In absence of Beshear, Grimes gets praise from labor leaders for keeping luncheon alive

08/05/2011 04:02 PM

PADUCAH — Calling them essential to her campaign so far, Democratic Secretary of State candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes praised union members at a luncheon in their honor, saying she wouldn’t have achieved many “firsts” without them.

Filling a void left by Gov. Steve Beshear’s trip to the Middle East, Grimes footed the bill for the annual labor luncheon held the Friday before Fancy Farm. The luncheon is usually sponsored by the sitting Democratic governor, but with Beshear on official business in the Middle East, there was uncertainty on whether the labor luncheon would be canceled.

But Grimes said she told her father, former Kentucky Democratic Party chair Jerry Lundergan, that she couldn’t imagine a Fancy Farm weekend without the labor lunch.

At the lunch, Grimes criticized the decisions of Republican governors in Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin for weakening unions through eliminating collective bargaining and eliminating unions’ ability to collect dues.

And she pledged to protect labor as Secretary of State.

The event first started under former Gov. Julian Carroll as a labor management lunch, then blossomed into a full-on labor luncheon as years passed.

And Carroll, a Grimes supporter from the beginning, said that Grimes should take in all the credit for keeping the lunch he created alive in 2011.

Grimes downplayed all potential differences between herself and Beshear, that would arise out of Beshear and Jerry Lundergan’s dislike for each other.

In fact, in a response to a question about whether her sponsorship of the lunch should be considered in light of that feud, Grimes dismissed the question, saying the lunch was being held “in honor” of Beshear since he couldn’t make it and in honor of labor as well.

A few Beshear campaign staffers attended the lunch, but his running mate, Jerry Abramson, did not. The rest of the Democratic ticket did attend the lunch, held in downtown Paducah at Whaler’s Catch.

Gerald Watkins, a member of the AFL-CIO and city commissioner in Paducah, said labor doesn’t hold any ill will to Beshear or Abramson, despite any problems labor groups may have had with them in the past.

And Watkins echoed praise that may other candidates and labor leaders gave to Grimes, thanking her for putting on the lunch when it seemed to be canceled.

-Reporting by Kenny Colston, video produced by Holly Thompson


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.