Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic senate candidate in Kentucky, is in hot water over her refusal to return a campaign contribution from a local politician who resigned last year amid charges of sexual harassment toward female staffers.
Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state and a member of a prominent Kentucky Democratic family, is not backing away from her connection to former Democratic state Representative John Arnold or her ties to an attorney who recently cast the deciding vote not to reprimand Arnold.
Grimes’s family and political links prompted her probably opponent in November, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to ridicule Grimes’s frequent campaign-trail claim to be a champion for women and women’s issues.
“When the victims of this egregious sexual harassment needed an advocate most, Alison Lundergan Grimes opted to protect the old boys’ club backing her campaign and send her sterile condolences via press release,” the McConnell campaign said in a statement.
Last summer, Arnold resigned following allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted three female statehouse staffers. The allegations include inappropriate touching and stroking, as well grabbing one woman’s “fancy red lace panties” as she was going up stairs at the state capitol building.
At the time of the revelations, the Grimes campaign condemned Arnold’s actions, but Grimes failed to call on him to resign.
Local news organization described Grimes’s as having “dodged” or “whiffed” on the issue. She also stated that she will not return Arnold’s $250 donation.
The Bluegrass State’s Legislative Ethic Commission voted Tuesday on whether to reprimand Arnold, but fell short of the necessary five votes to move forward. Only five members of the nine-person commission were present for the vote, which ended with a 4-1 vote. Grimes said she was “disappointed” Arnold was not punished.
The sole vote against punishing Arnold came from Elmer George, a Lebanon-based attorney and donor to Grimes’s campaign who was appointed to the commission by Democratic state House Speaker Greg Stumbo. George has given $5,200 to Grimes’ Senate run, as well as an additional $2,000 during her campaign for secretary of state.
But the ties between Grimes and George go even further.
Page One Kentucky Thursday found that Elmer George, Jr., son of the aforementioned commission member, works for the Grimes campaign. According to Federal Election Commission documents, the younger George had earned more than $2,000 while on staff.
The controversy over Arnold and the George comes as Grimes is invoking attempts to use the Democrats’ “War on Women” theme against McConnell. But Republicans are firing back, saying that her “actions speak louder than words” as she claims to side with women, yet has done little to address the ongoing scandal.
Grimes, who has largely remained mum on a number of issues throughout the race, took another hit when she avoided answering reporters’ questions about her plans for the contributions. At the event, she focused on McConnell’s opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act and “made women’s issues and workplace fairness issues a major theme.”
Republicans didn’t take her silence lightly.
“Her unwillingness to speak up about the sexual harassment scandal and inability to publicly stand up for the women affected shows Kentucky women where her real priorities lie — with her political future and her campaign’s financial backers, no matter the consequences,” the state’s party said in a statement.
The Kentucky Senate race continues lives up to its billing as a grueling political slugfest. Grimes has aimed to maximize her support among women.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.