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MLK Day rally shifts to Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race

by Joe Arnold


Posted on January 20, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 20 at 11:30 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Kentucky's U.S. Senate race took center stage on Monday at a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. motorcade and rally in Louisville.

For the 42nd year, a motorcade to honor the slain civil rights leader wound through West Louisville; this year with the campaign bus of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Not only did speakers at the Pride Inc. MLK Day rally boost Grimes' campaign, but the rally at Promise Land Baptist Church went a step further, jabbing at five-term Republican incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell.

"I've known our Senator Mitch McConnell for many years. I knew him when he was our Judge (Executive) here," Rev. Charles Elliott of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church said.  "He's been there a long time and I think it's time to retire him."

"I don't know where Sen. McConnell is today," added U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky Third Congressional District).  "I know he's not here."

"When you think about the life's work of Dr. King and his dream, I know where Mitch McConnell has been for the last 29 years," Yarmuth continued.  "He's been missing in action."

Yarmuth criticized McConnell's opposition to a minimum wage hike, pay equity and failure to extend unemployment benefits of the long-term unemployed.  He said Grimes is on the "right side" of those issues.

After Yarmuth introduced her as Kentucky's next U.S. Senator, Grimes began her remarks with an "Amen."

The rally was interspersed with song, prayer and calls to action.

Quoting King, Grimes linked her Senate aspirations to the civil rights leader's legacy and agenda.

"The journey, the vision, the urgency of now and indeed the ability to make sure that we are fulfilling the promises of what this true democracy is all about has gotten me on a journey that's headed to Washington D.C.," Grimes, the first term Kentucky Secretary of State, said.

"We don't let our problem of 28 years of unemployment, underemployment and economic insecurity become our condition," Grimes said, referring to McConnell's years in the Senate. "We can change that."

The McConnell campaign criticized Grimes - saying her "partisanship has been fully exposed."

Grimes, however, used the same word to describe McConnell’s tenure.

“Don’t let 28 years of failed leadership that’s put partisan politics ahead of the people become our condition,” Grimes said.

As the politicians asked for support, Elliott called on the politicians to join others in attendance and open their wallets to help pay for buses for a March rally in Frankfort to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort.

"Put it in the basket," Elliott instructed them, "our elected officials, our pastors, our preachers, our politicians. Let's show our love."

Among those contributing to the cause were Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, Yarmuth and Grimes, who retrieved cash from her father, Jerry Lundergan, who was seated in the assembly.

The rally encouraged attendees to support House Bill 70, a constitutional amendment which would automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felons in Kentucky after they have served their sentence and paid restitution.  The bill passed the House 82-12 last week but faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

Yarmuth, meanwhile, said Republicans have challenged parts of the Voting Rights Act to suppress voting by minority populations.

"The reason they are doing that," Yarmuth said, "is because African-Americans have found the power of the vote.  Thanks to Dr. King."

Grimes tapped into her role as Kentucky's chief elections officer to echo the voting rights comments.

"From the moment I could read, I was reading precinct lists and from the moment I could walk, my father who sits in the front row, had me walking the precincts throughout Kentucky to get out the vote, to encourage people to have their voice and voices heard," Grimes said.

Grimes' father is a former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman and State Representative.

Grimes did not make herself available for comment after the event.  While her father boarded her campaign bus parked in front of the church, a church member said Grimes had exited through a side door to a different vehicle.