This November, Kentuckians will take the first step in deciding not only decide who will represent the Commonwealth in the United States Senate; they will decide who runs it. Three legitimate candidates have emerged since the beginning of the year, and all three seem likely to stick it out until the end. Here are our introductions for each of the Bluegrass State’s potential Senators.
Photo courtesy of the United States Senate
Since 1985, McConnell, a Manual graduate, has been one of the most important figures in the US Senate. Since 2007 he’s been the Minority Leader for the Republican Party, but he faces a new issue: his approval ratings have plummeted. As of August 2013, only 40% of Kentuckians approve of McConnell’s actions in Congress, and 51% disapproved of his actions, according to a Public Policy Polling Poll.
UPSIDE: McConnell is a savvy campaigner, and is no stranger to facing tough opponents. In July, Nate Silver predicted McConnell would retain his Senate seat by a slim margin.
DOWNSIDE: In the same PPP Poll, McConnell is slated to get just 44% of Kentuckians’ votes, just behind Democratic challenger Lundergan Grimes (45%). 11% of voters were undecided.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Delahanty
Alison Lundergan Grimes-D
Lundergan Grimes is the apparent favorite in the race, despite a slow start. The former Kentucky Secretary of State was reluctant to speak to media prior to July’s Fancy Farm Picnic. Since then she’s gained the support of prominent Kentucky and national democrats, including Congressman John Yarmuth (who had some less than nice words to describe McConnell during a June fundraiser in Louisville), Governor Steve Beshear, and even former President Bill Clinton, who carried the state during the 1992 and 1996 elections.
UPSIDE: Perhaps Lundergan Grimes’ strongest trait is that, well, she’s not McConnell. She knows that she’ll get close to 100% of registered Democrats’ votes, she’s just competing for the ballots of Republicans and Independents that are on the fence about the state’s Senior Senator.
DOWNSIDE: Being a blue candidate in an undoubtedly red state is a major challenge. McConnell will certainly continue his campaign of linking Lundergan Grimes to President Obama, who is wildly unpopular throughout the Commonwealth.
Photo courtesy of Matt Bevin 2013 campaign website.
Louisville businessman Matt Bevin may have showed up to the party late, but that didn’t stop him from making a big entrance. The Republican Primary challenger may be the only candidate brave (and crazy?) enough to call McConnell not conservative enough. Meanwhile Bevin has gained strong support from the Kentucky Tea Party, as well as from liberals who are happy to hear him bash their shared enemy.
UPSIDE: He’s young, energetic, and in a race as complicated as this one, he may just be able to pull it off. Plus, he’s the unofficial winner of Fancy Farm, after pulling off the best quote of the event.
DOWNSIDE: There’s no denying Bevin is the dark horse of the race, but he’s still not on center stage like McConnell and Lundergan Grimes.
THE REST OF THE FIELD
In the Republican Primary former US Senate candidate Gurley L. Martin (who turns 90 this November), has declared his intentions of running. On the left side, University of Louisville professor Greg Leichty, former Kentucky congressional candidate Ed Marksberry and musician Bennie J. Smith all will run.
The shape of the Senate race changed last March when popular actress and activist Ashley Judd, who was seen as McConnell’s biggest opponent at the time, announced that she would not contend for the Senate seat. Former Louisville mayor and current Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, 2010 Senate candidate Jack Conway and current Louisville mayor Greg Fischer, who is running for re-election, will not run either.
Although the Primaries are still two months away, the candidates are already preparing themselves for the scrum that is Kentucky’s Senate race. Will the veteran McConnell survive and hold his seat in Washington? Will Lundergan Grimes turn Kentucky blue? Or will Matt Bevin steal the show? The only thing for certain is that it’s going to be a long 14 months.