FRANKFORT — The independent campaign of John-Mark Hack in Central Kentucky's special state House election came under fire Sunday for sending mailers with flattering comments about Hack by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and several prominent Democrats.
Republicans and Democrats associated with Hack's opponents accused him of misleading voters by implying he had endorsements he had not received.
But Hack said the mailers show he had gained the confidence of leaders in the two major political parties to serve public office.
Hack, a former agricultural aide for then-Gov. Paul Patton, is in a race with Republican Lyen Crews and Democrat James Kay in the 56th District, which includes Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties. All three candidates are from Woodford County. The winner will replace Democrat Carl Rollins of Midway, who resigned to take a higher education post.
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Hack said Sunday he sent a mailer Saturday, with a photo and statement from McConnell, to Republicans in the district who voted in the past three general elections.
Mailers sent to Democrats who voted in the district's past three primary elections featured quotes and photos from former President Bill Clinton, Patton and Gov. Steve Beshear, he said. They also included a photo of Hack with former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford.
The mailer to Republicans showed a large photo of a smiling McConnell with this statement from him: "Mr. Hack's record of public service is highly regarded by many Kentuckians, and I admire his desire to continue serving the residents of the commonwealth."
The mailer noted the comment was from a personal recommendation from McConnell on April 1, 2009.
Hack said it was in a letter of recommendation McConnell sent to President Barack Obama on behalf of Hack for a rural development director position Hack did not get.
Kentucky State Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson said the mailer was misleading.
"It's a shame that Hack, who was proclaiming he was only about positive values, would use deception like this to imply he had Senator McConnell's endorsement in this race," Robertson said.
Jesse Benton, who is managing McConnell's 2014 re-election campaign, said, "Mitch McConnell has always been the type of leader who will put partisan politics aside and work with Democrats like John-Mark Hack when it is in the best interest of Kentucky.
"To see Mr. Hack cynically exploit that statesmanship is very disappointing, especially when Mitch is such a big supporter of Lyen Crews in this race."
Chad Aull, manager of Kay's campaign, said the mailers were "a sad attempt to confuse the voters by a fringe candidate who's not sure what his political thoughts are. First he's a Republican, then he switches party to Democrat and now he says he's an independent. Who knows what he will be next?"
In response, Hack said, "If there's anyone who knows about deceiving voters, it's Steve Robertson and his counterpart in the Democratic Party.
"These two parties and their Super PAC allies have spent over $500,000 in one of the most negative campaigns in Kentucky legislative history, most of it spent attacking me with false allegations, innuendo and meaningless labels."
The mailers, Hack said, were designed to counter the attacks and set the record straight as voters go to the polls Tuesday.
Hack said he wondered whether Republicans would stand by their labeling of him as an "old liberal."
"If not, then will McConnell denounce those attacks? If so, then how does he justify recommending an 'old liberal' to a presidential appointment in Kentucky?" Hack asked
He said all the quotes on the mailers were accurate.
Asked whether he had told those quoted about including them in his campaign materials, Hack said he contacted only Patton.