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Big names on hand at opening

Kentucky Republican power couple U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao were on hand, along with more than 100 activists, to open the GOP's Fayette County office Saturday.

The office, which the Republicans have dubbed their "Victory Volunteer Center," will serve as a hub for the GOP activists' door-to-door campaigning and phone calling on behalf of the party's candidates in the Nov. 4 election.

"You're all going to be so important in ensuring Mitch McConnell remains the Republican leader in the United States Senate," Chao said. "There's one person in the Senate that basically is a bulwark, is a fire wall who contains all the bad ideas that ... majority in the Congress is currently pushing. I'm very proud of Mitch for his steadfastness."

McConnell got the loudest reaction from the crowd when he said: "Let me just start by saying John McCain made one heck of a choice for vice president" — one of many references to Sarah Palin during the day and one that prompted a brief chant of "Sarah, Sarah."

McConnell then said voters can expect to hear a lot about "change" in the election, particularly from McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

"The Democratic nominee for president utters the word twice a sentence," he said, prompting laughs. "But we want change too. And I'll tell you the first change we need to make. We need to get rid of that Democratic Congress with a 9 percent approval rating."

However, he conceded five minutes later in his remarks that it was unlikely the Republicans would take back the Senate, considering 23 Republican seats were up for election, compared to 12 Democratic seats.

Among the candidates on hand were congressional challenger Jon Larson, a Lexington lawyer who is taking on Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles, and Councilman Chuck Ellinger II, who faces Democratic state Rep. Kathy Stein for the open 13th state Senate district seat.

Fayette County features just two state representative races. Chris Moore, brother of GOP Rep. Tim Moore of Elizabethtown, is challenging Democratic Rep. Bob Damron of Nicholasville in the 39th District, which includes some of Fayette County's southern suburbs.

In the race to replace Stein in downtown Lexington's 75th House District, political newcomer Kimberly Ward is squaring off against Democrat Kelly Flood.

Ward, a dental assistant and former deputy jailer, said her door-to-door efforts have already begun.

"I literally had a lady bring me into her house and put Band-Aids on my feet," she told the crowd.