Elections

Polling Places Open on Kentucky's Primary Election Day

May 17, 2016
Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Polling places for the primary election have opened in Kentucky as light rain falls across much of the state.

The forecast called for widespread showers early Tuesday and scattered showers later in the day with high temperatures reaching to about 60 degrees.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has said she expects voter turnout to reach about 20 percent for the primary election. The ballot includes a host of local, state and federal races.

The top race for Democrats is presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Republicans held a presidential caucus in March, which was won by Donald Trump.

Other major races on the ballot include seats for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and the state House. Voters can cast ballots until 6 p.m. local time.

Lisa Autry

On the eve of Kentucky’s primary election, Hillary Clinton courted voters in southern Kentucky.  The Democratic presidential front-runner held a rally in Bowling Green Monday. 

Clinton spoke as though she was trying to mend fences following her controversial statement about putting coal miners out of work in the pursuit of clean energy. 

She touted herself as the only candidate with a plan to revitalize coal country which includes putting more money into research to determine how the nation can continue to use coal.

"We do have to transition, but we need to take coal country, coal miners, and their families, and not leave them behind," Clinton stated.

The Appalachian region has been hit hard economically by the decline in the coal industry. 

Clinton has already been tested in one Appalachian state.  Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders easily won West Virginia’s Democratic primary last week.

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Kentucky Democrats will decide between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election, and members from both parties will vote in elections for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and state House. Some state Senate districts will also be on the ballot.

Republicans won’t vote for president because in March the party conducted a caucus election, which Donald Trump won handily.

Voter turnout is expected to be low on Tuesday — about 20 percent, according to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. She says Republicans might be less inclined to show up to the polls since their presidential contest has already taken place.

Here’s a look at the federal offices on the ballot and the candidates running for them.

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

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

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

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

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

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

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

A mayor, a filmmaker and an army veteran are the frontrunners in the seven-man Democratic primary for Kentucky U.S. Senate.

Though no public polling has been conducted on the race, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray appears to be the favorite—having secured an endorsement from the Lexington Herald-Leader and amassed a respectable campaign war chest.

Gray raised $1.75 million in the first quarter of this year—$1 million of which was his own money.

During a debate on Wednesday between Gray, filmmaker Sellus Wilder and army veteran Ron Leach, the candidates reserved their punches for the likely Republican nominee—incumbent Senator Rand Paul.

Gray criticized Paul for devoting too much time to his failed presidential bid, which extended from early 2015 through February of this year.

Win McNamee (L)/Getty Images and View press/Corbis (R) via Getty Images

Donald Trump arrived in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to meet with his party's congressional leaders to hash out their differences and talk GOP unity ahead of what is likely to be a pitched general-election battle against Hillary Clinton.

First up was a private meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan. The two arrived around 9 a.m. ET at the Republican National Committee in a session orchestrated by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

Swarms of journalists, protesters and onlookers crowded around the building just behind the U.S. Capitol. The crazy scene included a Trump impersonator in a huge piñata mask mocking Trump on a megaphone, immigration activists, signs that read "Trump is a racist" and "Islamophobia is un-American," and chants of "GOP RIP, GOP RIP."

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Four Republicans are vying to be the chosen “Washington outsider” in the primary race for U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield’s Western Kentucky district, which he has represented in Congress since 1994. But it appears the real horse race is between just two.

After losing to now-Gov. Matt Bevin in last year’s primary race, former Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has the financial edge despite an early fundraising lead by Mike Pape, Whitfield’s longtime district director. Also running are Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts and Trigg County farmer Miles Caughey.

Scott Jennings, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, says Comer has a name recognition advantage in the race after his high-profile gubernatorial bid.

“To build up name ID is not an easy thing, and it takes time and it takes money, and this was not the kind of campaign that was probably conducive to building that sort of name ID that would’ve helped Pape or Batts catch up to Comer,” he says.

Grimes Predicts 20 Percent Turnout For Kentucky Primaries

May 11, 2016
Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s top election official says she expects 20 percent of the state’s more than 3.2 million registered voters to cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary elections.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said more than 12,000 people have already cast absentee ballots for a host of local, state and federal races. Of those, 7,533 were cast by registered Democrats and 4,821 were cast by registered Republicans.

The race most likely to drive turnout will be the Democratic presidential primary between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Kentucky will not have a Republican presidential primary. The state party held a presidential caucus in March, which was won by Donald Trump.

Grimes said the lack of a Republican presidential race will likely drive down turnout on the Republican side.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Hillary Clinton criticized Gov. Matt Bevin for his work to dismantle elements of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky during a campaign stop in Louisville Tuesday.

The former first lady and secretary of state has been campaigning in Kentucky ahead of the state’s Democratic presidential primary next week.

During the campaign stop at Family Health Centers in the Portland neighborhood, Clinton applauded Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, calling it “the best example” of states’ efforts to expand health coverage. She criticized apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s position against the law, also known as Obamacare.

“Donald Trump wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, your governor is working hard to undermine what Kentucky has accomplished,” Clinton said. “I think with somebody like Donald Trump you would see a race to the bottom across our country — with working families paying the price.”

Stu Johnson, WEKU News

Child care issues were front and center for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a visit to Lexington Tuesday. The former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady held an almost hour-long round table talk with parents and staff at Lexington’s Family Care Center.

Clinton announced a proposal to increase federal investments so families would not pay more than ten percent of their income for child care. The Democratic frontrunner says a 60 percent turnover in child care workers needs attention.

“We’ve got this dilemma. Families can’t pay more, but child care workers have to have a decent income in order to stay in the field to get the skills that will make them even better in their jobs.”

She said existing government subsidies could help cover that cost.

“Some of them flow directly to the states and to other entities and some are more direct, but mostly through the states. We already have a system--it’s just not kept up with the times. It hasn’t kept up with the cost,” Clinton said.

John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images and Matt Rourke/AP

Hillary Clinton would have a significant electoral advantage over Donald Trump in the general election, based on an NPR analysis.

The Democratic former secretary of state would start out with already exactly enough electoral votes to win the presidency, 270-191, based on states considered safe, likely and to lean toward either candidate. The ratings, which will be updated at least monthly until Election Day, are based on fundamentals — historical trends and demographics, plus reporting and polling (both public and private).

But there is also the potential that this fall's presidential battlegrounds could be re-sorted — pitting white, working-class voters, whom Trump is appealing to, against Latino voters, who appear to be in Clinton's corner. Traditional ways of thinking about the map should and will be challenged. So in addition to our current ratings, we also explore several possibilities and scenarios, including Trump's potential path and even two potential ties, based on Trump doing well in the Upper Midwest and Clinton racking up wins in competitive states where the Latino vote is important.

Jewel Samad /AFP/Getty Images

The general election unofficially began on Wednesday as Donald Trump became the de facto GOP nominee. And, boy, is it going to be ugly.

Likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton premiered an unsurprising line of attack in an online ad against her probable November opponent — throwing back some of the choice words from his now-vanquished Republican rivals just as the real estate mogul now has the daunting task of trying to unite the GOP behind him.

"Con artist," said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. "The most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency."

"He's a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot," said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

"A narcissist at a level I don't think this country has ever seen," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said about Trump on Tuesday, just hours before he dropped his own bid.

"He needs therapy," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said exasperatedly in the ad's final kicker.

McConnell Calls On Trump To Unite Party

May 5, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Donald Trump, as the Republican Party’s apparent presidential nominee, has the “opportunity and the obligation” to unite the GOP.

In a statement, McConnell said he committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters and noted that Trump is on the verge of clinching that nomination. He said Trump now must unite the party around “our goals.”

The Kentucky Republican said his party is committed to “restoring economic and national security” and preventing what he characterized as a “third term of Barack Obama” if Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton wins the White House.

“I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching that nomination,” McConnell said in the statement. “Republicans are committed to preventing what would be a third term of Barack Obama and restoring economic and national security after eight years of a Democrat in the White House. As the presumptive nominee, he now has the opportunity and the obligation to unite our party around our goals.”

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump is the apparent GOP presidential nominee after his two remaining rivals ended their White House bids.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich will suspend his presidential campaign at a 5 p.m. press conference Wednesday in Ohio, campaign sources tell NPR. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dropped out of the race Tuesday night after a disappointing loss in Indiana.

The rapid moves in the past 24 hours bring to a close a wild GOP primary season that leaves the one-time unlikely candidate as the party's apparent nominee.

Trump was widely discounted when he announced his bid on June 16 last year after publicly flirting with a White House run for many years but not following through. The real estate mogul dominated the news cycles and was impervious to ramifications from controversial statements and missteps that would have doomed any other nominee. The GOP electorate, fed up with a Republican Party they felt had too often capitulated to Democratic demands, was angry, and Trump became the vehicle for that anger and desire for an outsider candidate.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Republican Ted Cruz has ended his presidential candidacy, after Donald Trump won Indiana to all but clinch victory. Bernie Sanders also won, with 52 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 47 percent — but he only saw a net gain of less than a dozen delegates.

Here are five stories that tell us where we are right now:

Ted Cruz suspends presidential campaign, clears way for Donald TrumpHouston Chronicle

"In a potentially decisive and at times bizarre Midwestern showdown that Cruz had called 'favorable' ground, Trump won a delegate haul that eased his path toward the Republican presidential nomination, raising questions about the future of the Texas senator's campaign.

"Cruz answered those questions in concession speech in Indianapolis invoking America's greatness and the need for Republican unity.

" 'We are suspending our campaign,' Cruz told stunned supporters. 'But hear me now, I am not suspending our fight for liberty.' "

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