McConnell and Grimes trade jabs between answers at Farm Bureau candidate forum

08/20/2014 04:24 PM

LOUISVILLE— In the first exchange of ideas between the two candidates in the Kentucky U.S. Senate race, Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes stuck to campaign messages during a discussion on agriculture issues.

At the 2014 Farm Bureau “Measure the Candidates” forum, McConnell and Grimes were asked about issues ranging from agriculture policy to the Affordable Care Act Wednesday in Louisville.

At the same time, the candidates each managed to stay on their messages of their campaigns while trading jabs over recent stories about the campaigns.

To begin the forum, each candidate was able to give their opening statements which Grimes used to immediately bring up a recent report about McConnell missing meetings of the Senate Agriculture Committee for other events. Grimes said the state is ready for a Senator that shows up.

“When it comes to the Agriculture Committee, did Mitch McConnell bother to show up? No. When it comes to the farm bill did he bother to speak up for our Kentucky farmers? No,” Grimes said in her open remarks.

After she brought the story up many times during her remarks, McConnell responded in one of his answers by saying that leaders of the parties usually have this type of record due to their many obligations. He continued by saying Grimes’ “mentor Harry Reid must not have taught her anything” about this topic since the Senate Majority Leader has resigned from his positions on all committees due to his leadership position.

A main topic of discussion in the forum was the farm bill, as the moderator asked whether or not the candidates believed the most recent version of the farm bill was a good solution.

McConnell used the bill to joke about the controversy over the price the Grimes campaign is paying for her campaign bus.

“Probably not as good a deal as $400 a day tour bus, but is a good deal,” McConnell said continuing to say that while the bill took longer to draft and pass than most would have liked, it is a better bill because of that delay.

Grimes focused most of her remarks on the farm bill on the delay which she said was caused by McConnell and the gridlock in Washington. Grimes said she takes issue with McConnell’s remark that the delay did not hurt anyone as she said it hurt all Kentucky farmers.

One of the biggest issues in the race which many have waited to hear from both candidates on in depth is the Affordable Care Act.

Grimes started by talking about the success of kynect and applauded Governor Steve Beshear’s decision to create a health exchange through the law and expand Medicaid because it has provided insurance for many Kentuckians that were without insurance.

“If he had his way, Mitch McConnell would take us back to the days where being a woman was a pre-existing condition and you could kick kids off your insurance,” Grimes said.

While Grimes touted the success of kynect, she also said the country needs to work to streamline the ACA to make sure there are no over burdensome regulations on business especially small businesses. Grimes said she believes the delay of business mandate good thing and that Congress should also be working to extend clause that extended the “if like doctor can keep them” fix passed after some were losing their current plans.

In contrast, McConnell again said the Affordable Care Act is the single worst piece of legislation and should be repealed “root and branch”.

As an alternative, McConnell said the changes that need to be made to the health care system include: “tear down walls between every state in America and have truly national competition, a medical mal-practice standard and allow small businesses to form groups to allow more purchasing power on the open market.

One member of the Kentucky Farm Bureau asked the candidates about comprehensive immigration reform as it relates to the need Kentucky farmers have for immigrant labor.

McConnell said that he is in favor of immigration reform, again bringing up his wife’s story of immigration, but said it needs to be done in a smarter way.

“We shouldn’t do comprehensive immigration reform, we don’t always do comprehensive well,” McConnell joked. “What is holding immigration back is the American people’s legitimate concerns that the federal government won’t secure the border.”

Grimes again said McConnell is the problem when it comes to the legislation because he is playing the blame game while she blamed him for holding it up by wanting to pass the legislation piece by piece.

But perhaps one of the most spirited exchanges between the two came when the candidates were asked about trade and McConnell accused Grimes of avoiding the question, saying she can’t give a straight answer because she will never vote in favor of trade legislation as she is beholden to groups like the AFL-CIO.

In response, Grimes said McConnell was putting words in her mouth and said she speaks for herself.

“Women aren’t supposed to just be seen, we will be heard,” Grimes said.

In their closing remarks, McConnell and Grimes stayed on their messages of influence vs out of touch.

Grimes said the race is about the past and the future, a Washington insider and a fighter for Kentucky.

“He wants a self-promotion, I want to be Kentucky’s agriculture senator,” Grimes told the group.

McConnell again said that the state is facing a huge loss of influence if he is not in the Senate and again addressed the repeated remarks about his attendance at the Senate Agriculture Committee by saying the group knows better than his opponent about what he has done for the industry.

“The issue is not how many times you show up for committee meetings, but have you made a difference?” McConnell said adding that he has won two golden plows from American Farm Bureau for the work he has done.

McConnell and Grimes will again share a stage when the debate on KET in October.

Jacqueline Pitts

Jacqueline Pitts is the producer of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. In addition to booking guests and pulling all of the information from the field together into a half-hour show, Jacqueline is also a regular contributor to “The Grind.” That’s a weekly segment with the cn|2 political staff to take a closer look at some of the most important, most interesting and often least talked about happenings in Kentucky politics. Jacqueline is from Nashville, but she’s a proud Western Kentucky University graduate. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or jacqueline.pitts@twcnews.com.

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