Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grimes campaigns among union members, a key to the turnout she needs

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Alison Grimes made stops in Lexington and Louisville at union-sponsored picnics on Labor Day. With nearly two months until Election Day, Grimes made the stops to appeal to union members, one of the important Democratic voter bases.

Grimes with Kathy and Max Thomas (Photo by Anthony Pendleton)
The Lexington Labor Day Picnic was held at the Bluegrass Fairgrounds at Masterson Station Park. The event did not include speeches, so Grimes spent most of her time taking photos and talking with people.

Grimes even took a group photo with some of the union members who want to show McConnell that “labor has a huge voice,” as master of ceremonies Mike Philbeck said as the directed the crowd to pose.

Turnout is important for Grimes because it is generally lower in midterm elections, especially among those who tend to vote Democratic.

This year was the first time the Labor Day Picnic had been held in 10 years, according to Bluegrass Central Labor Council President Robert Akin. he said the reason the picnic was revived was to show that labor is ”alive and well in the Bluegrass region.” But he also acknowledged that the election played an indirect role in bringing the picnic back, saying that “Because of the way the world operates in this day and age, we have to become involved in politics.”

When Grimes was interviewed, although she showed support for labor issues, she stuck to her main talking points. When asked how important the minimum wage issue is to her campaign, she immediately attacked McConnell by saying “It’s a holiday he forgot a long time ago,” then went on to say that Kentuckians are ready for change.

She referred to McConnell and used the phrase “millionaires and billionaires” quite often.

The Grimes campaign also sent out a press release detailing other labor issues she supports, such as equal pay for women, extending unemployment insurance, and “closing tax loopholes for companies the send jobs overseas.”

The campaign also released a new ad on Labor Day slamming McConnell for remarks that he made in a speech back in June at a conference sponsored by the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers, David and Charles, are billionaires in charge of Koch Industries. They have become infamous for being climate-change deniers and for opposing legislation that supports the average American.

Advertising from Grimes attacks McConnell for opposing legislation that would help the average American, such as increasing the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance.

According to the most recent Bluegrass Poll, McConnell is still leading. That poll, which has a margin of error of 4.2 percent, shows that McConnell is leading 46 percent to 42 percent, with big leads in Eastern and Western Kentucky.

Fayette County Democratic Party Executive Committee Member Ken McClanahan believes he knows why McConnell is ahead. McClanahan says it’s because people in rural areas “don’t use logic” and that they’ll vote for McConnell only because he’s done “specific things for them or their neighbors” during his nearly 30 years as a senator.

McClanahan and Michael Bowles, who said they have walked precincts in support of Grimes, they say a line that they hear too often as they go door-to-door is that people think McConnell will be better for the coal industry.

On the coal issue, Grimes is focusing on coal miner safety. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Grimes says she would support two pieces of legislation proposed by West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller. “One would strengthen whistleblower protections for miners and increase criminal penalties for safety violations. Another would make it easier to get black lung benefits and create grants for research into black lung.”

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