“Tonight, I’m back,” said former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she addressed a full house in the Kentucky International Convention Center decorated with a sign for each of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Clinton’s star power, and possible amitions, meant press ranging from a local to international level were on hand to cover what many see as one of the most important Senate races of the year.
Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes recruited Clinton to help her in the final month of the highly contested election after a week that included criticism for failing to say if she voted for President Obama, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee not scheduling future ads in the state and a close debate with her opponent, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.
Much of the event focused on get out the vote efforts for the upcoming Nov. 4 election. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer reminded the audience that four years ago, he was also considered by many to be behind in his first mayoral election.
Chants of “Ditch Mitch” rang out through the convention hall at the end of Fischer’s speech. Louisville State Senator Gerald Neal of the 33rd district, continued on this theme by saying “Mitch does not care.”
In addition to Fischer, Grimes brought nearly every major Democrat on the state level with her to the event, which was her biggest rally thus far. State Auditor Adam Edelen, seen as a rising star in the party, and Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway riled up the crowd by introducing Hillary Clinton as “the next President of the United States.”
Other major speakers include Martha Layne Collins, the first female governor of Kentucky, Congressman John Yarmuth, and Governor Steve Beshear.
Collins focused on her own critical decision to bring Toyota to Kentucky, which she compared to voting for Grimes. Yarmuth wasted no time criticizing McConnell on issues of climate change and healthcare. The climate change criticism comes amid a campaign in which both candidates claim to be pro-coal.
Yarmuth alleged that McConnell is not compassionate, rational or honest, and that he only wishes to advance his own career.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who lost to McConnell in the 1996 Senate election, then introduced Grimes after speaking in favor of Kynect and the Affordable Care Act.
Grimes arrived on the stage to loud cheers as Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ filled the room.
“Welcome to Mitch McConnell’s retirement party,” she said as she began her speech. The bulk of the speech focused on what she sees in a need for change in Washington.
“Washington is not working for Kentucky, it is broken.”
Grimes then went through the main points of attack seen throughout the entire campaign, including the notion that McConnell is closely aligned with political donors the Koch brothers, who she calls his “family.”
She also defended herself against claims that a vote for her was a vote for President Obama, who’s unpopularity in Kentucky has been utilized by the McConnell campaign.
She said, to applause, that she would, for four of her potential six year term, have the opportunity to work with a new President, “no matter who he or she might be.”
Grimes then encouraged the room full of supporters that her campaign was strong, but required all the get out the vote efforts possible in order to win.
“It takes Kentucky,” she repeated over and over, “Washington abandoned us a long time ago.”
In an election where young people are likely to play a large role, Grimes reached out to college voters.
“Students want a senator who will help them earn degrees, not debt,” she said to applause.
Before closing her speech, she urged voters to right the “wrong decision” to elect McConnell three decades ago.
Then, it what perhaps got the biggest response from the crowd, Clinton came onstage with the Grimes family and Beshear.
Clinton quickly began by reminding the Kentucky audience of her time spent campaigning there in 2008 and with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. She also mentioned that she has known Grimes since age 14 due to a family friendship wither her father, Kentucky politician Jerry Lundergan.
“It all starts with family,” she said while describing how she sees Grimes’s roots in Kentucky as making her more compassionate towards the Commonwealth and its people.
Describing a “stark choice” in the election, she discussed a wide range of issues such as healthcare, campaign finance reform, the minimum wage and creating the 21st century economy. Throughout her speech she mentioned the work of her husband, furthering on the Grimes campaign’s theme of Grimes being a “Clinton Democrat.”
Throughout the speech, Clinton’s rallying cry was “send Alison to Washington.”
In addition, Clinton focused on women’s issues, telling the audience that electing Grimes meant “another class in the class ceiling.”
In her closing, Clinton said that the election is too close to call at this time and requires more work in order to win.
“It all depends on who shows up,” she said, adding that “there is no limit to what we can do together.”
Stay tuned for more election coverage from The Louisville Cardinal
Photos by Jacob Abrahamson