politics

Senate Republican Dan Coats of Indiana announced Tuesday — probably surprising no one — that he would not seek another term in 2016. Although he has been a stalwart Republican through a turbulent generation in Washington, Coats seems less at home in the hyper-partisan world of Congress today.

While Coats, 71, said his decision was strictly personal and age-related, he did refer to the "terribly dysfunctional Senate" in an interview with the Howey Politics Indiana newsletter.

A voting rights advocate says a potential Republican Party presidential caucus in Kentucky next year would need to include specific rules to protect overseas voters’ rights.

This month, state GOP leaders gave preliminary approval to conducting a presidential caucus in 2016 instead of the usual primary. The change was requested by Sen. Rand Paul—a likely 2016 presidential candidate—to get around a state law banning candidates from appearing twice on a ballot.

Grace Ramsey, a voting expert of the Maryland-based election reform advocacy group Fair Vote, said a presidential caucus itself isn’t a problem. But because caucuses consist of sequential rounds of in-person voting, the process of including absentee voters can be tricky.

“Obviously this is this in-person process and if you can’t be there it can cause problems for participation, and it is entirely possible to adjust and adapt and make sure that those voters can be included,” she explained.

One option Ramsey suggested: sending overseas voters ranked ballots. The voters would list candidates in order of preference; Ramsey said such a process would help ensure overseas voters’ opinions counted throughout the caucus’ process of elimination.

According to the Kentucky State Board of Elections’ records, 279 military and overseas voters returned absentee ballots for the 2012 Primary Election.

A committee of state GOP officials will decide the rules and procedures for the caucus and present it to a larger committee of the Kentucky GOP in August, when the party will hold a final vote on the matter.

This week's Conservative Political Action Conference has drawn a huge crowd of activists and politicos, per usual — but it's also a prime spot for 2016 presidential hopefuls. The GOP's potential candidates — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Bobby Jindal — are rolling on and off the main stage, hoping to fire up the conservative audience. And how well they do with this crowd — an important part of their base — may say a lot about 2016. Here are five things I'll be watching for at CPAC:

Office of Ky Governor

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says the national Democratic Party is paying the price for not putting enough resources into winning Congressional and state legislative races.

Beshear made the comments over the weekend during the release of draft recommendations made by a task force charged with helping the party prepare for the 2016 election cycle.

Beshear is one of the 11 members of the task force, and says the Democratic National Committee needs to implement a “National Narrative Project” that will gather input from party leaders and members to create a “strong values-based national narrative that will engage, inspire, and motivate voters to identify with and support Democrats.”

Beshear also called upon the party to rebuild “its bench” by recruiting stronger candidates for state legislative seats over the next three election cycles, something he said would help Democrats influence the redrawing of Congressional districts after the next Census is completed.

WKU

WKU is hosting a debate featuring Kentucky’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates.

The event is being sponsored by the Kentucky chapter of the conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by the billionaire businessmen David and Charles Koch.

Other sponsors are the conservative political publication National Review, and the WKU Department of Political Science.

The event is being held at the Downing Student Union auditorium on the school’s campus April 28, and will focus on health care; taxes and spending; and jobs and the economy.

Matt Bevin, James Comer, Hal Heiner, and Will T. Scott have confirmed they will attend the event.

Tickets to the debate are free and will be made available to the public beginning April 3.

Lisa Autry

Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer says passing a statewide right-to-work law would be his first priority if elected as Kentucky's next governor.

Comer, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner and a Monroe County native,  predicts the issue will be hotly debated during the general election, given that Democratic front-runner Jack Conway opposes such a law.

Right-to-work laws prohibit private-sector workers from being forced to join labor unions. Critics maintain they’re being used as a tool to crush labor organizations and drive down workers’ wages.

Comer says becoming right-to-work would help Kentucky compete for jobs against its neighbors.

“If you want to be considered a business-friendly state, one of the first things you have to do in your state is become right-to-work," Comer says.

Several Kentucky counties have passed, or are in the process of passing, local right-to-work ordinances. Marshall County this week became the first county in the state to pass a resolution denouncing right-to-work measures.

There may not be any officially declared candidates for president yet, but prominent Republicans from Jeb Bush to Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are making big speeches and jostling for consultants and donors. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton may not formally announce whether she is running for months. But any number of polls would indicate, without even declaring, she has a lock on the Democratic nomination.

Which got me thinking — who are the other potential Democratic candidates?

"Regular order" is a phrase you'd normally hear only from Congress nerds, but it's increasingly common in conversations about the Senate this year.

When Mitch McConnell became Senate majority leader, he promised he'd restore what he called regular order in that chamber. But Democrats have been accusing him of violating regular order ever since.

When you listen to senators talk about regular order, it sounds like this fabulous, amazing thing. For Republican John McCain of Arizona, regular order is about getting stuff done.

Updated at 12:03 p.m. ET

President Obama says he wants to work with Congress to "replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America," in remarks that came hours after the release of his $3.99 trillion budget proposal, which is already drawing criticism from Republicans.

WFPL News

Ending speculation about her immediate political future, former U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes says she will run for re-election as Kentucky’s secretary of state. Grimes announced her decision Monday at a press conference in Lexington.

“Today I come before you and I ask you to humbly give that same faith and trust to continue to be your voice. It’s with excitement, it’s with energy that I tell you today I will be filing paperwork for reelection as Kentucky’s Secretary of State.”

Grimes was also considering a run for Kentucky Governor and Attorney General in 2015.

Grimes lost to Sen. Mitch McConnell in a grueling race for his U.S. Senate seat last year. Democrats had initially hoped she would oust McConnell from his seat, which he has held for five terms.

Final polls before the election suggested a close race, however Grimes lost by more than 15 percentage points in the final returns. She won the Democratic primary for that race with 77 percent of the vote.

So far, Grimes is the only Democrat to file to run for Secretary of State. Republican businessman Stephen Knipper has also filed for the position. The filing deadline is Tuesday.

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