GOP invokes terrorism connection to illegal immigrants in mailer against Rep. Jim Gooch

10/30/2014 03:51 PM

UPDATED: The Republican Party of Kentucky is targeting conservative Democratic Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence in a mailer referencing the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, terrorist Mohammed Atta and ISIS.

It has been a tough re-election season for Gooch, his remarks to Pure Politics about a pair of women’s underwear resurfaced in a television ad from his GOP challenger in September, and he has been under attack from outside groups including the state Republican Party.

Gooch said he was “shocked” by the latest campaign mailer from the RPK which shows the Twin Towers in New York City the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 with United Airlines flight 175 about to impact the south tower. The ad shows the drivers license of Egyptian Mohammed Atta an Al-Qadea member, who piloted American Airlines flight 11 into the north tower.

“He wasn’t a citizen, but he had a legal license,” the mailer reads.

On the back of the mailer in bold print it says, “Jim Gooch wants to give illegals a license to drive.”

The image on the back is a file image showing fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which was first posted online to a militant website in January of 2014.

The ad makes the claim that “in a dangerous world, we cannot allow access to America’s transportation system.”

The RPK cites Gooch’s support of House Bill 396 in the 2013 session which would have allowed the Transportation Cabinet to issue a certificate to drive to individuals over 18 who has lived in Kentucky for a minimum of three years and who cannot prove citizenship. The legislation passed out of committee, but no action was taken on the House floor.

“I think it’s despicable and it’s dishonest,” Gooch said in a phone interview. “One thing has nothing to do with the other.”

There are several incumbent Democrats who face tough re-election challenges who co-sponsored the bill including: Representatives Johnny Bell, Jim Glenn, Tom McKee, and Jim Wayne, opening up the likelihood of similar mailers in other districts.

Gooch said his intention on co-signing to the bill was to protect his constituents.

“I voted for it because there are people here illegally that can’t purchase auto insurance. It made them eligible for them to buy insurance,” Gooch said. “It was meant to protect people.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures Florida does not offer driving privileges to undocumented workers, as pointed out by Kate Miller, the program director for the ACLU of Kentucky.

“It should be noted that in many of the states where driving bills have passed they have been supported by law enforcement, not only because licensed and insured drivers make the roads safer for everyone, but also because documenting folks makes enforcing all the laws easier,” Miller said.

Miller also pointed out that Atta was in the country legally at the time of the attack in 2001.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party backed the campaign mailer saying it is fair to point out that some who enter the country illegally wish do harm to Americans.

“The whole basis of the issue surrounds someone who entered this country illegally. Not everyone who enters this country illegally is seeking a safe harbor,” Republican Party Chair Steve Robertson said. “There are some individuals who enter our country who do not have noble intentions.”

Even though the bill was never called for a vote Robertson said the legislators co-signing the bill demonstrated they “support this idea of public policy.”

Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Don Logsdon condemned the mailer in a statement sent to Pure Politics.

“I never thought I’d see RPK stoop so low. To see them try to tie a member of the Kentucky Legislature to 9-11 and terrorist groups is just beyond comprehension,” Logsdon said. “I know that the word ‘shame’ gets thrown around a lot during campaigns but I don’t know anyone involved in this mail piece can look themselves in the mirror or sleep at night.”

“This isn’t politics and it’s not fair game – this is the exploitation of an American tragedy. I can’t denounce it harshly enough, and I can’t imagine how anyone at RPK thought this was acceptable.”

As a more conservative member in the Kentucky Democratic Party, Gooch’s name often makes the short list of those targeted to flip if the GOP comes close in the Fall, but he said that is not something he is considering — especially after the attacks.

Gooch said he has never had a serious conversation about changing parties. He said Republican friends in the General Assembly have told him they’d like him on “their side”, but after this latest attack all bets are off — if they were ever even on the table.

“If I had (thought about flipping), which I was not, I wouldn’t want to be part of a party like that with those kinds of tactics,” Gooch said.

“If my party ever did something like that I would be the first to condemn it.”

Robertson said it was his job to win elections, but that there have been members who have flipped after having been run against by the RPK.

“There are individuals who have joined the Republican Party, had once served as Democrats who once had in elections before they switched,” Robertson said.

“But, at the end of the day it is the job of the Republican Party to win elections. That’s what we do for a living. That’s why our donors give to us.”


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