'Underdog' Grimes accepts challenge, will face McConnell in 2014


by Joe Arnold


Posted on July 1, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 2 at 5:11 PM

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FRANKFORT, Ky (WHAS11) -- After 12 weeks of "due diligence" and hand-wringing from anxious Democrats afraid that no formidable challenger would step into the 2014 race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes declared her candidacy at a Frankfort news conference on Monday.

"I'm here today to tell you that I have met with my supporters, we have had a great conversation, and determined and decided that we can next make the best move, the best difference in the Commonwealth of Kentucky by running for the U.S. Senate," a stone-faced Grimes said to smiling and cheering supporters.

After meeting with supporters in the basement of the vacant office building down the road from the Kentucky Democratic Party headquarters, the 34 year old first term Secretary of State emerged to reporters and supporters waiting in the sweltering news conference room.

Grimes was quick to explain why she waited three months to decide after the March exit of actress Ashley Judd.
"Make no mistake, members of the media, this due diligence was not reluctance," Grimes said to reporters.  "It was not hesitancy, but rather a deliberate gathering of all the necessary facts to make a decision that is not to be taken lightly."

While a campaign advisor emphasized that Grimes' decision was based primarily on the feedback of Kentuckians, Grimes has met with U.S. Senate Democratic leadership and national Democratic donors to seek assurances that her campaign would be funded adequately to compete with McConnell.

"We needed a lot of 'i's' to dot and 't's' to cross," said Jerry Lundergan, Grimes' father and the former chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.  "And I think unlike other candidates who have ran for this office in the past, we just didn't step into it. We wanted to make sure that when we got into it we could get into it and win."

July 1 starts a new fundraising quarter. Grimes will not have to disclose campaign donation totals until the middle of October.

One Grimes' confidante estimated the campaign would need more than $25 million to beat McConnell, a prolific fundraiser who hired a campaign manager in 2012 fully aware that he would be a national target in 2014.

Super PACS are already running attack ads against both McConnell and Grimes.  At her announcement, Grimes criticized McConnell's "obstructionism," specifically on a measure to raise the minimum wage.

Yet Grimes did not directly respond to a question whether her criticism of McConnell's obstructionism included McConnell's quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare."

"Regardless of the vote that is issued in this race, we cannot change who our president is," Grimes responded.  "But, we can change who we have in Washington representing Kentucky, and it's time."

"I'm no stranger to being an underdog," Grimes said.  "(McConnell's) ads are based out of fear of losing his 30 year grip on power.  And this Kentucky woman does not believe that the voters of Kentucky will be fooled that easily."

After learning of Grimes' announcement, McConnell had this response:

“Accepting the invitation from countless Washington liberals to become President Obama’s Kentucky candidate was a courageous decision by Alison Lundergan Grimes and I look forward to a respectful exchange of ideas.  The next sixteen months will provide a great opportunity for Kentuckians to contrast a liberal agenda that promotes a war on coal families and government rationed health care with someone who works everyday to protect Kentuckians from those bad ideas.  Together we’ve invested a lot to ensure that Kentucky’s voice in the U.S. Senate is heard from the front of the line rather than the back-bench and I intend to earn the support to keep it there.”