politics

The Kentucky General Assembly has wrapped up the first week of the 2015 session, leaving committees with numerous bills to review.

Chairs for the health and welfare committees in both chambers have set their priorities for the remainder of the 30-day session.

Sen. Julie Raque-Adams, a Louisville Republican,  said the committee she chairs will take a critical look at the Medicaid expansion, plus efforts to promote healthy living and protect vulnerable populations.

Democrats and Republicans have selected candidates who will campaign to fill a vacant Kentucky state Senate seat.

Democrat Walter Blevins resigned from the position last Sunday after  being sworn-in as Rowan County’s Judge-Executive.

Voters in the 27th District will choose between Democrat Kelly Caudill and Republican Steve West when they cast ballots March 3.

Caudill is an attorney from Maysville who says his top priorities as state Senator would be boosting economic development in the district, as well as increasing spending for public education and supporting laws that fight drug abuse.

West is a Bourbon County real estate attorney and cattle farmer. If West wins, the GOP will extend its already sizable advantage in the state Senate, which currently stands at 26-11.

The 27th District Senate seat covers Bourbon, Fleming, Harrison, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Robertson, and Rowan counties.

Kentucky State Senator Whitney Westerfield,a Republican from Hopkinsville, might put his name in the currently unopposed race for Kentucky Attorney General. Westerfield said he doesn’t want current candidate Democrat Andy Beshear to be Kentucky’s only option.

FRANKFORT — The first day of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session kicked off with a flurry of activity.

Demonstrators flooded into the Capitol rotunda. Constitutional officers and elected officials of every stripe filled statehouse hallways, and both the Senate and House convened at 12 p.m. in their chambers to elect their leadership and open the books on another year.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the Prestonsburg Democrat who has held the post since 2009, is up for election by his caucus members.

Governor Steve Beshear's image as a Democrat able to govern the red state of Kentucky has earned him a position on the newly appointed Democratic Victory Task Force.

The Democratic National Committee, which announced the group's membership Thursday, hopes it can help position the party to win future elections.

DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced the initiative shortly after Democrats suffered significant losses during last month’s midterm elections. The group is being told to review and assess the Democratic Party and its related organizations, and find ways that the national and state parties can better perform during, but not limited to, future midterms.

Beshear has earned a national reputation as a conservative Democrat who has been able to win and govern in a state where President Obama remains extremely unpopular. In announcing his participation in the task force, the DNC lauded Beshear for implementing the statewide health benefit exchange known as kynect and cutting the state government workforce to its smallest size in 40 years.

The other nine members of the Democratic Victory Task are:

When Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) first entered politics in the 1960s, he started out as moderate — pro-abortion rights, pro-union, in support of the civil rights movement. With time, McConnell shifted to the right as the Republican Party shifted.

"I was just really startled by this when I started looking into it," Alec MacGillis tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I knew that he had started out as somewhat more moderate — but I didn't realize just how moderate he really was."

Mitch McConnell isn’t the only Kentucky Senator basking in the afterglow of Tuesday night’s election results.

Rand Paul is using the election as an opportunity to criticize the woman many consider to be the next Democratic Presidential front-runner: Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Paul says he won’t formally decide on whether or not to launch a 2016 presidential bid until next spring. But the Bowling Green Republican is acting the part of a White House contender, and judging from recent comments, he firmly believes Hillary Clinton is his biggest obstacle to winning the presidential contest.

Paul has wasted no time in describing Tuesday night’s Republican victories around the nation as a “repudiation of Hillary Clinton.” In speeches and interviews following the election, Paul has pointed out that the former First Lady and New York Senator campaigned on behalf of several Democratic Senate candidates who ultimately lost—including Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky.

With a loss by Sen. Mark Pryor, the first Democratic incumbent fell in the 2014 midterms, setting off a chain of events that brought the Republicans a new Senate majority. The man who would lead them in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell, coasted to a win in Kentucky.

McConnell was projected to defeat Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes by a 15-point margin, 56 percent to 41 percent, with almost a third of the vote tallied.

In Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor lost to Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, a first-term member of Congress. Pryor has served in the Senate since 2003.

Officials are encouraging Kentuckians to report any instances or suspicions of vote fraud on Election Day. The Kentucky Attorney General’s election fraud hotline will be open throughout Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Allison Martin says the most common complaints involve vote-buying or campaigning too close to a polling place.

Kentucky’s electioneering law was struck down by a federal judge earlier this year, but while the case is under appeal, it’s still illegal in most cases to promote any candidates within 300 feet of a polling place.

"The only change is that if you have private property that is across the street from a polling place, or near a polling place within that 300 foot boundary,  you do not have to take your sign down," Martin said.

Martin added the election fraud hotline received 205 calls from more than 60 counties during this year’s primary election.

The hotline number is 1-800-328-VOTE.

Offices of Sen. McConnell and Sec. Grimes

One of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history will come to an end Tuesday evening when voters decide between Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Grimes spoke to supporters at the Bowling Green United Auto Workers Hall Monday morning. She was dismissive of recent polls that show Sen. McConnell with a growing lead. An NBC/Marist poll released over the weekend gave McConnell a nine point lead.

“That’s the Washington D.C.-beltway punditry.  As you can see, the energy is palpable,” Grimes said, in reference to supporters at her Warren County event. “Kentuckians will have the final word in this election, and I do believe that they are bringing this race home, and will bring us across the finish line successfully.”

Grimes is hoping to become Kentucky’s first female U.S. Senator. On the final day of campaigning before votes are cast Tuesday, the Secretary of State is flying around the state, making appearances with Governor Steve Beshear, Former Governor Martha Layne Collins, and Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

McConnell is spending Monday alongside his fellow Kentucky Republican Senator, Rand Paul of Bowling Green. The two are flying around the state and speaking at airports across the commonwealth, including those in Bowling Green and Owensboro Monday afternoon.

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