Grimes and McConnell have something in common -- they won't talk about it

06/19/2013 08:30 AM

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the secretary of state and potential 2014 U.S. Senate candidate, arrived just before a volunteer rally for the Democratic candidate in a special state House race was about to begin in Lexington on Saturday.

As she shook hands with volunteers, one of them asked her point blank, “Are you running or not?”

“You tell me if you found that $26 million dollars now,” Grimes responded, referencing the war chest she and other Democrats think she would need to take on U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell next year.

That nine-second clip was all I was able to capture of Grimes answering questions. When asked for an interview, she said not when the speaking at the rally was about to start. Then she left early.

On her way to the black SUV parked behind the Fayette County Democratic Headquarters, Grimes said she was late for a meeting with veterans and couldn’t stop for an interview. I told her I wanted to ask her about a few issues, as well as the campaign she had come out support that afternoon. She responded that she would “try to call” me.

I never heard from her.

Six hours later, McConnell arrived with his wife, Elaine Chao, and staffers and the Capitol police at the Republican Party of Kentucky’s statewide Lincoln Day Dinner at the Lexington Center’s basement ballroom.

His staff ushered McConnell into the ballroom. No interviews, I was told. After the speeches were done, I tried again. Still no dice.

These were the latest examples in a growing pattern for both McConnell and Grimes.

Grimes has been contemplating a run for U.S. Senate since late March. In that time she’s been reluctant to stop for interviews and when she does, it hasn’t been for very long.

McConnell also has been illusive at public events. At an April 22 press conference to announce a ribbon cutting for a coal bi-product company, he quickly climbed into the SUV parked next to the out-door tent before the press could reach him. Four days later at the Jefferson County Lincoln Day Dinner, he left directly after his speech in the middle of the event again without doing interviews.

Kentucky voters might be surprised to know that it’s not common for public officials to do that in other states. In Iowa, for instance, after that state Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner in which U.S. Sen. Rand Paul spoke , Republican congressmen and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley hung around for more than a half-hour after the event talking with constituents and doing interviews with media.

The first political column I wrote for the Herald-Leader on Labor Day 2004 was about how then-U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning kept reporters at arms-length in his re-election campaign. That became a theme throughout the race that went from an expected blow-out to a narrow 2-point victory over Daniel Mongiardo.

The best part of about elections is it gives voters a chance to hear from the candidates about issues and about their visions.

That can’t always be gleaned from 30-second ads and canned stump speeches. That’s why reporters’ roles remain vital to get answers for the voters, such as McConnell and Grimes’ thoughts about the National Security Agency tracking programs or immigration reform.

It’s one thing to blow off reporters. All we can do is complain about it. But if voters feel like they’re being blown off — that’s another story.


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