2016 Elections

Kevin Willis

Kentucky’s Second District Congressman says his party needs to tone down some of its rhetoric about illegal immigration, and better explain how its economic policies could help those coming to the country legally.

Bowling Green Republican Brett Guthrie told WKU Public Radio Monday that the GOP is missing opportunities to appeal to immigrants who arrived in America legally in search of jobs and a better life.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., and has called for a wall to be built between the U.S. and Mexico. Guthrie says Republicans can’t afford to be painted as a party unwelcoming to immigrants.

“We as a party can’t look like we’re against people coming here legally,” Guthrie said. Instead, the Warren County lawmaker said Republicans need to reach out to immigrants wanting to “invest in the American Dream and the American future. Guthrie said he thought “some of the rhetoric gets hot,” leaving some voters with a negative impression of the party.

J. Tyler Frankin

Nine months after Republicans dominated Kentucky’s November elections, Gov. Matt Bevin got to take a victory lap at last weekend’s Fancy Farm. And top Democrats skipped the event, leaving him largely unchallenged by opponents onstage.

It was a far cry from 2013, when newcomer Bevin took on U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Republican primary. Same for 2015, when Bevin was running what many thought an underdog campaign for governor against Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway.

During last year’s speech, Bevin criticized the bombastic tone of Fancy Farm, where politicians insult their opponents and the audience often tries to shout down the speakers.

“We literally are celebrating the very worst elements of the political process,” Bevin said. “We are celebrating our divisions, and we are doing it in a childish way that frankly does not resolve any of the issues that we face.”

Thinkstock

So many things about this election are unprecedented — and one of the most obvious is how much voters dislike the candidates. By now, everyone knows that this year features the two most unpopular presumptive major-party candidates on record.

But in some ways, Americans' dislike of the presidential candidates isn't so remarkable. In fact, a recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that 1992 voters were just as disappointed in their candidate choices, perhaps even more so, than voters are today. That helped open the door to the most successful third-party candidate (by popular vote) in more than 100 years, Ross Perot.

This year, despite constant chatter about independent candidates and new interest in the Libertarian and Green parties, no outsider candidate has looked competitive yet (though some polls have shown Libertarian Gary Johnson polling in double-digits). Perot's 1992 run is an excellent foil for showing what is making a third-party run particularly difficult this year.

J. Tyler Franklin

A rowdy crowd packed into Fancy Farm’s covered pavilion Saturday — with many more standing outside in the rain — to hear Kentucky politicians jab, brag and crack jokes.

The main event was the first joint appearance of Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic challenger Jim Gray.

Both candidates have run quiet races so far this campaign season, but sparks flew as Paul attacked Gray’s record as the mayor of Lexington, homing in on a development fiasco that has left a giant construction pit in the center of the city’s downtown.

“I heard the real reason that the big hole is still there, why he stopped work on the big hole, is because he heard there was coal in it,” Paul said.

The CentrePointe project was approved under previous Mayor Jim Newberry and has languished as developers have failed to nail down investors and begin construction in earnest.

Ryland Barton

After decades of Democratic-dominated Fancy Farm events, in a historically Democrat-dominated state, Republicans have found themselves in the catbird seat ahead of the annual political speaking event.

Democratic speakers will be outnumbered by more than two-to-one at this year’s Fancy Farm. That’s partly because last November, Republicans made history by taking the statewide offices of Governor, Auditor, Agriculture Commissioner and Secretary of State.

Only those who represent the citizens of Graves County are allowed to speak at the event. Though Democrats did win two statewide offices last year, neither Attorney General Andy Beshear nor Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes will be in attendance.

During Friday’s GOP “Night Before Fancy Farm” event, Republicans chided Democratic officials who declined invitations to the event on Saturday.

Paul (photo provided) Gray (Jim Gray for US Senate)

Kentucky's U.S. Senate candidates will make their first appearance together at the rowdy Fancy Farm political picnic amid a turbulent national election year.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic Lexington Mayor Jim Gray are both scheduled to face the raucous crowds in Fancy Farm, where thousands of people have gathered every year since 1880 at St. Jerome Parish to eat pork, play Bingo and watch to see how politicians deliver a speech while being peppered with boos and insults from at least half the crowd.

It will be Gray's first appearance in the shaded pavilion as the mayor of Kentucky's second largest city is making his first bid for statewide office. Paul, who is finishing up his first term in the U.S. Senate, is a Fancy Farm veteran.

J. Tyler Franklin

In videos of Fancy Farm, the annual political throwdown in southwestern Kentucky, you’ll usually see little white ceiling fans spinning furiously above the speakers, who are all shouting and sweating profusely with their sleeves rolled up.

It’s one of the few events in U.S. politics where speakers address an audience made up of both supporters and opponents.

Unlike a debate, Fancy Farm attendees are allowed to heckle or cheer those on the stage — a practice that organizers, politicians and beyond have tried to limit, to little effect.

But two days before the annual Fancy Farm picnic, it’s peaceful in Graves County.

Members of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church are readying the Knights of Columbus fairgrounds for bingo and barbeque, and it’s hard to imagine the racket that will soon arrive.

Mark Wilson, organizer of the event’s political speaking portion, says he depends on each year’s Fancy Farm emcee to at least try to control the crowd.

Evan Vucci/AP

Let's take a step back from the news of the past few days and ask a fundamental question: Why does everything suddenly seem different?

Donald Trump, the unsinkable candidate who seemed immune to political consequences while winning Republican presidential primaries month after month, now finds himself with an ailing campaign and a bad case of personal toxicity.

Cable TV and other news media are obsessed with fallout within Team Trump and dissension in the Republican Party. When Trump holds a rally or takes to Twitter, half the nation seems to hold its breath — waiting for him to insult someone, snarl at a baby or maybe punt a puppy off the podium.

Why? Because the contest has changed, the media context has changed — and Trump has been caught in a confluence of damaging stories.

Tennessee Voter Guide for Thursday Primaries

Aug 3, 2016
Creative Commons

Tennessee voters go to the polls Thursday to decide the Republican and Democratic nominees for Congress and the state Legislature.

With the GOP holding wide majorities in both the congressional delegation and the Tennessee General Assembly, many of the most spirited primary contests are among Republican candidates.

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OPEN CONGRESSIONAL SEAT

Three-term U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher's decision to retire from his 8th Congressional District seat this spring set off a frenzy of activity to succeed him in the heavily Republican district ranging from suburban Memphis through rural northwestern Tennessee.

The most active candidates have been radio station owner George Flinn of Memphis, state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff of Germantown and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell of Memphis.

Lisa Autry

U.S. Senator Rand Paul says a more hybrid approach is needed in providing health care to the nation’s veterans.  He told a veterans group in Bowling Green on Wednesday that they should be able to get more care locally. 

Speaking at the Joint Executive Committee of Veterans Organizations meeting, Senator Paul said the nation can’t keep building billion-dollar VA hospitals and that much of the care veterans receive could come from their local doctors.

"I think if you have a war-related injury like an amputation, a gunshot, a burn, post-traumatic stress, I think the VA hospital should specialize in those things," Paul said.  "If you need routine care, and the military has promised to give it to you, maybe we should do it locally and it might be less expensive and more convenient for the veteran."

Senator Paul has said the quality of care at VA hospitals is good, but their distribution of health care is bad.  He said treatment is often rationed through long waiting lists under the single-payer military health insurance system. 

Evan Vucci/AP

Some party loyalists are scrambling to try to course correct Donald Trump’s erratic presidential campaign after the nominee suffered a startling number of self-inflicted campaign wounds in just the kick-off week of the general election race.

Among those taking part in the “reset” effort, according to NBC, is Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. The trio have all played advisory roles for the Trump operation.

NBC reports the effort is in “early stages” and would likely require the assistance of Trump’s three children, who are some of his closest campaign advisers. It remains to be seen how ready or willing Trump is to take outside advice.

Republicans are increasingly, and publicly, frustrated with their nominee over an almost baffling number of decisions like his public feud with the Khan family, and his shock announcement to The Washington Post that he was not ready to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan in his Aug. 9 Wisconsin primary.

AP

Two weeks ago, in the midst of controversy over the fact his wife, Melania, had plagiarized passages of her convention speech from Michelle Obama, Donald Trump tweeted that "all press is good press."

That seems to be the mindset the Republican presidential nominee was embracing Monday morning as he continued to pick a fight with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Marine killed in Iraq. Khizr Khan delivered a powerful speech criticizing Trump at last week's Democratic National Convention.

Trump's sustained hostility toward the Khans has made other Republican candidates and officeholders deeply uncomfortable. On Monday morning, Arizona Sen. John McCain, whom Trump once mocked for being shot down and captured during the Vietnam War, issued a nearly 700-word statement denouncing Trump's critiques of the Khans.

"In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier's parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement," McCain said. "I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates."

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

In one of the most powerful moments at the Democratic National Convention, a Muslim father of a fallen U.S. soldier took the stage with his wife beside him and spoke directly to Donald Trump.

That father, Khizr Khan, condemned the Republican presidential nominee for proposing a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

"Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy," he asked Trump, pulling a copy of the document out of his suit coat. "Look for the words 'liberty' and 'equal protection of law.'"

Khan's son, Humayun Khan, was an Army captain. In 2004, the 27-year-old was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq after having warned his fellow soldiers to stand back. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously.

Khan told Trump that Arlington cemetery is filled with soldiers of "all faiths, genders and ethnicities."

"You have sacrificed nothing and no one," Khan said.

Trump has now responded.

In an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd Friday night, Trump didn't zero in on Khan's accusations but rather on his wife, Ghazala Khan, who stood beside her husband silently. His response to Dowd was brief.

Paul Has More than $300,000 in Unpaid Campaign Bills

Jul 31, 2016
Abbey Oldham

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, known as an anti-debt crusader, piled up more than $300,000 in unpaid bills from his failed presidential campaign.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Rand Paul for President had $301,108 in debts and $2,558 in cash on hand as of June 30 in its most recent Federal Election Commission filing.

The campaign owes dozens of businesses and individuals for rent, insurance, telemarketing, phone and internet access, legal fees, consulting, facility and equipment rental and expense reimbursements promised to campaign workers.

Peter Kutrumanes says his company is owned $3,962 for equipment leased to Paul's campaign. He says his company won't do business with Paul again.

Paul campaign spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper says everyone will be paid in full.

Paul is running for another Senate term in Kentucky. He's running against Democratic nominee and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

U.S. Energy Information Administration

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, two presidents ran blocks for Hillary Clinton on an issue that has crippled her favorability in Appalachia: coal.

Both President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton brought up coal in their speeches endorsing Hillary’s presidential bid.

During his address on Tuesday evening, Bill Clinton recalled how Hillary had sent him to stump for her in West Virginia ahead of the state’s primary election to deliver a message directly to coal miners.

“If you really think you can get the economy back you had 50 years ago, have at it, vote for whoever you want to,” Bill Clinton said. “But if she wins, she is coming back for you to take you along on the ride to America’s future.”

Then on Wednesday night, President Obama said coal miners need to be brought into the discussion about climate change.

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