Politics

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A political action committee supporting Republican James Comer is set to become the first outsidegroup to air TV ads in this year’s GOP gubernatorial primary.

Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity, and Prosperity is planning to spend up to $475,000 in ads that will air in the Bowling Green, Louisville, and Lexington markets, along with $75,000 worth of radio ads.

CN2 Pure Politics reports the group describes itself as supporting “limited government” and an“unabridged right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” KCOP’s executive director declined to reveal the content of the ads.

Along with Comer, three other Republicans are running for governor: Matt Bevin, Hal Heiner, and Will T. Scott. Attorney General Jack Conway and former Congressional candidate Geoff Young are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway won’t attend President Obama’s visit to Louisville on Thursday.

He’s instead scheduled to be in Eastern Kentucky for meetings about heroin and prescription drug abuse. But a political scientist says it’s unsurprising that a Kentucky Democrat would skip a visit to the state by the party’s national leader.

Obama, who will talk about the economy in Kentucky’s largest city,  has been unpopular in Kentucky and state Democrats have distanced themselves from the president in recent years.

State politicians distance themselves from the president to avoid losing favor with more conservative Democrats across the state, said Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville.

“If you’re trying to attract them then clearly you’re going to have to portray a face to them that’s not cozying up to the so-called liberal bastions in the party starting with President Obama,” Clayton said.

Obama overwhelming lost to his rivals in Kentucky in the last two presidential elections. The state tends to skew toward the GOP in federal elections and elects mostly Democratic candidates in statewide races. The state’s governor is a Democrat and the state House is controlled by the party, but Republicans make up seven of eight members of the state’s federal delegation.

Obama Delays Departure for Kentucky Because of Iran Talks

Apr 2, 2015

President Barack Obama has delayed his departure for a trip to Kentucky because of the Iran nuclear talks in Switzerland. But he's going ahead with the visit.

The White House says Obama will depart after speaking Thursday from the Rose Garden on the breakthrough in the Iran talks.

Obama plans to tour a Louisville-based technology company and discuss job training and Republican plans to repeal the estate tax.

After Kentucky, Obama is scheduled to fly to Hill Air Force Base in Utah for an appearance there Friday.

The Utah stop would be Obama's first visit there as president. It also will leave him one state short of having visited all 50 while in office.

South Dakota is the other state Obama hasn't been to as president.

Perennial candidate Gatewood Galbraith died in 2012, but that might not stop his name from appearing on the 2015 ballot for Kentucky governor.

No, he's not running from beyond the grave.

Sixty-eight-year-old Terrill Wayne Newman of Pulaski County legally changed his name on Tuesday to Gatewood Galbraith before filing paperwork Wednesday to run as an independent for the state's highest office.

The Secretary of State's office says independent candidates must obtain 5,000 signatures from registered voters by Aug. 11 to get their names on the general election ballot.

Newman told the Lexington Herald-Leader he doesn't expect to be elected but, "I sure do hope this warms Gatewood's grave."

Galbraith ran for governor five times and gained a following for his wit and his stances on legalizing hemp and marijuana.

White House

Kentucky Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway says he won’t be in Louisville Thursday when President Barack Obama visits the city.  Conway is only the latest Democratic candidate to attempt to avoid being tied to Obama.

Obama is unpopular in Kentucky, and has lost to his rivals here during the last two presidential races. Tying Democrats to the president and his policies has been part of the GOP strategy for the past few years, most recently in last year’s U.S. Senate race. During that campaign, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes famously refused to say whether she voted for Obama and ended up losing to incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell by a wide margin.

State Democrats like Grimes and Conway have found themselves in the awkward position of opposing the national Democratic platform and courting those who worry that the president’s environmental policies amount to a fatal blow to the already crippled coal industry. Conway has been working on that; in his capacity as Attorney General, he joined a multi-state lawsuit against the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations. Last week, Conway also received an endorsement from the United Mine Workers Association.

Conway will be in eastern Kentucky to discuss anti-drug efforts when Obama talks about the economy on Thursday in Louisville.

Other prominent Democratic candidates will miss Obama's visit this time.

State Auditor Adam Edelen says he will attend a fundraiser in eastern Kentucky. Attorney general candidate Andy Beshear will be meeting with law enforcement to talk about heroin abuse.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Carl&Tracy Gossett

A proposal to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee is advancing in the state House despite constitutional questions raised by the state attorney general's office.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station was advanced on a 2-1 vote by the State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday. Rep. Bill Sanderson, the subcommittee's chairman, said a formal legal opinion has been requested from Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

But Sanderson said preliminary word is that the state's top attorney said the measure could be constitutionally suspect.

The Tennessee Constitution says "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship." Similar proposals to make the Bible the state book failed in Mississippi earlier this yearand in Louisiana last year.

Flickr/Creative Commons

The opposing sides of the 2015 beer battle topped the list of lobbying spending during the first two months of the Kentucky General Assembly, according recently released numbers from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.

Spending reports only become available a month later because of filing deadlines.

Anheuser-Busch, Kentuckians for Entrepreneurs & Growth and Kentucky Beer Wholesalers were among the top-five spenders during the session, dropping a combined $483,830 on lobbying expenses and advertising in January and February.

Anheuser-Busch unsuccessfully fought against a bill that will forbid out-of-state beer brewers from owning distributors in the state. With the backing of craft beer and local distributors, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear in early March.

Both Anheuser-Busch and Kentuckians for Entrepreneurs & Growth aired TV and radio advertisements across the state, with AB over doubling KEG’s advertising dollars.

Anheuser-Busch says it will have to close the distributorships it owns in Louisville and Owensboro by the end of this year, but is still “reviewing its legal options,” saying that the law violates the Kentucky and U.S. Constitutions.

About $4.2 million was spent on lobbying in total. Here’s a rundown of the top spenders.

The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics — until something or someone pushes them to the surface.

A religious freedom law, similar to the one that has recently drawn national attention in Indiana, has been on the books in Kentucky for two years and is currently being used as an argument to sue the state.

The proprietors of the Ark Encounter project in Northern Kentucky are suing state Tourism Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart and Gov. Steve Beshear for excluding the 500-foot-long Noah’s Ark replica from a tourism tax break.

In the lawsuit, the proprietors of the project, Answers in Genesis, say that the state discriminated against the ministry under the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act by pulling a promised $18 million in tax incentives.

The state withdrew funding, saying that public dollars couldn’t go to a project that hires employees based on religious background.

University of Kentucky law professor Scott Bauries said the religious freedom law allows the plaintiffs to argue that the state discriminated against them.

“Because the state of Kentucky seeks to hold them to a higher standard than what the ordinary anti-discrimination laws would hold them to—and because it doesn’t seek to do that with any non-religious employers—that it’s discriminating against them based on their religion,” Bauries said.

Under federal and state anti-discrimination laws, religious employers are allowed to hire “coreligionists” if doing so furthers the religious purpose of the organization.

Beshear Plays Both Sides of Gay Rights Debate

Mar 31, 2015

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said Kentucky's religious freedom law similar to one signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last week should be clarified to include protections for the LGBT community.

But the governor of this conservative state is also asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage, highlighting the peculiar politics facing some southern Democrats fighting to maintain power in a region awash with Republican votes.

Kentucky's law protects a person's right to act or refuse to act as long as it is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief. Beshear vetoed the law but the legislature overrode him.

Last week, Beshear through his attorneys told the U.S. Supreme Court that Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban does not discriminate because it prevents straight and gay people from marrying someone of the same sex.

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