Appearing on a radio program for University of Kentucky sports fans Thursday, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes said it's "worthwhile" to discuss legalizing marijuana and requiring background checks for all gun purchases at gun shows.
Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones tried repeatedly to move Grimes beyond circumspect answers to questions on a variety of specific policy issues, but got perhaps his most direct answer when asking Grimes to name her favorite Kentucky basketball player. (She chose Alex Poythress.)
On marijuana, Grimes said elected officials should discuss making it legal.
"I would want to have the discussion, and I think it's worthwhile to bring the experts together and talk about the reclassification, especially for medical purposes," Grimes said.
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Grimes criticized Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell for not realizing the "economic benefits" the state of Colorado has enjoyed after legalizing recreational use of marijuana, adding that she's "in favor of having the discussion, especially to reclassify the use of marijuana."
"We haven't had a senator who's even wanted to have those discussions though," Grimes said.
Robert Steurer, a spokesman for McConnell's Senate office, said in a statement later Thursday that "Senator McConnell is strongly opposed to legalization of marijuana as Kentucky families deserve no less."
In February, a Bluegrass Poll of registered Kentucky voters found that 52 percent favored "allowing the use of medical marijuana in Kentucky." Thirty-seven percent of respondents were opposed and 12 percent were not sure. The survey did not ask about recreational use of marijuana.
On guns, Grimes mentioned her longstanding invitation to meet McConnell at a gun range — "What does that have to do with anything," Jones retorted — before saying she opposes banning assault weapons but is open to considering changes to how guns are purchased at gun shows.
"You shouldn't have different standards when you go to a gun store versus a gun show," Grimes said.
Grimes said she is a "big supporter" of the Second Amendment and does not believe that banning weapons "is the way to actually reduce the violence that we see here in the United States."
Instead, she said, the government should work harder "to make sure we educate people and that we enforce the law."
When the Herald-Leader submitted a questionnaire to the U.S. Senate campaigns in May, Grimes responded to a question about requiring background checks at gun shows by saying that she supports "reasonable background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill."
"However, these efforts should not infringe upon the right of law-abiding Americans to possess firearms," she said at the time.
Grimes also repeated her support for allowing gay marriage, acknowledging that not all of Kentucky agrees with her "philosophy" but saying "my hope is that we can move forward."
On climate change, Grimes said she believes the Earth is warming.
"You know Mitch McConnell and I differ on this," Grimes said. "He still wants to argue with the scientists."
She then called for a "balanced" approach to dealing with climate change while preserving Kentucky's coal jobs.
Jones, a Democrat who said on the show that he is a fan of President Barack Obama, has occasionally drawn fire from his listeners because of his party affiliation.
On Thursday, shortly before Grimes came on the show, one caller to the program said he would turn off the program while Grimes was on, saying that "a vote for Alison is just a vote for Harry Reid and Obama."
When Jones noted that he has asked McConnell to join the show, the caller said he "probably won't listen to Mitch either."
"I tune in to listen to sports," the caller said.
Jones' efforts to get McConnell on the show, either for an interview or a debate against Grimes, might prove more difficult after co-host Ryan Lemond offered Grimes his McConnell impression, joking that the senator is married to former Attorney General Janet Reno instead of former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.
Grimes got in on the act as Lemond made fun of McConnell's age by joking that he was one of the nation's original forefathers.
"At the first Congress in Philadelphia, yes," Grimes said.
The McConnell campaign responded to the interview in a statement, saying that the "Big Blue Nation was treated to an embarrassingly partisan performance by Alison Grimes that served only to solidify her status as Barack Obama's Kentucky candidate."
"Whether it was entertaining the legalization of recreational drug use, endorsing climate change or supporting gun control efforts at gun shows, she sounded exactly like the kind of partisan Obama loyalist that has been attacking Kentucky in Washington for the last six years," said McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore.
During the interview, Grimes said she disagrees with Obama on "many issues."
"Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell is the only one that doesn't realize that," Grimes said.
Grimes also harkened back to March, when McConnell's campaign ran an ad that used a brief snippet of footage featuring the Duke University basketball team instead of Kentucky's (McConnell's campaign blamed the mistake on a vendor), and she noted that McConnell is a University of Louisville Cardinals fan.
"We disagree on a lot of things, and basketball is obviously one of them," she said.
Grimes said she supports all Kentucky schools, but when it comes to Kentucky versus Louisville, "I cheer for the blue and white."