Key House race devolves into accusations about who has real family values

10/28/2014 12:20 PM

Reporting by Jacqueline Pitts and Kevin Wheatley

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part three in a series of stories by Pure Politics examining claims being made in contentious House races in the state. Part one and part two .

As the Democratic super PAC Kentucky Family Values tries to sour western Kentucky voters on a freshman GOP lawmaker, the Republican Party has responded by saying the Democrat in that race represents anything but family values.

Based on the late surge of activity in the 7th state House District, the race between Republican Rep. Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro, and Democrat John Warren has become one of the pivotal contests in the battle for control of the state House. Miles told Pure Politics that Kentucky Family Values has gotten involved in her race by airing negative ads against her while she has not heard any ads endorsing her opponent, Warren.

The group is running two radio ads in the district along with many full-page web ads and mailers, according to Miles. Copies of fact sheets for ads from the group obtained by Pure Politics show that Kentucky Family Values is running an ad about her legislative paycheck and another about the out-of-state agenda talked about in many ads across the state from the group.

“Ever wonder who’s behind all the noise you’re hearing these days about politics? It’s out-of-state special interests trying to confuse you, buy this election and elect handpicked candidates who will do their bidding,” an announcer in the Kentucky Family Values ad says. “There’s one running right here in Daviess, Henderson and Union counties. Her name is Suzanne Miles.”

The fact sheet for that ad, titled “Pledge” also brings up issues like the minimum wage and right-to-work legislation, can be found here: HD-7 Miles Pledge RADIO BACK UP 925.docx

And Miles said the name of the organization alone is confusing constituents who are coming to her asking why a conservative group like the Family Foundation of Kentucky is not endorsing her, as she is a pro-life candidate.

Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson told Pure Politics the group is attacking Republican candidates over “foolish things” while their name and endorsements of some candidates shows the hypocrisy of what they are doing.

“The hypocrisy of this Democrat organization’s statewide campaign of lies is most evident in the race between Suzanne Miles and John Warren. The fact that a liberal funded group who claims to support ‘family values’ can turn a blind eye to John Warren’s history of domestic violence is mind boggling,” Robertson said in a statement to Pure Politics.

Robertson was referring to a pair of protective orders sought by Warren’s then-wife in 2004 as the couple’s marriage ended. Warren, according to Daviess County court records reviewed by Pure Politics last week, never faced charges of domestic abuse in either matter, although a judge issued a six-month protective order in May 2004 barring him from “committing further acts of abuse or threats of abuse.”

Records in his divorce case do not mention any abuse or threats of violence against his ex-wife.

The petition for an emergency protection order, however, says she accused him of barricading doorways, stopping her from leaving for work in the mornings, raising his fist and stopping short of striking her, and using demeaning comments toward her in Jan. 23, 2004. She filed for divorce five days later, court records show.

On May 12 of that year, she alleged Warren had repeatedly violated an agreed order in their divorce case and tried to climb on the hood of her van that day after asking her about bills, according to court records. The agreed order referenced, filed the day of their Feb. 6, 2004, court hearing on her first protection petition, limited Warren from leaving his vehicle while picking up his children, aggressive behavior toward his then-wife, contacting her unless pertaining to emergencies regarding their children, and entering her workplace or home, although he was allowed to work in the nearby shop and barn Monday through Friday.

Warren, in the two protective orders issued as court summonses, was barred from further acts or threats of abuse, contacting his then-wife, ordered to remain 1,000 feet from her, restrained from damaging or disposing of their property, and ordered to vacate their residence. The first order also granted her temporary custody of their three children.

But only once did a judge see fit to extend the short-term protective orders after the two court hearings, with fewer sanctions. After a May 24, 2004, court hearing, the judge in the case issued a six-month protective order barring violence or the threat of abuse, although Warren was under no restraining or no-contact orders in the protective order.

Warren’s divorce and the protective orders have not surfaced in his race against Miles in the 7th House District that covers Union County and parts of Henderson and Daviess counties.

Matt Wyatt, who is consulting Warren’s bid against the first-term Republican incumbent, called Robertson’s remarks “completely desperate.”

“He knows his candidate is losing,” Wyatt said Monday in a phone interview. “… In America, you are innocent until you’re proven guilty. This man was never charged nor convicted of domestic violence. This is an outrage that Steve Robertson would stoop to this low to try to protect his candidate who he knows is going to lose Nov. 4.”

Wyatt said he expected this to arise in the campaign.

“I knew that if they got so desperate that they would pull anything out, and they have,” he said. “They’re basically attacking someone who was never charged or convicted of anything. That’s what they’re doing.”

Warren declined to comment on the matter when reached by Pure Politics recently.

Miles, in a phone interview with Pure Politics last week, said she knew little about the protective orders against Warren.

“I don’t have anything in my possession as far as his criminal records of any type,” Miles said. “Bits and pieces have been told to me by different people.”

Miles said she’s a friend of his ex-wife, who “does not deserve to be collateral damage in this campaign whatsoever.”

“I’ll just be honest and tell you, to me it’s a struggle with this race because last time I did not know my opponent and there wasn’t anything personal,” she said. “And unfortunately, I know his too well and I know too much of him, and I would not want to be represented by him and his values.”

Wyatt said the race should be a referendum on Miles’ record and doublespeak as a state representative.

“What this race is about is the voting record of Suzanne Miles, who was the only vote in her committee for eminent domain and for a gas pipeline,” he told Pure Politics. “She said that she would only take one salary as state representative. She took both from Congressman (Brett) Guthrie and as state representative. That’s what this race is about.”

The campaign recently launched a television advertisement attacking Miles on both issues.

“Suzanne Miles was the only one to vote against a bill to protect your land from being taken by eminent domain for a pipeline so her fat cats can get richer. Sure, they donated to her campaign,” a narrator says in the ad. “Suzanne Miles said she wouldn’t double dip — so much for keeping her word.”

The ad can be seen here:

Miles was the sole “no” vote on House Bill 31 , which would have barred the use of eminent domain for the construction of natural gas liquids pipelines, when it came before the House Judiciary Committee, and she voted against the final version of HB 31, which passed the chamber 75-16.

Miles defended her vote on the eminent domain bill, saying she made her decision with the House district’s business interests in mind.

“Texas Gas is in my district and that employs quite a few people in my district,” she said, noting the project would have benefited pipefitters building the line. “Not only would it affect Texas Gas, it would also affect Atmos Energy, it would affect companies that employ a substantial amount of people in Kentucky, and then on top of that, it was another strike against us being energy independent.”

Kentucky Family Values also has an ad running in the district on the double paycheck claim, saying that Miles found a way around the system in order to get two paychecks out of the government.

“And what did working people get in return? Not much! While Miles got paid by Frankfort, she didn’t pass or even introduce a single bill during the legislative session. Not one!!” the announcer says. “With a record like that, no wonder the people supporting Miles are resorting to false attacks.”
The fact sheet for that ad can be found here: HD7- Miles Two Checks RADIO BACK UP .docx

Miles, who is a field representative for U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, also disputed assertion that she collected checks simultaneously from the congressman’s payroll and the General Assembly. Congressional expenditure records show she earned $350 from Guthrie’s office in January, then $7,000 from April 1 through June 30. This year’s legislative session began Jan. 7 and concluded April 15.

She said she’s on unpaid leave from Oct. 6 through Nov. 6 to campaign.

“We have it set up on my schedule that the hours that I work for Congressman Guthrie were reduced specifically for me to attend committee meetings, anything that I need to do as a state legislator, so I took a reduced workweek the rest of the year,” Miles said. “So I’m not being paid for the same days to work for the state and federal (governments), and that’s been a really hard thing to clarify.”


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