Looking ahead at Grimes, McConnell brings out prominent women to criticize Democrats' approach

08/30/2013 12:16 PM

Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell let his female supporters do the talking at an endorsement event Friday clearly aimed at blunting Democrats’ arguments that McConnell doesn’t fight for women’s issues.

When he did finally speak to the group of supporters at the first “Women for Team Mitch” event in Louisville, McConnell focused his remarks on his mother and wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and the impact those women have had on his life.

McConnell said he expects a lot of gender-based attacks coming from Alison Lundergan Grimes, the secretary of state and frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. But he said that isn’t what the 2014 election should be about.

“What you are going to see by my opponent obviously is the Barack Obama playbook to try to divide people with gender based attacks. We have seen that all too often and some of it has started already,” McConnell told the crowd. “But look, this campaign is about what kind of America do we want to have and what kind of Kentucky do we want to have.”

Former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville also spoke to the crowd about McConnell’s leadership in the Senate. She specifically praised him for criticizing the Affordable Care Act, an issue that’s already a key sticking point between McConnell and his GOP primary opponent, Matt Bevin. Bevin says McConnell hasn’t done enough to oppose or repeal the health care law.

Northup later told reporters she believes Grimes has made women’s issues a central point in her campaign because she does not want to debate the real issues with McConnell.

“Real champions for women aren’t people who say basically you have to support me because I am a woman,” Northup said. “And that is what Alison Grimes is trying to do because she doesn’t want to be judged on her own stands on things.”

In response, Grimes’ campaign said in a statement that McConnell “lied” about his past support for the Violence Against Women Act.

“Rather than openly discuss his three votes opposing the Violence Against Women Act, Republican “Leader” McConnell lied about his record. He also claimed to be a sponsor on the Violence Against Women Act, yet is not listed on the final bill that became law in 1994,” the campaign statement said. “The people of Kentucky deserve a senator who does not write off domestic violence as a ‘distraction’ and ‘completely manufactured’ issue.”

Northup said the approach she believes Grimes is taking is “insulting” to women and that it will ultimately be the issues that decide this campaign.

“We aren’t lambs to be lead to the slaughter,” Northup said. “We are people who have our intelligence and integrity, our views. And if she wants to argue for the anti-coal position, if she wants to argue for Obamacare, if she wants to argue for why higher taxes are good, if she wants to argue for why more debt is good, let her make those arguments. And let women decide if that’s in their best interest or not. She will lose every time.”

Some of the women’s issues that have come up in the campaign include McConnell’s no vote on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

When McConnell’s wife Elaine Choa addressed the crowd, she took the time to list some of her husband’s votes on women and family issues that affect the women of Kentucky.

Chao cited legislation dealing with workplace flexibility for working mothers, expanding screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer and legislation that protects female soldiers from sexual assault.

But the Grimes campaign says Kentuckians wont be tricked by McConnell’s attempt to reach out to women.

“The women of Kentucky will not be fooled by Senator McConnell’s failed leadership and deception when it comes to issues important to women and their families,” Grimes campaign press secretary Charly Norton said in a statement to Pure Politics. “His actions read loud and clear: McConnell repeatedly voted against equal pay for equal work, the Violence Against Women Act and now turns to lies to cover his shameful record. Kentuckians deserve a voice in the U.S. Senate who will stand for their interests, and that voice is Alison Lundergan Grimes. Alison has a proven record of standing up for Kentucky women.”

Jacqueline Pitts

Jacqueline Pitts joined the cn|2 political team in June 2012. A graduate of WKU, Jacqueline grew up in Nashville, TN and is looking forward to having a front row seat to Kentucky politics. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or jacqueline.pitts@twcnews.com.

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