Politics & Government

Alison Lundergan Grimes, Mitch McConnell battle for women's votes

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, and Ky. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, and Ky. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes

In her quest to become the first female U.S. senator from Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes launched a series of statewide roundtables for women Tuesday in Lexington.

Both Grimes and the man she is trying to oust from the U.S. Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell, are going all-out in trying to appeal to women, who make up 53 percent of the state's voters.

Accompanying Grimes to the kickoff roundtable session at Mulberry & Lime home furnishings and gifts store on North Limestone were former Gov. Martha Layne Collins and daytime Emmy Award-winning actress Gina Tognoni of New Jersey.

Collins, who is Kentucky's only female governor, and Tognoni also were special guests of Grimes at a fund-raising reception hosted by a group called Women Leading Lexington on Tuesday night at The Carrick House on North Limestone.

A brochure about the reception listed 41 women on the Women Leading Lexington hostess committee, though some do not live in Lexington.

They included former state Auditor Crit Luallen; former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac; former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Jennifer Moore; state Reps. Kelly Flood, Sannie Overly, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Susan Westrom and Rita Smart; state Sen. Kathy Stein; and Mary Karen Stumbo, wife of state House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

The cost ranged from $250 to attend the general reception to $10,000 to raise as a hostess.

The Grimes campaign also enlisted her grandmother, Elsie Case, in an email message Tuesday night to supporters to raise money before the end-of-quarter fundraising deadline on Sept. 30.

The end-of-quarter campaign finance reports will mark the first time voters will know how Grimes is doing in raising money against the well-heeled McConnell campaign.

The most recent campaign finance report on June 30 showed McConnell with $9.5 million on hand, after spending $4 million. Grimes did not have to file a report then because she had not yet launched her campaign.

McConnell spoke last weekend to more than 1,000 Republican female leaders at the National Federation of Republican Women's biennial convention in Louisville.

Last month, he held a "Women for Team Mitch" rally in Louisville.

Grimes, who as secretary of state is Kentucky's only female constitutional officer, has pounded away at McConnell's political record concerning women.

Grimes told reporters after Tuesday's Lexington roundtable that McConnell has opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

McConnell was a co-sponsor to the Violence Against Women Act in 1990 and 1991 but he was not a co-sponsor in 1993 or in 1994, when the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act became law.

McConnell voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year. He maintained that a Republican version of the bill was stronger.

The McConnell campaign, meanwhile, has accused Grimes of not standing up for women in the workplace by not expressing more outrage at sexual harassment complaints filed by three women in the state legislature.

The campaign says that McConnell led the Senate Ethics Committee investigation in 1995 of Oregon Republican Sen. Bob Packwood, who eventually resigned under threat of expulsion after allegations of sexual harassment, abuse and assault of women emerged against him.

Grimes said Tuesday she has "zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination in the workplace" and that her office has a "zero-tolerance policy" for such activity.

She called McConnell's criticism "empty rhetoric."

Grimes indicated that she supports some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as availability of health insurance despite pre-existing conditions, and does not want to demolish it "root and branch" as McConnell has advocated.