Kentucky

Obamacare enrollments tick up, still anemic

We likely won’t have solid numbers until next month, but various media outlets have reported that “enrollments,” a loosely defined term, through the federal and state Obamacare exchanges have increased since the beginning of the month.

The New York Times noted on Tuesday that enrollments on the federal Obamacare exchange, Healthcare.gov, have jumped to “more than 50,000” in the first two weeks of November, from last month’s dismal total of 26,284.

Similarly, California has seen enrollments “nearly double” on its state exchange, according to the Los Angeles Times, and that Connecticut and Kentucky “are outpacing their enrollment estimates.” Supporters of the law have seized on this, essentially saying, “There’s interest! States with functioning websites are getting enrollments.”

Yes and no. No one denied that there would be increased interest in the exchanges before the end of the year. Many want to ensure that they’ve enrolled before December 15 so that their coverage would be in place by the beginning of the year.

The Obama Administration anticipated that California would report 91,000 enrollments in October. They reported 35,364, roughly 39% of the initial estimate. Even if the numbers have nearly doubled and sustains that pace, the Golden State is still lagging.

KY Senate: Conservative group backs Mitch McConnell’s primary challenger

Matt Bevin (photo courtesy of Matt Bevin for Kentucky

Following a heated and divisive fight over ObamaCare and a deal brokered between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a prominent conservative organization has announced its endorsement of the Republican leader’s primary challenger.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), announced on Friday that they would back Matt Bevin, a conservative candidate challenging McConnell for the Republican nomination in Kentucky.

“Matt Bevin is a true conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending, bailouts, and debt that are destroying our country. He is not afraid to stand up to the establishment and he will do what it takes to stop Obamacare,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, in a press statement.

“We know that winning this primary won’t be easy. Mitch McConnell has the support of the entire Washington establishment and he will do anything to hold on to power. But if people in Kentucky and all across the country rise up and demand something better, we’re confident Matt Bevin can win this race,” he added.

The Senate Conservatives Fund is framing the race between Bevin, who they call a “constitutional conservative,” and McConnell, labeled as a “Washington insider” who has “a liberal record and refuses to fight for conservative principles.”

Mitch McConnell further alienates grassroots conservatives

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Sen. McConnell disputed the veracity of the Washington Times’ story in an email this afternoon and reiterated their dispute of the comments made by Glenn Beck, which was noted in the original story. We did call Sen. McConnell’s Washington office yesterday afternoon for comment, but we were unable to get past a voice recording. There was no prompt to leave a voicemail.

The fight to defund ObamaCare has really emphasized the disconnect between the conservative grassroots and the Republican establishment.

With the help of grassroots groups, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) were able to build momentum to pressure House and Senate Republicans to support a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would have defunded ObamaCare. Of course, Republican leaders were hesitant to embrace the idea, if not outright contemptuous.

In all of this, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) emerged as one of the most prominent Republicans to oppose the strategy. He didn’t take part in Cruz’s quasi-filibuster and was heavily criticized for it.

But McConnell has recently created controversy that could undermine his leadership role as well as his bid for re-election next year.

KY Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to Challenge Senator Mitch McConnell

McConnellGrimes

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the 34-year-old Secretary of State of State in Kentucky, announced her intention to challenge Senator Mitch McConnell in 2014.

“I have met with supporters, we had a great conversation,” Grime said at a news conference in Frankfort, Ky.. “We can next make the best move, the best difference by running for the U.S. Senate.”

Grimes, a Democrat elected in 2012, lacks the national recognition that McConnell has, but has the support of many high level Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton. Clinton is a long-time family  friend of Grimes’ father, and reportedly told Grimes’ that he and Hillary would support her campaign against McConnell.

McConnell immediately issued a response to the Secretary’s announcement: “Accepting the invitation from countless Washington liberals to become President Obama’s Kentucky candidate was a courageous decision by Alison Lundergan Grimes and I look forward to a respectful exchange of ideas,” he said. “The next sixteen months will provide a great opportunity for Kentuckians to contrast a liberal agenda that promotes a war on coal families and government rationed health care with someone who works everyday to protect Kentuckians from those bad ideas.”

Polling in late May indicated that Senator McConnell was tied with Grimes’ in a hypothetical race.

Rand Paul to Seek Re-Election to the Senate

It’s no secret that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is considering at a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He’s been making the rounds in early primary states, including Iowa and New Hampshire. But the Kentucky Republican made it clear over the weekend that his only concrete plan for 2016 is his re-election to the Senate:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Friday that he would seek reelection in 2016, even as he’s widely seen as having interest in a presidential run that year.

Paul informed reporters of his decision before a local GOP dinner, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The first-term senator did not rule out a presidential bid in 2016, but said that, for now, he is only certain about running for another Senate term.

“For now, we know for sure is we’re going to run for the U.S. Senate,” Paul said at the Woodford County, Ky., Republican Party Reagan Dinner, according to The Daily Independent in Ashland, Ky. “The other decision can come later.”

This has been the source of some speculation. Kentucky election law would prevent Paul from running for both the Senate and President at the same time, though The Hill notes that lawmakers in the Commonwealth may consider changing that statue. Paul filed for re-election to the Senate in April 2011, though that was seen as a move to play down speculation that he would run for the Republican nomination in 2012.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell May Face Democrat Challenge

Tom FitzGerald

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) escaped a very public challenge to his U.S. Senate seat last month when actress Ashley Judd ended speculation that she would run for the office, but he may have a new challenger in environmental lawyer and activist, Tom FitizGerald.

FitzGerald, 58, is a lifelong Democrat, Founder and Director of the Kentucky Resources Council, and has been active in state evinronmental issues since the 1970s. He says he is being encouraged to run and believes that McConnell’s 28 year tenure in the Senate should come to an end.

“I’ve seen the devolution of McConnell as a progressive, modern county judge in Jefferson County to an increasingly right-wing politician who is defined more by protecting power than meeting the needs of Kentuckians,” he said.

Currently, the incumbent faces no GOP challenger, although speculation remains whether Kentucky businessman Matt Bevins will decide to run for the seat. Democrat contractor Ed Marksberry of Owensboro and Louisville musician and music promoter Bennie J. Smith have said they will enter the race, but neither have a statewide following.

FitzGerald has said he will make a decision by mid-May, and would resign his office at the nonpartisan Kentucky Resources Council if he decides to challenge Senator McConnell.

What are Rand Paul’s Plans for 2016?

It has been clear for some time that Senator Rand Paul sees himself as far more than Kentucky’s junior senator.  Paul has established himself as a truly national figure - any remaining doubt of that was shredded by his nearly 13-hour filibuster two weeks ago, where Paul successfully took over the Senate for over half a day.  His actions that day won him the praise of many, and put his name on the lips of nearly every politically aware person — and many who aren’t.  Speculation has understandably abounded about whether Paul will run for President in 2016 — and if he will give up his Senate seat to do so.

Fuel for the latter proposition was added this week when Senator Paul made a dramatic reversal of the immigration views he espoused during his Senate campaign and made clear he was open to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants (though he did not use those words).  As this Politico article points out:

The endorsement of any sort of legal status for illegal immigrants amounts to a remarkable reversal for Paul, who in his first month in the Senate proposed a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship. (On Tuesday’s conference call, Paul said a secure border would make the amendment unnecessary.) While running against an establishment pick in Kentucky’s GOP primary in 2010, he proposed building an underground electric fence along the length of the entire border.

Opposition to Senator Mitch McConnell Makes Strange Bedfellows

Mitch McConnell

With Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection coming up in 2014, numerous individuals have been looking at taking a whack at the Kentucky senator. He’s annoyed grassroots conservatives, libertarian Republicans, and Tea Party types for awhile now, both for his deals with Senate Democrats to keep things moving (such as the recent deal on filibusters) and just because he really hasn’t done anything to cut spending.

Recently, though, this irritation has built a bridge between Kentucky conservatives and Kentucky liberals, and an unlikely grouping of very strange bedfellows indeed are exploring the possibilities of an alliance against him. Seth Mandel at Commentary magazine doesn’t like this at all:

The sometimes contradictory nature of the grassroots conservative criticism of GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was apparent a few weeks ago when one conservative group began to advertise against McConnell from the right. It turned out this same group, which rates members of Congress on their dedication to conservative principles and freedom, gives McConnell a 95 percent rating.

The Real Reason to Legalize Hemp

hemp

Senator Rand Paul and Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner James Comer are teaming up to fight a battle over industrial hemp. Since the plant, which is great for making all sorts of products, is a cousin to marijuana, it remains banned in the United States.

Hemp is one of the great examples of the failure of the War on Drugs. An attempt to control citizens’ behavior has eliminated the use of a crop good for making a number of useful products. Seriously, go look at that list.

Senator Paul is making the argument that federal regulations are impeding his state’s agriculture industry. And while he’s absolutely right – there’s a lot of money to be made from growing hemp – it’s important to realize that isn’t the primary reason we should be fighting for the legalization of hemp.

We should be fighting for the legalization of hemp because prohibition is wrong.

The fact that it can be used to make quality clothing doesn’t matter. The fact that it can be used to make strong ropes doesn’t matter. The fact that it can be used for anything doesn’t matter.

If somebody wants to grow hemp just for the sake of growing it – with no useful intent whatsoever – it should be legal. That’s called freedom, and freedom for the sake of freedom something we should be pressing toward more often.

Though Senator Paul has a valid argument in calling for legalizing hemp to aid in growing Kentucky’s agricultural business and creating jobs, we should remember that fighting for freedom to grow hemp – simply for the freedom to do it – is all the reason we really need.

Democrats make their voices heard in Arkansas, Kentucky

A couple of weeks ago, over 40% of West Virginia Democrats made their disapproval of President Barack Obama known by casting their vote for Keith Judd, a convicted felon currently serving time in Texas. Democrats in Arkansas and Kentucky went to the polls yesterday, sending roughly the same message to Obama, notes Jamie Dupree:

Kentucky Democrats cast 42% for “Undecided” instead of the incumbent President of their own party, while in Arkansas, 41% of primary voters opted for an unknown Tennessee attorney named John Wolfe.

It wasn’t hard to see the big thumbs down that more rural voters in those states gave to the President, as over half of the 120 counties in Kentucky were carried by “Undecided” - 66 of 120.

The story line was much the same in Arkansas, as over two dozen counties went to Wolfe over the sitting President.

Most of the President’s advantage was in urban areas of both Kentucky and Arkansas - like Jefferson County (Louisville) and Fayette County (Lexington) where he won 82% and 76% of the vote - but in rural areas, there was a steady stream of voters who chose another option instead.

Dupree notes that these states weren’t likely to go to Obama anyway in the fall, so there may not be reason to cause a fuss over this. I disagree. During the Republican primary, Mitt Romney was viewed as a weak candidate because he couldn’t fight off “Flavor of the Month” candidates to his right. And while Obama will no doubt be the Democratic Party’s nominee, these results, much like protest votes against Romney, show the discontent over his job performance in his own party.


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