LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- In her first public comments about the 2014 U.S. Senate race since she announced her candidacy, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) on Thursday distanced herself from Obama administration coal policy and the Affordable Care Act.
Five-term Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) contended earlier this month that Grimes would be "on board with the effort to implement Obamacare and the War on Coal."
"I disagree with the president in his philosophies in terms of coal," Grimes countered when asked by a reporter.
Regarding Obamacare, Grimes said "there are many things that are wrong with (the Affordable Care Act). But instead of trying to repeal it nearly 40 times and wasting our taxpayers money, we should be talking about solutions."
Grimes did not disclose which portions of the ACA troubled her, yet volunteered "there are many things that I as Secretary of State am concerned about, especially as it relates to our small businesses."
Grimes later declined to answer whether she would vote to repeal Obamacare if given the opportunity.
In a statement, the McConnell campaign blasted Grimes.
"Secretary Grimes' bold pronouncement that efforts to repeal Obamacare are somehow a "waste" is cold comfort to the countless Kentuckians who will be negatively affected by this misguided law," said Team Mitch campaign manager Jesse Benton. "And while she may play political games, the reality is she was recruited to run by Obama allies who are executing a war on coal."
Benton said a Grimes election would ensure that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who has said "coal makes us sick" would set the agenda in the Senate instead of a "champion for coal."
"I stand by the 15,000 men and women who are employed here in the state of Kentucky and their dependents and will continue to fight for them on their behalf," Grimes said of the Kentucky coal industry.
Grimes spoke to reporters for about five minutes following remarks to Kentucky magistrates at their summer convention in downtown Louisville. It was her first media availability since announcing her intention to run for the Senate on July 1, 17 days ago.
"Kentuckians are tired of 28 years of obstruction," Grimes said. "They are tired of someone who has put himself ahead of the
Kentucky voters. Someone who has failed to stand up for Kentuckians, especially Kentucky women."
McConnell has said that the other key issue in the race is his outsized influence as the Republican Leader of the Senate.
Yet Grimes, the first term Secretary of State, suggested that McConnell's influence is waning within the Republican party,
evidenced by a filibuster deal reportedly brokered by Arizona Senator John McCain (R), instead.
"I think what you saw this past week was the Republican party tired of that same obstruction, and actually going around Sen.
McConnell in order to actually get results," Grimes said.
Grimes also had an answer for McConnell's assertion that Kentuckians would not want to trade his nearly thirty years of experience and accompanying influence for a rookie who would sit on the "back bench" of the Senate.
"Kentuckians as well as the nation are tired of obstruction," Grimes said, "and I don't think any woman belongs on the back bench. The question I'd ask is, 'What has Sen McConnell done on the front of the bench for the last 28 years?'"
Grimes has been grilled for her absence from the public stage since her Senate announcement two and a half weeks ago. Even some veteran Democratic insiders have expressed anxieties that her campaign wasn't ready. Grimes dismissed that narrative.
"I will continue to do my work as Secretary of State and I'm excited about the campaign that we are building," Grimes said. "I do believe we'll cross that finish line successfully."
"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," Grimes continued. "And my record of finishing is finishing strong here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I look very much forward and excited to the July 30 kickoff."