell can make all the misleading web videos in the world, but it doesn’t change the fact that he voted for amnesty three times, the Wall Street bailout, the Fannie and Freddie bailout, debt limit increases, massive tax increases, and pay raises for himself, and now, he’s refusing to defund Obamacare,” Bevin spokeswoman Sarah Durand said.[51]

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) announced on August 13, 2013, that the group is spending $400,000 on commercials boosting Mitch McConnell.[52]

A spokeswoman for the Washington-based association of chemical companies confirms that they are making a six-figure buy in August 2013 to run issue ads highlighting the Republican’s “work to promote economic growth and policies that are important to American manufacturers.”[52] In the ads, McConnell is presented as a strong supporter of new energy production, small business and family farms.[52]

“These days in Washington, there are people who like to talk, and leaders like Mitch McConnell who know how to get results,” the narrator says. “Less government, more jobs. Call and tell Mitch McConnell his leadership in Washington is making a difference here at home.”[52]

The group, led by former Rep. Cal Dooley, is running similar ads this summer in support of Sen. Kay Hagan, Sen. Tom Udall, Rep. Fred Upton and Rep. Mike Simpson.[52]

The McConnell spot is running in the Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green markets.[52]

Senate Conservatives Fund

The Senate Conservatives Fund ad, "Stop Amnesty."

The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, joined the primary campaign against Mitch McConnell.[53] On August 16, 2013, SCF announced they were planning a "statewide media campaign in Kentucky" to make McConnell "feel the heat" and support a conservative effort to defund Obamacare.[53]

"Mitch McConnell is telling people he opposes Obamacare while he refuses to oppose its funding. We can't let him have it both ways. If he funds it, he's for it," said Matt Hoskins, the executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, in an email seeking funds for the campaign.[53]

SCF reportedly also purchased $50,000 of national radio and television ad time to attack McConnell for his lack of fortitude on border security and for supporting "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants. The ad asks viewers to call McConnell and urge him him to kill the legislation. "We don't want excuses," reads a statement from the group. "We want results."[54] It has also launched a petition at StopAmnestyMitch.com.[54]

The SCF announced on August 26, 2013, that it is spending nearly $50,000 on a 60-second commercial that will begin airing on August 27, 2013, in Kentucky, where McConnell is locked in a tough race for a sixth term.[55]

"Republicans in Congress can stop Obamacare by refusing to fund it, but Senator Mitch McConnell refuses to lead the fight," says the ad.[55][56]

"The Obamacare bill stinks, and holding your nose won't make it any better," the commercial says, referring to an incident earlier in August 2013.[55][56]

In August 2013 the audio of a January 9, 2013 telephone conversation revealed that Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager, said he was "holding my nose" while working for the candidate. Benton later said in a statement that he believes in McConnell and is 100 percent committed to his re-election.[55]

The Senate Conservatives Fund ad, "Nothing."

The SCF has not endorsed in the Kentucky GOP primary, but in a statement in July 2013, executive director Matt Hoskins said the group was open to backing Bevin.[56][55] The group said it was "waiting to see if the grassroots in Kentucky unite" behind Bevin.[55]

In early September 2013 the SCF launched $340,000 in television ads attacking McConnell for not taking a hardline stance on defunding the health care law.[57]The television ad will air from September 6-17, 2013.[57] It comes after nearly $47,000 was spent in August 2013 attacking McConnell in radio ads.[57]

“Obamacare starts in October but Congress can stop its funding,” the ad says. “What’s Mitch McConnell doing? Nothing. McConnell is the Senate Republican leader, but he refuses to lead on defunding Obamacare. What good is a leader like that?”

The group has been pressuring members of Congress not to vote for any spending bills this fall that include funding for the Affordable Care Act.[57] McConnell has not signed a letter by Mike Lee that pledges to oppose any continuing resolution that funds the law.[57] More than a dozen Republican senators have signed on.[57]

“If there was ever a time when Kentucky needed Mitch McConnell to deliver, it is now,” SCF Director Matt Hoskins said in a statement. “We hope he listens to the voters and finds the courage to lead.”[57]

Senate Conservatives Action October 2013 ad, "Kentucky."

Senate Conservatives Action, an arm of Senate Conservatives Fund, which endorsed Matt Bevin over McConnell in the Republican primary, released an ad costing $330,000 on October 29, 2013, attacking McConnell's vote for the compromise bill he helped craft to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.[58] Some conservatives were dissatisfied with the final compromise bill because it made no major changes to the health-care law known as "Obamacare."

"Conservatives asked Mitch McConnell to lead the fight against Obamacare. He didn't listen," said the narrator of the ad. "Instead, McConnell helped Barack Obama and Harry Reid fund Obamacare."[58]

McConnell's campaign responded by saying, "When Mitch McConnell was rallying conservatives to fight Obamacare the fundraising group responsible for these ads was working day and night to ensure Barack Obama's majority in the Senate. You get an idea of what team the Senate Conservatives Fund is on when you realize that there are scores of Democrats who actually voted for Obamacare up for re-election and this group, purporting to support conservative causes, is investing their well-intentioned donors money into attacking the man responsible for leading the opposition to the law."[58]

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee began running a new television ad on August 15, 2013, attacking Mitch McConnell's stance on Social Security.[59]

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee August 2013 ad, "Tell Mitch McConnell: ExpandSocialSecurity.com."

The ad features Kirk Gillenwaters, a Kentucky labor activist who previously appeared in a radio ad against McConnell in 2008.[59]

"I started working at the Ford plant in Louisville when I was 18 years old. After decades of hard work, I have some injuries. We work hard for these companies, and we're promised a secure retirement in return," Gillenwaters says. "Retirement is supposed to be promises made, promises kept. But our pensions are being cut and we need Social Security. When Senator Mitch McConnell supports cutting Social Security, he's breaking a promise -- and he's hurting our families. Senator McConnell -- if anything, we need to expand Social Security benefits, not cut them."[59]

The group spent just $21,000 on airtime, and the ad ran for approximately one week on all major Louisville broadcast stations, according to PCCC spokesman Matt Wall.[59]

McConnell, like President Barack Obama, has voiced support for a proposal called chained CPI, which would reduce the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, effectively cutting benefits for future retirees.[59]

"I think a place to talk is on things like chained CPI," McConnell said in an interview in July 2013.[59]

MIT controversy

The Madison Project's first radio ad, "Would a Conservative?"

Mitch McConnell's August 20, 2013, ad against Matt Bevin, "M.I.T."

McConnell launched a TV ad buy against primary challenger Matt Bevin that “will be in the six-figure range,” according to his campaign on August 20, 2013. Back in March 2013, reports circulated that Bevin had “come under scrutiny for claiming educational ties to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Bevin’s LinkedIn page indicated he was an MIT graduate or graduate of an MIT-affiliated program but school officials say the three-week seminar he attended has no formal link to the school."[60][61]The 30-second ad references the report as a female narrator asks, “Can you believe Bailout Bevin on anything?”[60] Bevin's LinkedIn page has been revised to clarify that he did not graduate from MIT or an MIT-affiliated program.[61]

Madison Project radio ad against McConnell

The conservative group, the Madison Project, launched its first radio ad criticizing Mitch McConnell for his voting record on August 26, 2013.[62][63]

Led by former Rep. Jim Ryun (R), the Madison Project endorsed McConnell’s primary challenger Matt Bevin in July 2013, and is running what they say will be the first of many statewide ads against the incumbent.[62]

The ad is a relatively small $30,000 ad buy, but the 60-second radio ad slams McConnell’s votes on immigration reform, Wall Street bailouts and the debt ceiling.[62]

“For years, McConnell has succeeded in playing the old Washington double-game of talking the conservative talk at home, while undermining conservatives in the Senate,” the Madison Project’s Drew Ryun said in a statement.[62]

In response, McConnell's released a statement.[64] "All you need to know about this group is that they're supporting a tax delinquent bailout artist who lies on his resume over the most conservative Republican Leader in modern history," says McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore. "Apparently Matt Bailout Bevin has a small cadre of fringe friends in Washington who have concluded that conservative governance isn't half as important as making money off his quixotic Senate campaign even though polling shows Mitch winning by a staggering 68-21 margin."[64]

Patriot Majority PAC

The Patriot Majority PAC announced an ad buy targeting Mitch McConnell on October 30, 2013.[65] The ad notes that the government shutdown cost the country $24 billion and puts the blame for the shutdown on the GOP leaders.[65] The group spent $260,000 on the ad in Kentucky.[65]

The Patriot Majority PAC's October 2013 ad, "Smoke."

The Patriot Majority PAC's June 2013 ad, "Switch."

The Chamber of Commerce December 2013 ad, "Fighting Hard for Kentucky Coal."

Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce released an ad on December 2, 2013, about coal, a key issue in the race.[66]

"Coal means jobs in Kentucky. While the EPA and bureaucrats try to kill Kentucky's coal industry, Mitch McConnell is fighting back, fighting hard," the narrator said in the ad.[66]

The ad also added that McConnell was "working to block the EPA and shut down the bureaucrats," and "making sure our coal industry remains strong."

In response, Lundergan Grimes wrote an op-ed piece for a local paper stating that McConnell "has accomplished next to nothing for the coal industry.He talks the game, but the game he plays is about as dangerous for coal miners as a rotten mine timber."[66]


Government shutdown

See also: United States budget debate, 2013

Voted "Yes" During the shutdown in October 2013, the Senate rejected, down party lines, every House-originated bill that stripped the budget of funding for the Affordable Care Act. A deal was reached late on October 16, 2013, just hours before the debt ceiling deadline. The bill to reopen the government, H.R. 2775, lifted the $16.7 trillion debt limit and funds the government through January 15, 2014. Federal employees also received retroactive pay for the shutdown period. The only concession made by Senate Democrats was to require income verification for Obamacare subsidies.[67] The final vote on H.R. 2775 was 81-18, with all 18 votes against the bill from Republican members. McConnell voted with the Democratic Party for the bill.[68]

Statement on government shutdown

See also: United States budget debate, 2013#Government Shutdown and Default Prevention Act

In a statement McConnell said, "the effects of this completely unnecessary shutdown will have a real impact on my constituents. And I will donate my paycheck to charity for as long as Senate Democrats deprive hardworking Americans of their paychecks during this completely unnecessary shutdown.” An aide added that McConnell plans to donate compensation earned during the shutdown to Wayside Christian Mission in Louisville.[69]

Post-shutdown fundraiser

At a National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in October 2013, McConnell said that the shutdown was "not conservative policy" and reiterated that he always believed that "this strategy could not and would not work." He attended the fundraiser with over a dozen Senate Republicans.[70]

Kentucky's coal industry

Green-minded groups and donors may face a difficult decision in 2014 over whether to support Alison Lundergan Grimes, stemming from her controversial views on environmental issues.[71]

Lundergan Grimes has criticized President Barack Obama for taking “direct aim at Kentucky’s coal industry” and faulted proposed EPA carbon dioxide controls of existing power plants.[71] Kentucky is the nation’s third top coal producing state, and one that derives nearly all its electricity from the fuel.[71]

Despite her viewpoints, many top Democratic donors are choosing to still support her 2014 campaign.[71]

“It is far better to win the Senate than have every senator on the same page,” Susie Tompkins Buell, a top Democratic donor, said in an email after an October 2013 fundraiser she and her husband, Mark, held for Grimes at their California home. “We can’t always be idealistic. Practicality is the political reality.”[71]

Chamber of Commerce ad

The Chamber of Commerce released an ad on December 2, 2013, about coal, a key issue in the 2014 race.[66]

"Coal means jobs in Kentucky. While the EPA and bureaucrats try to kill Kentucky's coal industry, Mitch McConnell is fighting back, fighting hard," the narrator said in the ad.[66]

The ad also added that McConnell was "working to block the EPA and shut down the bureaucrats," and "making sure our coal industry remains strong."

In response, Lundergan Grimes wrote an op-ed piece for a local paper stating that McConnell "has accomplished next to nothing for the coal industry.He talks the game, but the game he plays is about as dangerous for coal miners as a rotten mine timber."[66]

Second amendment

On November 8, 2013, Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) invited Mitch McConnell (R) to go shooting with her. The invitation came after McConnell announced the launch of a coalition of gun rights supporters, "Sportsmen for Team Mitch."[72]

The NRA also indicated that same day that it plans to engage heavily in the race on behalf of McConnell and presented him a "Defender of Freedom" award.[72]

“As an NRA member, my strong support for the Second Amendment is unquestioned. I am proud of Kentucky's long-held gun ownership, sporting and hunting traditions," Lundergan Grimes said in her invitation to McConnell.[72]

"In the Senate, I will protect my fellow Kentuckians' right to keep and bear arms. Whenever he's not busy pandering to Washington lobbyists, I welcome Senator McConnell to come shoot with me at the range any day,” she added.[72]


According to a report by The Hill in September 2013, challenger Matt Bevin was among four Republican senate candidates who had come out against intervening in Syria while the incumbent challenger, in this case McConnell, remained undecided.[73] Following the report, McConnell announced that he would vote against a resolution authorizing the use of force against Syrian President Bashar Assad.[74]

“I will be voting against this resolution -- a vital national security risk is clearly not at play," McConnell said on September 10, 2013, in a Senate floor speech after laying out in detail how he thought Obama had botched the issue. "There are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria, including the fact that this proposal is utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war there, and on the specific question of deterring the use of chemical weapons, the president’s proposal appears to be based on a contradiction...Either we will strike targets that threaten the stability of the regime — something the president says he does not intend to do — or we will execute a strike so narrow as to be a mere demonstration," McConnell said, saying the lack of a clear plan was a serious problem.[74]

"We cannot ignore the unintended consequences of our actions," he added.[74]


Fair pay

Lundergan Grimes criticized Mitch McConnell for claiming in November 2013 he has worked for fair pay for women throughout his career.[75]

In a November 2013 interview with the Associated Press, a McConnell aide said he was a longtime advocate for equal pay.[75]

"As the father of three daughters, fair pay for women is more than a talking point for Sen. McConnell," campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said. "It's something he's worked to achieve his entire career by setting an example for others and promoting thoughtful policies to ensure talent overcomes bias."[75]

However, McConnell twice voted against both the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act before Congress ultimately passed the Fair Pay Act.[75]

"As Kentucky's first woman Senator, Alison Lundergan Grimes will continue being a staunch advocate for women and their families," Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton wrote a memo on November 26, 2013. "She will seek common ground and work across the aisle for solutions that put Kentucky and our country back on the right track. The contrast with Mitch McConnell could not be starker."

On November 26, 2013, Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the fair pay legislation, announced her support for Grimes in the 2014 Senate race.[75]

"After my lengthy battle with pay inequity, I was honored and humbled to lend my name to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act—landmark legislation that makes it easier for women to file pay discrimination lawsuits," she wrote in a fundraising email for the Grimes campaign. "But this is only an important first step in closing the gender wage gap. Yet, Senator McConnell voted against it. Time and again, McConnell has made clear where he stands on issues important to women and their families: in the wrong."[75]

Violence Against Women Act

McConnell’s re-election campaign touted his support for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), despite his consistent record of voting against the anti-domestic violence legislation.[76]

A press packet that McConnell’s spokeswoman distributed to reporters at an event on August 30, 2013, titled “Women For Team Mitch” features testimonials from Kentucky women.[76] A quote, attributed to a woman named Angela Leet in Jefferson County, read, “Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act- and continues to advocate for stronger policies to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator.”[76]

McConnell did cosponsor a version of the Violence Against Woman Act in 1991, which never received a Senate vote.[76] By the time the measure came up again in 1993, McConnell was no longer a cosponsor, and in fact voted against final passage of the bill. In 2005, it was renewed by an unrecorded voice vote. In 2012, McConnell voted against the Senate-passed VAWA, which died in the House. Then early in 2013, he again voted against VAWA re-authorization, which passed the Senate by a vote of 78-22, and eventually passed the House and was signed into law.[76] McConnell has supported a scaled-back GOP alternative to VAWA which excludes protections for gays, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants who suffer from domestic abuse.[76]

Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes accused McConnell of deception. “The women of Kentucky will not be fooled by Senator McConnell’s failed leadership and deception when it comes to issues important to women and their families,” Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton said. “His actions read loud and clear: McConnell repeatedly voted against equal pay for equal work, the Violence Against Women Act and now turns to lies to cover his shameful record.”[76]


Republican Primary

Republican primary
Poll Mitch McConnell Matt BevinUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Wenzel Strategies
July 23-24, 2013
Voter/Consumer Research
August 18-20, 2013
Lake Research
Ocotber 24-29, 2013
AVERAGES 59% 19.33% 20.67% +/-3.97 609
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

General election

McConnell v. Grimes (May 2014 - Present)
Poll Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) Ed Marksberry (I)Mitch McConnell (R)David Patterson (L)UndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
October 15-19, 2014
September 30 - October 2, 2014
Mellman Group
September 4-7, 2014
Public Opinion Strategies
September 1-3, 2014
Public Policy Polling
August 7-10, 2014
July 5-24, 2014
July 18-23, 2014
Gravis/Human Events
July 17-20, 2014
Voter/Consumer Research
June 22-25, 2014
Public Policy Polling
June 20-22, 2014
Public Opinion Strategies
June 14-17, 2014
Magellan Strategies
June 4-5, 2014
Rasmussen Reports
May 28-29, 2014
Wenzel Strategies
May 23-24, 2014
May 14-16, 2014
AVERAGES 44% 0.27% 45.93% 1.53% 7.6% +/-3.62 869
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org
McConnell v. Grimes (December 2013 - April 2014)
Poll Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) Ed Marksberry (I)Mitch McConnell (R)UndecidedSomeone elseMargin of ErrorSample Size
Hickman Analytics
April 24-30, 2014
Gravis Marketing/Human Events
April 15-17, 2014
Kaiser Foundation
April 8-15, 2014
Public Policy Polling
April 1-2, 2014
Wenzel Strategies
February 8-11, 2014
Survey USA
January 30-February 4, 2014
Rasmussen Reports
January 29-30, 2014
Public Policy Polling
January 24-26, 2014
Gravis Marketing/Human Events
January 2, 2014
Public Policy Polling
December 12-15, 2013
AVERAGES 42.3% 1.7% 43.4% 11.2% 1.4% +/-3.98 896.4
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was tied with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes according to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC backing Democratic Senate candidates. The poll found McConnell and Grimes tied at 45 percent each.[77][78]

A poll from Wenzel Strategies conducted June 1-2, 2013 polled 623 people and found Mitch McConnell (R) ahead of Secretary of State Grimes 47 percent to 40 percent. McConnell beat former Miss America Heather French Henry 45 percent to 40 percent and beat Louisville environmental lawyer Tom Fitzgerald 46 percent to 29 percent according to the poll.[79][80]

Campaign forums

Sen. Mitch McConnell faced off against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes at the heavily anticipated 133rd Fancy Farm political forum on August 3, 2013.[81] The candidates both spoke at the political forum that was broadcast nationwide on C-SPAN and online by Kentucky Education Television.[81]

McConnell, who spoke first, avoided direct attacks on his opponent, instead speaking in broad strokes saying, “Over the next 15 months, we are going to decide what kind of America we want … Barack Obama’s vision for America or Kentucky’s. Kentucky’s voice is the voice of opposition to the Obama agenda, and I’m proud of that. That’s why every liberal in America is out to beat us next year.”[81]

Grimes, who followed Rep. Ed Whitfield (R) on stage, took aim at McConnell, saying, “Sen. McConnell is the most unpopular Senator among Democrats but Republicans, as well...There’s a reason he’s so disliked. There is a disease of dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and after 30 years, Sen. McConnell is in the center of it. As long as he remains in D.C., D.C. will stand for dysfunctional capitol.”[81]

The event was the first public encounter between incumbent and challenger in the high-profile race and thrust the annual Fancy Farm picnic into the national spotlight.[81]

Campaign donors

Candidates for Congress are required to file up to seven main reports with the Federal Election Commission during the 2014 elections season.

Alison Lundergan Grimes

On October 23, 2013, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and his wife announced that they will host a fundraising reception for Lundergan Grimes on October 27, 2013.[100]

“Michael and I are proud to support Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate who are ready to work hard and bring common sense solutions to Washington, D.C.” Bennet’s wife, Susan Daggett, wrote in a message about the event, adding Lundergan Grimes is “as exciting a candidate as Kentucky has seen in years.”[100]

In the third quarter of 2013, her first three months in the race, she slightly outraised McConnell, bringing in $2.5 million to his $2.3 million.[100] Despite the third quarter fundraising McConnell still had more campaign funds overall, with $10 million cash on hand to her $2 million.[100]

Matt Bevin

Third quarter 2013

Matt Bevin raised $222,000 in the third quarter of 2013, in addition to a $600,000 personal loan.[101]

Personal financial wealth report

Bevin filed his personal financial wealth report in November 2013.[102] The reported showed millions in cash and assets that were ready to be loaned or contributed to his campaign, and included $1 million to $5 million in a Bank of America checking account and $500,0001 to $1 million in a Commonwealth Bank & Trust money market account.[102] In total, the report found that Bevin had between roughly $10 million and $50 million.[102]

Mitch McConnell

Third quarter 2013

McConnell raised $2.3 million for his re-election bid in the third quarter of 2013, bringing his grand total for the cycle to $17.7 million.[103]

The 2013 third quarter is McConnell's strongest quarter to date, with him ending the quarter with about $10 million cash on hand from nearly 6,000 donors.[103]

"We are running a presidential-level campaign designed to withstand the millions of dollars in attack ads coming from out-of-state groups and deliver Senator McConnell's message directly to Kentucky voters," campaign manager Jesse Benton said in the statement on October 11, 2013.[103]

Second quarter 2013

Incumbent Mitch McConnell raised $2.2 million in the second quarter of 2013, growing his 2014 campaign account to $9.6 million, as of July 11, 2013.[104][34]

According to reports, in 2014 Mitch McConnell’s re-election bid may result in the first Senate contest to pass the $100 million mark.[105]

In 2008, McConnell spent slightly more than $21 million — including a $2 million personal loan — to beat Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford, who pumped nearly $8.6 million of his own money into the race.[105]

In August 2013, McConnell was already ahead of his 2008 fundraising pace, having collected nearly $14 million for the 2014 election, and with $9.6 million cash-on-hand.[105] Unlike in 2008, McConnell will face a primary challenge from wealthy businessman Matt Bevin.[105] While it’s unclear how much of his own money Bevin will spend, those who have done some digging into his wealth — he had yet to file financial disclosure statements for his Senate bid as of August 2013 — believe that he has the capacity to put several million dollars into the race.[105]

McConnell allies and other Republican observers well versed in fundraising estimate that Sen. McConnell will end up raising and spending somewhere between $30 million and $35 million battling Bevin in the primary and Grimes in the general election.[105]

Pro McConnell super PAC

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a pro-Mitch McConnell super PAC, raised $1.2 million between the time it was created in April 2013 through July 2013, bringing in donations from big names such as Donald Trump and deceased megadonor Bob Perry.[106]

Trump contributed $50,000 and Perry, who died in April 2013, gave $100,000, according to reports filed July 28, 2013, with the Federal Election Commission. “We looked into this and found a clerical error in the report,” Caleb Crosby, treasurer for the group, said. “Our records reflect that we actually received the check on April 12. We have amended the report to reflect the correct information.”

Other major Republican donors who gave to the super PAC include John Childs, a private-equity investor who gave $4.2 million in the 2012 election cycle, and Philip Geier, who gave nearly $2 million in 2012.[106]

The super PAC, as of July 2013, spent $370,000, most of which went toward media placement to benefit McConnell. At the end of July 2013, it had more than $800,000 in the bank.[106]

Progress Kentucky super PAC shuts down

The controversial super PAC Progress Kentucky, whose officials are being investigated for bugging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, announced in August 2013 that the Federal Election Commission approved its request to shut down.[107]

The group — which attracted plenty of national media attention — ultimately failed to raise enough campaign cash to be a viable force in the Kentucky Senate race.[107]

One of the group’s officials came under investigation after reportedly bragging to a local Democratic official that the group had bugged McConnell's office.[107] A tape of a secret strategy session where McConnell and his operatives discussed potential opponents was published in Mother Jones in early 2013.[107]

The bugging was only the latest controversy from the group. The super PAC first attracted national attention for a racially charged tweet about McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao.[107] The tweet alleged that Chao, who is Chinese-American, was advising McConnell on the outsourcing of jobs to China.[107] After the McConnell campaign accused the PAC of race-bating, the PAC apologized and erased the offending tweet.[107]

As of their last campaign finance report from the second quarter of 2013, Progress Kentucky raised just over $14,000. As a super PAC it was allowed to collect unlimited sums of campaign cash.[107] The group had just over $1,000 in the bank at the end of June 2013.[107]


Democratic primary

Alison Lundergan Grimes

Gov. Steve Beshear pledged his support for Alison Lundergan Grimes on July 9, 2013. In a press conference he stated, “I’m going to support Alison Lundergan Grimes for the U.S. Senate in every way that I can and whatever they want me to do, I’m going to be there to do. It is time to bring Mitch McConnell home. You know, after 30 years of obstruction and 30 years of do-nothing in the United States Senate, we need somebody up there that is going to represent Kentucky.”[108]

In a statement released August 21, 2013, EMILY's List released its endorsement for Lundergan Grimes.[109]Alison Lundergan Grimes is an energetic rising star, and her candidacy gives Kentuckians a chance to finally send a leader to Washington who puts families ahead of partisan politics,” said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List.[109] “She is an incredible leader who has fought for women and families by protecting victims of domestic violence, supporting state and local businesses, championing voting rights, and advocating for military personnel. Mitch McConnell is one of the least liked senators in the country for a reason – he’s hopelessly out-of-touch with the needs of his state. Alison is working tirelessly to make sure that Kentuckians’ voices are being heard. The EMILY’s List community – now more than two million members – is excited to support the campaign of such a strong and dedicated public servant.”[109]

Black Eyed Peas singer, will.i.am, appeared at a fundraiser for Alison Lundergan Grimes on September 20, 2013.[110]

Nathan Smith, the former vice chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party and host of the fundraiser, said on September 5, 2013, “will. i.am is a modern entertainer and fresh and is passionate about the country. I saw him when he did an event at the inauguration [of Obama]. He offered his assistance to the [Grimes] campaign.”[110]

will.i.am previously appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 in support of President Barack Obama’s re-election and made a music video titled “Yes We Can” in support of Obama’s campaign in 2008.[110]

On November 26, 2013, Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the fair pay legislation, announced her support for Grimes in the 2014 Senate race.[75]

"After my lengthy battle with pay inequity, I was honored and humbled to lend my name to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act—landmark legislation that makes it easier for women to file pay discrimination lawsuits," she wrote in a fundraising email for the Grimes campaign. "But this is only an important first step in closing the gender wage gap. Yet, Senator McConnell voted against it. Time and again, McConnell has made clear where he stands on issues important to women and their families: in the wrong."[75]

Republican primary

Matt Bevin

The Madison Project, a conservative fundraising group headed by former Rep. Jim Ryun, announced its endorsement of Matt Bevin on July 28, 2013.[62] The group praised Bevin’s candidacy in a letter to activists and donors as someone poised to storm “the decaying castle of the GOP establishment for millions of conservatives.”[62]

“As a self-made successful businessman, Matt Bevin understands that the failed leadership in the Republican Party cannot be fixed with the very elements that precipitated its failure,” they wrote.

Madison Project also blasted McConnell’s record in the GOP leadership, including his role in negotiating a deal to raise the national debt limit in 2011 and his handling of the immigration debate. “Sen. McConnell quietly encouraged Sen. Rubio to join the Gang of Eight to ensure that the amnesty bill would pass, albeit without his public support,” the group wrote. “Despite the fact that this was the most onerous bill to come to the floor since ObamaCare and despite his status as GOP leader, Sen. McConnell failed to deliver a single floor speech against the bill.”[62]

The Senate Conservatives Fund announced on October 18, 2013, that it would back Matt Bevin in 2014.[111]

Mitch McConnell

TheTeaParty.net, a national tea party group, declared in May 2013 its support for McConnell in his 2014 re-election bid.[112]

Senator Rand Paul declared his support for incumbent Mitch McConnell in his primary battle against challenger Matt Bevin.[113] In response to Bevin's decision to challenge McConnell he said, “I’m not giving him encouragement or discouragement. It’s a free country and anyone who wants to run can. I have endorsed Sen. McConnell.” As the election progresses Paul increasingly must perform a careful balancing act: Show complete support for McConnell, while avoiding alienating the same tea party supporters who helped him in 2010 and whom he’ll need in 2016.[113]

In August 2013, three conservative members of the U.S. Senate-- Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, and Mike Lee-- all declined to endorse McConnell over primary challenger and businessman Matt Bevin.[114]

Florida Senator Marco Rubio announced on October 20, 2013 his endorsement for McConnell over Matt Bevin, his tea party challenger.[111]

When asked if he supports Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell he answered, "I do support Sen. McConnell's bid for re-election. I think he's trying to lead our conference. It's a diverse conference with a lot of different opinions. That's a tough job to begin with. And of course, he's got to represent his own state."[111]

Washington Post top 10 races

According to an analysis by The Washington Post, the U.S. Senate election in Kentucky was considered one of the top 10 Senate races of 2014. By the end of 2013, Lundergan Grimes continued to impress with fundraising figures.[115]

Election history


U.S. Senate, Kentucky General Election, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngRand Paul 55.7% 755,706
     Democratic Jack Conway 44.2% 600,052
     Independent Billy Ray Wilson 0% 338
Total Votes 1,356,096


On November 4, 2008, Mitch McConnell won re-election to the United States Senate. He defeated Bruce Lunsford (D) in the general election.[116]

U.S. Senate, Kentucky General Election, 2008
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngMitch McConnell incumbent 53% 953,816
     Democratic Bruce Lunsford 47% 847,005
Total Votes 1,800,821

See also

External links


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