Mt. Vernon Register-News

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June 24, 2014

Warren coming to rally for Grimes

FRANKFORT — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren will join Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes Sunday on the University of Louisville campus for a rally on college affordability.

Warren recently sponsored legislation to allow those with student loans to refinance them but Senate Republicans blocked the measure and Warren blamed Grimes’ opponent in this fall’s U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Warren will also attend two fundraising events for Grimes: one Saturday evening at the northern Kentucky home of Nathan Smith and another at a brunch at a downtown Louisville hotel on Sunday.

In between, according to a senior Grimes campaign official, Warren will join Grimes for the U of L rally, apparently the only public appearance Warren will make.

After McConnell and Republicans blocked Warren’s student loan proposal, Warren said, “One way I’m going to start fighting back is I’m going to go down to Kentucky and I’m going to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes,”

Warren is a Democratic Party star nationally because of her outspoken defense of the middle class and she’s an effective fundraiser but she carries some associations which pose a risk for Grimes in rural, conservative Kentucky. Though a Democratic state by registration, Kentucky typically votes Republican in federal elections; both of the state’s U.S. Senators and five of six of its Congressmen are Republicans.

Some wonder why Grimes, campaigning on economic themes in a relatively poor state, wouldn’t want even more public campaign appearances with such a champion of working class families.

“She’s the most popular Democrat in the country,” said Democratic consultant Danny Briscoe of Louisville. “She should be out meeting the voters of Kentucky and campaigning on Democratic philosophies.”

But Scott Lasley, political science professor at Western Kentucky University and chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, said Warren poses a risk for Grimes.

“In Kentucky, she’s still a Democrat from Massachusetts who at the end of the day helps re-elect (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader and denies Kentucky the opportunity to have a Kentuckian as Majority Leader,” Lasley said. “That’s a hard sale in Kentucky.”

But to Democratic faithful Warren stands up to Wall Street and speaks up for the middle class and working poor, traditional Democratic constituencies. When Warren took aim at McConnell after the student loan vote, she said McConnell “is there for millionaires and billionaires but he’s not there for people who are working hard and playing by the rules.”

 “She can talk about the minimum wage, the violence against women act and equal pay, all of which McConnell voted against,” Briscoe said. “Elizabeth Warren can stand up to Wall Street better than anyone in the country and she can go out and explain to Kentucky voters why we need a new senator.”

Wendell Ford was Kentucky’s last Democratic U.S. Senator and Grimes often invokes his time in the Senate as her model of what an ideal Kentucky senator should be.

Ford called Warren “a loud and clear voice for the working people of this country.” He said millionaires and billionaires have taken over the political process and the voice “of the middle class who carried this country on its back for so long has been left out.” Those are the people Warren speaks for, Ford said.

Warren lived that life. She describes her Oklahoma childhood as lived “on the ragged edge of the middle class.” After getting married at 19, she worked her way through college and law school before becoming a Harvard professor and winning her Senate seat.

Nonetheless, Republicans say Warren reinforces the idea that Grimes will be beholden to national Democrats like Reid and President Barack Obama if elected. Obama remains deeply unpopular in Kentucky.

Grimes has attempted to distance herself from Obama while she campaigns on economic and gender issues, but Republicans never miss a chance to associate her with Reid or Obama.

 “Elizabeth Warren is the only person who would get fewer votes in Kentucky than Barack Obama,” Jackson said. “Alison must play to out-of-state liberals to help fund her campaign but you are known by the company you keep – in this case, Harry Reid, Obama and Elizabeth Warren.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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