Politics & Government

McConnell not among GOP heavyweights making calls in special election

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is Senate minority leader.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is Senate minority leader. AP

A short list of Kentucky Republican all-stars has recorded automated phone calls in recent days on behalf of a Republican state House candidate in Western Kentucky, but U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is not among them.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer have all recorded calls advocating support for Suzanne Miles in Tuesday's special election in the 7th House District against Democrat Kim Humphrey.

McConnell's name adorns the state party's headquarters, making his absence on the list of Republicans recording calls conspicuous.

Miles told the Herald-Leader late Sunday that she didn't ask McConnell — or any other GOP officials — to record calls on her behalf. Miles has previously said that McConnell was the first person to give her a check for her campaign, and she said Sunday that he has "been supportive since day one."

In polling, a high rate of Kentuckians have consistently said they have a negative view of McConnell, numbers that have led analysts to almost universally declare McConnell's seat in jeopardy.

Miles, a first-time candidate and an aide to Guthrie, said she didn't know whether an automated call by McConnell would help or hurt her odds of winning Tuesday.

"I truly don't know the answer to that," Miles said. "I don't know what's going to work and what's not going to work. This is all brand-new to me."

The state's senior senator is locked in a two-front war for re-election, squaring off against Louisville businessman Matt Bevin in the Republican primary and against likely Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes next November.

The Humphrey campaign said Sunday that Grimes, who as Secretary of State is Kentucky's chief elections officer, was not asked and has not volunteered to record any calls on Humphrey's behalf. Gov. Steve Beshear, who enjoys high job-approval ratings, did record calls on Humphrey's behalf.

Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager, said in an email Monday morning that "it's wonderful that so many of our top Kentucky Republicans have volunteered to help Suzanne."

"It is a tough district, but she is a wonderful candidate, and a full team effort is needed to give her a shot at the upset," Benton said. "We're all pulling for her big-time."

John Arnold, D-Sturgis, resigned his 7th District seat in September amid accusations of sexual harassment.

Although a Democrat has long represented the district, it has grown more conservative in recent years. A loss for Miles could chill whatever momentum Republicans have enjoyed in trying to take back the House, where Democrats hold a 54-45 majority.

Grimes and McConnell are not using the race to test their ground games, so the special election isn't expected to provide much insight into next November's election.

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