Political news

Haslam Now Country's Richest Elected Official

Jan 22, 2015

Forbes Magazine says Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is now the country's richest elected official, citing a rush to the pumps at the family-owned Pilot Flying J truck stop chain due to tumbling fuel prices.

According to Forbes, Haslam's net worth has more than doubled since August from $980 million to $2 billion.

Haslam has steadfastly refused to publicly disclose his earnings from Pilot, arguing that it would divulge the income of family members who aren't in public office. But the wealth of the Haslam family was illustrated when the governor's brother, Jimmy, bought the NFL's Cleveland Browns for $1 billion in 2012.

Gov. Haslam said Wednesday that he has no idea where Forbes gets its information. He said he has made a practice of not commenting on personal financial information.

Woman in Sexual Harassment Case Loses Job

Jan 22, 2015
Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

The newest member of the state House Democratic leadership team has terminated a woman who has a pending sexual harassment case against a former Democratic lawmaker.

Yolanda Costner's attorney, Thomas Clay, said she was notified of her dismissal on Wednesday. Costner worked for former House Democratic whip Tommy Thompson. But state Rep. Johnny Bell ousted Thompson earlier this month in a leadership election.

Bell did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

It is not uncommon for new leaders to hire their own staff. But Costner was at the center of a high profile sexual harassment lawsuit against former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold. Clay said he intends to add Bell as a party to Costner's lawsuit.

Chao Steps Down From Bloomberg Charity Over Coal Issue

Jan 21, 2015
Alix Mattingly

Elaine Chao has resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies as the foundation revs up its commitment to its clean energy initiative.

Chao was Secretary of Labor in President George W. Bush’s cabinet and is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She stepped down from the board Wednesday after the philanthropic  group announced $48 million in clean energy grants.

Governor Bill Haslam is kicking off a statewide tour to promote his proposal to extend health coverage to more than 200,000 low-income Tennesseans.

Haslam began his tour on Wednesday, meeting with health officials and state lawmakers at hospitals in Jackson and Memphis. The governor said he would make up to eight more stops around the state in advance of a Feb. 2 legislative session to take up his proposal called Insure Tennessee.

While Haslam stresses the market-based nature of his plan, several fellow Republicans in the Legislature have balked over drawing down federal money available under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Haslam argues the proposal differs from straight Medicaid expansion adopted in other states because it would require co-pays and offer vouchers to buy private insurance.

In the first minute of his hourlong State of the Union address, President Barack Obama summed up his theme in single sentence: "Tonight, we turn the page."

The president then detailed a page of history filled with the financial crisis of 2008, the recession and unemployment and deficits that followed and the two distant and difficult wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was a reminder of the ills that helped elevate young Sen. Obama to the Oval Office six years ago. And now, after many battles, he was ready to declare he had turned that page.

With Kentucky’s gubernatorial primary four months away, candidates are beginning to line up endorsements.

Kentucky’s AFL-CIO chapter officially endorsed Democratic candidate and Attorney General Jack Conway Tuesday. Republican candidate and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has been endorsed by former Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning.

Another GOP candidate, former Louisville Council Member Hal Heiner, this week aired the first television ad of the 2015 election cycle.

The spot touts Heiner’s experience in private business and says he would fight against federal mandatessuch as Obamacare and the Common Core educational standards.

Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott is also running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Secretary of State and former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes says she’s considering several options, including running for governor, attorney general , and a second term as Secretary of State.

Presidents often characterize the state of the union as "strong." Last year, in fact, President Obama remarked: "It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong."

It seems whatever the crisis du jour is, the State of the Union address is a chance for the president to sneak in some optimism. In 2012, as the economy limped back, Obama still found occasion for the s-word: "The state of our union is getting stronger. And we've come too far to turn back now."

Grimes Campaigns for Statewide Office, but Which One?

Jan 19, 2015
Kentucky Secretary of State's Office

Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says she will run for statewide office this year.

The former Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate said she has been encouraged to run for governor, attorney general and to seek re-election as Secretary of State. Grimes said she has not decided what she will do yet but that she will file for office before the Jan. 27 deadline.

On Monday, Grimes attended the Alpha Phi Alpha Unity Breakfast in Lexington with former state Sen. Georgia Davis Powers. With a campaign photographer in tow, Grimes worked the room of about 1,500 people before leading the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Freedom March.

Grimes lost a closely watched U.S. Senate race in November to Mitch McConnell, who now leads the new Republican Senate majority.

Kentucky News Network

A group of pastors has endorsed Republican Hal Heiner in the 2015 Kentucky governor's race.

Heiner appeared with several pastors outside of the Lyman T. Johnson Middle School on Friday to endorse the former Louisville metro councilman for his push to allow public charter schools in Kentucky.

Heiner officially announced his candidacy last March but has kept a low profile since then in deference to the November elections for the U.S. Senate and state House of Representatives. He said Friday's event was the kickoff for his public campaign for governor. He is scheduled to speak to the Kentucky Association of Chiropractors on Saturday.

Republican James Comer plans to officially file for governor on Thursday. Former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott filed earlier this week.

A new Iowa poll shows Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in the middle of the pack of possible Republican contenders for the White House in 2016. 

The Courier-Journal cites a poll by Gravis Marketing that shows former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in front with 21 percent support.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush comes in second in the poll with 14 percent approval.  Next are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with ten and nine percent support, respectively. 

Senator Rand Paul was favored by eight percent Iowa Republicans who were surveyed.  Behind Paul were Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio. 

The poll was conducted January 5-7 and questioned 404 registered GOP voters.  The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points. 

Senator Paul has made several trips to Iowa while exploring a run for president.  He continues visiting other early-voting states.  This week, the Bowling Green Republican visited New Hampshire.