Mitch McConnell

WKU PBS

Senator Mitch McConnell is declining to talk about the recent resignation of his campaign manager. At a stop Tuesday in Somerset, the Republican incumbent didn’t address issues surrounding Jesse Benton, who stepped down from the McConnell campaign last Friday.

Benton’s resignation came after a former Iowa state Senator pleaded guilty to charges related to a bribery scandal that took place while Benton was political director of then-Congressman Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign. The state Senator pleaded guilty to accepting money from the Paul camp in exchange for an endorsement of Congressman Paul for president.

Benton faces no charges related to the case and has said he did nothing illegal.

The Herald Leader reports that Sen. McConnell refused to discuss Benton following a speech to the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce. The paper quoted McConnell as saying his campaign was “moving on” and “talking about the future and not the past.”

McConnell is seeking a sixth term in the Senate, and is being challenged by Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Although he denies any wrongdoing, Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton will resign from the campaign, effective Saturday. 

Several media outlets have reported on questions surrounding Benton's involvement in an alleged political payoff  from two years ago involving former Iowa Republican State Sen. Kent Sorenson. Sorensen pleaded guilty this week to concealing payments from Congressman Ron Paul’s campaign. Investigators contend Sorenson was paid to switch his 2012 presidential endorsement.  

Benton, at that time, was Paul’s political director. Benton calls reports that he knew of the alleged payoff “inaccurate and unsubstantiated.”

But in an e-mail Friday afternoon Benton writes. “I cannot, and will not, allow any possibility that my circumstances will affect the voters’ ability to hear [Mitch McConnell’s]  message and assess his record."

It was the first Saturday in August, and Mitch McConnell was sermonizing from a fake redbrick porch beneath a corrugated metal overhang in Fancy Farm, Ky. (population 458), not far from the Mississippi River. Despite the 90-degree heat, McConnell, the 72-year-old Senate minority leader, wore a starchy yellow dress shirt and crisp khakis, a BlackBerry securely fastened to his belt; his silver hair was neatly combed along a distinct side part. McConnell is often lampooned as a creature of Washington, but he is quite proficient with the schlock and pomp of the stump.

Lisa Autry

One of the nation’s most closely watched political horse races played out in Owensboro Tuesday.  Kentucky’s U.S. Senate nominees met at the Red, White, and Blue Picnic on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse.

"Our first speaker, please give a warm Daviess County round of applause for challenger and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes," announced emcee Kirk Kirkpatrick.

Before a crowd of several hundred, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes utilized a classic campaign strategy: it’s time for change.

"This election comes at a critical time because Mitch McConnell's Washington is not working for Kentucky," suggested Grimes.

Wearing a red dress with cowboy boots, Grimes spoke forcefully as she painted McConnell as the embodiment of all that is wrong in Washington.

Offices of Sen. McConnell and Sec. Grimes

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has endorsed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Kentucky Senate race. Albright served as Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. 

Meantime, Republican Mitch McConnell is calling on 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to give his campaign a boost.  The Herald-Leader reports Romney will appear at a McConnell fundraiser October 2nd in Lexington.  

The former Massachusetts governor won Kentucky in 2012, picking up 60 percent of the vote.

Centre College

Kentucky Senate candidates Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes will debate October 13th on KET, but they won’t be debating this September at Centre College.  The Danville-based school announced Monday it is calling off attempts to try and host a Senate debate this year. 

“My disappointment runs deep for the citizens of Kentucky, who deserve to make an informed decision on election day,” said Centre College President John A. Roush in a written statement. “We had every indication early on that agreement could be reached, but as time wore on, compromise on the part of both campaigns simply didn’t occur.”

Centre extended invitations to both camps in July, but said Monday it couldn’t get the two sides to commit to the proposed Sept. 3 debate.  Centre hosted vice presidential debates in 2000 and 2012. 

Grimes and McConnell will appear together Tuesday at the Red White & Blue Picnic in Owensboro, but it’s not a traditional debate format.

Offices of Sen. McConnell and Sec. Grimes

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes denies accusations that her campaign may have violated federal campaign finance laws.

When asked by reporters at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s ham breakfast in Louisville Thursday, Grimes downplayed a Politico report suggesting her father, Kentucky Democratic party power broker Jerry Lundergan, used his catering company to purchase his daughter’s campaign bus then rented it to her for far less than  market value.

"These are baseless, unfounded, bullying accusations from the McConnell campaign, just an attempt to try to divert attention away from serious questions that Kentuckians have about Mitch McConnell's family profiting off the loss of coal jobs," said Grimes.

The McConnell campaign did not address Grimes’ accusation in a statement to Kentucky Public Radio, saying instead that her campaign is suffering from “potentially very significant legal problems.”

Centre College

Following the announcement that Kentucky's two leading U.S. Senate candidates will appear on Kentucky Educational Television, Centre College's president is reaching out to both camps.

Centre College proposed hosting a debate September 3 between incumbent Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

In a letter posted Wednesday on the Danville college's website, President John Roush says Centre is awaiting a response. He says time is ticking but he remains optimistic both candidates will accept.

"It's really about the citizens of the Commonwealth," the letter read. "This is no longer for me about my interests or even Centre College's interests. The citizens of this state deserve the right to hear these candidates and I'm hoping they'll figure that out."

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes traded familiar barbs Wednesday while discussing agricultural issues at the Kentucky Farm Bureau headquarters in Louisville.

The 90-minute forum offered voters one of the few opportunities to contrast the two candidates in person, and covered a wide range of topics from the farm bill, immigration reform, and Affordable Care Act.

Senate Tracker: A Tough Fight In Kentucky

Aug 20, 2014

This week’s installment of Senate Tracker focuses on Kentucky, where Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is trying to unseat longtime Senator Mitch McConnell.

Democrats see the 35-year-old secretary of state of Kentucky as their greatest hope in years to grab the seat, but McConnell is pitting himself as the change candidate, arguing that she would continue the policies of President Obama.

Kevin Willis of WKU Public Radio in Bowling Green, Kentucky, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the race.

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