Challenger uses Democratic lawmaker's comments about women's underwear against him in campaign ad

09/17/2014 03:40 PM

A western Kentucky Democratic lawmaker’s remarks about a pair of women’s underwear have resurfaced in a television ad from his Republican challenger this fall.

Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, had his conduct at a legislative conference questioned after he blocked a House resolution from a floor vote in April that would have supported two female legislative staffers who brought allegations of sexual harassment against former Democratic Rep. John Arnold last year.

Thomas Clay, who represents Legislative Research Commission employees Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper in a lawsuit against the LRC and Arnold, told Pure Politics in April that Gooch had thrown a pair of women’s underwear onto a table in front of Kentucky lawmakers and staffers, including his clients, during last year’s Southern Legislative Conference.

Gooch, in April an interview with Pure Politics, said a random woman put the undergarment in his pocket. The encounter “shocked” him, and he said he recounted the incident to the Kentucky delegation and his wife.

Gooch’s opponent in the 12th House District, Republican Dianne Mackey, pounced on his comments to Pure Politics in a television ad running in the Evansville, Ind., market since Sept. 11, according to a review of Federal Communications Commission records. Mackey purchased $9,930 in air time from WEHT-TV, the ABC affiliate, and $14,345 in spots from WFIE-TV, the NBC affiliate.

“The Democrats in Frankfort have put a lot of bad ideas on the table: a gas tax, budget deficits and support for Obamacare,” a narrator says in the ad, obtained Wednesday by Pure Politics. “But only Jim Gooch put pink panties on the table.”

The ad then cuts to video of Gooch’s interview with Pure Politics, in which he said, “Actually they weren’t pink. I think they may have been beige.” A hand replaces the pair of pink underwear tossed on a folder emblazoned with “Obamacare” with a beige pair.

Mackey, a retired teacher and current Daviess County Public Schools board member, said response to her ad against Gooch has been positive, with most of the people she’s talked to in the district, which covers Webster and McLean counties and parts of Daviess and Hopkins counties, finding humor in the spot.

“My opponent did not agree with the ladies that brought forth the harassment,” she said in a phone interview with Pure Politics. “He didn’t honor them or want to. … That’s the proof that the culture needs to change in Kentucky and Frankfort, and the people that are agreeing with it need to go. I think that type of behavior is bad for Kentucky and western Kentucky.”

Gooch, who has served in the House since 1995, didn’t find humor in Mackey’s first television ad.

“I really don’t even want to justify that commercial with a response,” he said in a phone interview. “I mean, it’s obvious that she is taking something that really is not a story, something that was almost a joke, and trying to turn it into something.

“There’s really nothing there, and that’s just politics. She’s desperate.”

Mackey, though, said she never expected to run such an ad when she filed to run for the office Dec. 16. Instead, she anticipated focusing on matters such as government regulations, business development and education.

“I didn’t expect someone to be so appalling and out there with their behavior, especially my opponent,” she said. “I just didn’t have any idea.”

Gooch said he doesn’t plan to retaliate with an ad bashing Mackey in advance of the Nov. 4 election. His television spots, in contrast, will focus on his positive attributes as a state representative if he decides to air any.

“My mom always taught me when I was young that you can’t pull yourself up by pulling others down, and it doesn’t matter how bad you talk about somebody or try to distort what they’re doing or tell untruths about them,” he said. “That doesn’t make you any better, any smarter or any more qualified.

“… I’m not going to run a negative campaign because it doesn’t tell the people who I am. I think voters want to know who is Jim Gooch and what’s he going to do?”

The ad is scheduled to run through Sunday, according to FCC filings.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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