Grimes says federal government owes Eastern Ky. job training, education and infrastructure investment

01/16/2014 08:32 PM

PRESTONSBURG — Repeating a mantra that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell “just doesn’t get it,” Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes called for more resources for computer education, worker retraining and infrastructure.

And she said the federal government owes Kentucky that because of an energy policy and regulations that have harmed the coal industry.

Grimes picked the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg to deliver her first policy speech since entering the U.S. Senate race in July. And in the course of the 35-minute-long address, Grimes alternated between trying to paint McConnell as being out-of-touch with the needs of Kentuckians and endorsing concepts she says should lead to more jobs.

Along with the speech, Grimes released a glossy 18-page jobs policy plan, in which she also endorses Eastern Kentucky’s designation of being a “Promise Zone” by President Barack Obama, as well as Republican Congressman Hal Roger’s call for economic diversification.

Some of the positions weren’t new. She highlighted her support for a national Democratic strategy of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. And she repeated her line about pushing for a “meaningful long-term place for coal” in the nation’s energy strategy and supporting more government subsidies and research and development resources for carbon capture sequestration technology.

On that point, she said the federal government owes regions “disproportionately” affected by federal energy policies to invest in worker training, and pledged to deliver it if elected.

“It is only right for the federal government to step up and offer assistance so that our families don’t have to choose between putting gas in the car and food on the table,” she said.

Grimes also once again got back-up from big-name Democrats, including former Govs. Paul Patton and Martha Layne Collins and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who is from Prestonsburg, and Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Morehead. State Auditor Adam Edelen, former Auditor Crit Luallen, former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Treasurer Todd Hollenbach also attended.

Patton called Grimes’ plan “the most complete, most detailed jobs plan from a candidate” he’d ever seen. Stumbo spent much of his remarks blasting McConnell and compared the U.S. Senate race to the liberation of Europe after World War II.

“You’re about to liberate your state from the worst reign of misabuse we’ve seen in the last 30 years,” Stumbo said.

The Kentucky Republican Party took issue with Stumbo “comparing Senator McConnell to the Nazis,” calling it “appalling” and demanding an apology.

The Grimes campaign also featured Harlan County Magistrate David Kennedy who said McConnell promised jobs and new roads when he first ran for U.S. Senate in 1984 and didn’t deliver.

McConnell’s campaign has pointed to work McConnell had done to secure worker retraining grants, such as $3.7 million to teach skills to 685 laid-off coal miners last year. And McConnell also has supported Obama’s “Promise Zone” approach as well as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s “Economic Freedom Zones” measure that would lower the tax burden on areas with high unemployment.

In an interview after the speech, Grimes sidestepped a question about whether she is promising jobs.

Instead she said she is putting forth “a proposal” that, if implemented, will offer “limitless” opportunities to create jobs.

But Grimes did make a pledge in her speech regarding the proposal to expand the Mountain Parkway to four lanes. Gov. Steve Beshear announced a more than $750 million project to do that by 2020 that would include more than a half-billion dollars in state and federal funds but the rest coming from bonds paid off by tolls.

“When I’m in the United States Senate, Kentucky will not have toll roads,” Grimes said.

Republicans rushed to blunt the impact of Grimes’ first major policy address. A half dozen Republicans wielding signs linking Grimes to Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid greeted the arriving crowd.

And even before Grimes’ speech, McConnell’s campaign and other top-ranking Kentucky Republicans issued statements along similar lines.

“Alison Lundergan Grimes’ entire campaign from the day she was recruited by Harry ‘coal makes us sick’ Reid has been supported by anti-coal activists who have shown nothing but disdain for Eastern Kentucky,” McConnell’s campaign statement said. “Mitch McConnell is a tireless advocate for the region who fights every day to ensure that the same Washington liberals who are supporting Alison’s candidacy aren’t able to continue to prosecute their war on coal.”

_(For more, watch Pure Politics on Friday on Time Warner Cable’s cn|2 at 7 p.m./6 Central). _


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