Alison Lundergan Grimes may not be the defender of Kentucky coal she wants Kentucky voters to think she is.
Grimes, the Democratic challenger to Senator Mitch McConnell, vowed to speak up for the vital Bluegrass State industry after Environmental Protection Agency issued broad anti-coal regulations last week.
But new audio from a Washington, D.C. fundraiser for Grimes featuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid revealed that the Kentucky senate candidate failed to stand up for her state’s industry in public, and probably never brought the issue up with Reid.
Attendees at the event note the conflicts between Grimes’s public and private comments.
Publicly, Grimes has showed a willingness to oppose the Obama administration and Washington Democrats. A statement following the EPA’s announcement described Grimes as “absolutely livid about the new rules,” which included requiring power plants to cut emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In the statement, a spokeswoman said Grimes “plans to use the event” with Reid “to share stories” about how the regulations will hurt Kentuckians.
Reid has become one of the leading opponents of coal-fired energy, most notably when he said in a 2008 Fox Business interview that “coal makes us sick.” Grimes has refused to say whether she would vote for Reid as majority leader if elected.
Following the event, the Grimes camp continued to claim that she stood up for Kentucky goal and criticized the environmental regulations. Her campaign manager stressed the need for “a comprehensive, balanced approach that reins in the EPA.”
But audio of Grimes’s remarks obtained by Politico finds the Democrat made no such case at the Reid event. Instead, she spent much of her 11-minute speech taking shots at Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell and highlighting her support from Reid, who described her as the “perfect candidate” and guaranteed Democrats would hold the Senate.
During her remarks, Grimes urged Democratic donors to join “Alison’s army.” “I know this is the army to help get it done,” she exclaimed.
The Grimes campaign has since backed off of its initial assertions that she criticized Reid and donors, instead claiming that she privately discussed the matter with and had “strong words” on the EPA rules.
But even that story is disputed by an attendee, who told Politico “there is no way” the two spoke. Reid made his introductory remarks immediately upon walking in and left before Grimes took the floor.
A Reid spokesman claimed Grimes and the senator talked about the issue before his arrival, but accounts indicate that was unlikely.
The Republican Party of Kentucky says Grimes’s deceptive claims indicate that she will distance herself from Washington Democrats on the campaign trial but align herself with Reid and the president if elected.
“It has been clear since day one that Alison Grimes has told her anti-coal fundraisers one thing and Kentuckians another, and now we have proof,” the party said in a statement. “If there was any question about what she would do as a senator, this tape erased all doubt.”
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.