6:41 am
Sun May 18, 2014

McConnell Faces Challenge From The Right In Tuesday Midterms

Originally published on Sun May 18, 2014 10:24 am



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary. Primary races are picking up ahead of the midterm elections this fall. On Tuesday, voters in six states will go to the polls, making it one of the most important primary election days of the year.

Among the races to watch is a Tea Party challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. To give us a lay of the land is NPR political editor Charlie Mahtesian. Charlie, welcome to the program.


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10:14 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

As Bus Tour, Primary Season Wind Down, Grimes' Criticism of McConnell Ramps Up

Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks in front of a crowd of supporters Friday night at Circus Square Park in Bowling Green
Credit Emil Moffatt

Just days away from the Kentucky primary, Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has her eyes fixed on November and a potential general election matchup with incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell.

In front of an estimated crowd of more than 200 supporters Friday evening at Circus Square Park in Bowling Green, Grimes spoke after being introduced by State Rep. Jody Richards. It was the final stop of the day on Grimes' bus tour of Kentucky. 

“The energy, the excitement is contagious,” Grimes said to the crowd.  “I know you are ready, not only for May 20th but to give me enough shoe leather to run all the way until November.”

Grimes’ criticism of McConnell was unrelenting, calling the incumbent the “senator of yesterday.”

“Yesterday’s view of minimum wage, yesterday’s view against women getting equal pay for equal work. Yesterday’s view against actually bringing funding here for our universities, yesterday’s view against actually realizing it’s the job of a U.S. Senator to actually bring jobs to this state,” said Grimes.

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1:26 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Sen. Paul Says He'll Filibuster Obama Judicial Nominee Over Drone Issue

Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator says he plans to filibuster one of President Obama’s judicial nominations.

Bowling Green Republican Rand Paul says he wants to block the President’s nomination of David Barron for the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals because of Barron’s legal memos related to drones. During his time as a U.S. Justice Department lawyer, Barron reportedly authored at least two classified opinions giving the go-ahead to use drones to kill the U.S.-born extremist Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011 in Yemen.

Paul has been a strong critic of the Obama Administration’s policy of using drone strikes against Americans overseas, and gained national attention in 2013 for a 13-hour filibuster he conducted against the nomination of John Brennan as CIA chief.

Paul was demanding the White House state it would not use drones to kill a non-combatant American citizen on U.S. soil.

The Kentucky Senator now wants the White House to release at least one of the drone memos authored by Barron.

9:06 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Several Kentucky Tea Party Groups Hope to Defeat McConnell in Primary

While establishment Republicans may still rule the day, the Tea Party is bent on taking down the king, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. 

The five-term incumbent is waging two wars to hang on to his seat. The first battle, culminating on May 20, has McConnell in a primary contest with Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. Hoping he doesn’t survive to fight in the general election, Tea Party groups across Kentucky are rallying the troops ahead of the May 20 primary.

“When was the last time you saw a town hall here in Kentucky with Senator McConnell where he actually answered questions? He shows up at Lincoln Day dinners, gives his speech, and leaves," asserts Scott Hofstra with the United Kentucky Tea Party. "He’s not accountable to us and doesn’t want to be. We deserve better.”

Hofstra spoke recently in Elizabethtown to a group called the Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots, a mix of mostly blue collar workers and retirees. 

National Tea Party groups are mostly split in their support of McConnell and Bevin, but state and local groups are mostly rallying around Bevin, someone they call a “true conservative,” who they think can take the GOP back to its roots.

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7:45 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Council Votes to Oust Hodgenville Mayor

A city council in central Kentucky has ousted the mayor following his indictment on charges of theft and abusing public trust.

The News-Enterprise reports Hodgenville City Council members voted unanimously Thursday night to remove Mayor Terry L. Cruse from office after a daylong hearing.

The decision stemmed in part from a state police investigation of Cruse and City Clerk MaDonna Hornback that led to criminal charges.

A grand jury indictment issued in December accuses both of using a city-issued fuel credit card to make personal purchases and taking money from the city. Cruse and Hornback have denied the allegations.

After removing Cruse, the officials appointed Councilman Kenny DeVore as interim mayor.

4:39 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Rand Paul to Speak in Swing State of Ohio

U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-KY
Credit Abbey Oldham

A U.S. senator from Kentucky who's testing the waters for a presidential bid will venture across the Ohio River for appearances in neighboring swing state Ohio.

Rand Paul will speak Friday evening for the Hamilton County Republican Party's annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner. Before that, he'll participate in a school choice discussion at a Cincinnati charter school.

Paul has had a high public profile, speaking out against the National Security Agency on privacy issues and demanding information from President Barack Obama's administration about its drone strike policy. The tea party favorite also has been courting establishment Republicans.

He'll be joined in Cincinnati by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a strong 2012 supporter of Mitt Romney.

Paul has said he expects to decide on a presidential run after the November elections.

4:15 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Grimes Expecting Low Turnout for Tuesday's Primary Election

Kentucky's primary election will be held Tuesday, May 20.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says that turnout for this Tuesday’s primary election isn’t likely to exceed 30 percent.

Grimes says without a presidential contest and without ballot initiatives like a local option sales tax, turnout among Kentucky’s 3.1 million registered voters will be lower than in some previous years.

“Based on conversations that we have had with our county clerks throughout the state, the fact that there is no local option question available, or on the ballot, and when we’re looking at the absentee numbers that are being reviewed by the state board of elections, they are lagging from where we were at this very time in ‘06 and 2013," the Secretary said.

About 1,000 offices will be up for grabs Tuesday across 3,700 voting precincts.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

12:28 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Senator Paul Threatens to Block Fed Nominees

U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-KY
Credit WKU Public Radio

U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is threatening to delay the approval of three Federal Reserve nominees unless the Senate considers his transparency bill. 

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Paul threatens to block votes on President Barack Obama’s picks for the Federal Reserve Board. 

Paul, considered a 2016 GOP presidential contender, said he wants a vote on his bill giving Congress more power to audit and review Fed actions. 

"My bill calls to eliminate all restrictions placed on Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits of the Federal Reserve," Paul writes.  "The Fed's credit facilities, securities purchases, and quantitative easing activities would also be subject to Congressional oversight."

Similar legislation proposed by the senator’s father, former Congressman Ron Paul, cleared the House with bipartisan support in 2012, but has been stalled in the Senate for more than three years.  Due to changes in Senate rules, Paul’s bid to block the nominees is unlikely to be successful.

Fed officials have said that exposing monetary policy decisions would endanger the central bank's independence from political pressure.

2:22 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Poll: McConnell Up Big Over Bevin, in Dead Heat with Grimes

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell speaking at the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club
Kevin Willis

A new poll shows Kentucky’s incumbent U.S. Senator coasting to victory against his Republican primary challenger.

But that same poll shows a dead-heat between Sen. Mitch McConnell and presumptive Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The NBC News-Marist poll shows Senator McConnell with a lead of 57-25 percent over his primary challenger, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. Things are much tighter for the fall general election, however, with the poll showing McConnell with just a 46-45 percent lead over Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Sen. McConnell faces low approval numbers in the new poll, with 46 percent of registered voters saying they disapprove of the job he’s doing, while 41 percent say they approve.

Far fewer voters have formed an opinion about Secretary Grimes, with 27 percent of those surveyed saying they’re unsure, and another 10 percent who say they’ve never heard of her.

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2:09 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Indiana's Mike Pence "Listening" to Calls for Presidential Bid

Indiana Governor Mike Pence
Credit Indiana Governor's Office

Indiana Governor Mike Pence says he is being pressed by supporters to make a White House bid. 

A front page story of the Washington Post says the Republican governor is making the moves of a potential 2016 presidential contender that includes being a loud critic of the national Common Core education standards.  Pence is also on a speaking circuit across the country, though not necessarily in early primary states. 

Pence tells the newspaper that supporters have reached out to him in the last few months and that "I'm listening.” 

Pence served 12 years in Congress before being elected governor of Indiana.  Now in his first term, he will be up for re-election in 2016. 

The 54-year-old Pence is joined by several Republicans undecided on a presidential run, including Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who this week, was tied for first place with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in a national poll.