Louisville Magazine

OCT 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 37 of herself at 14 years old, presenting a bouquet of roses to President Clinton during his 1993 inauguration. Now he's lending her a hand. Bill Clinton has made two visits to Kentucky to help stump for Grimes, a self-proclaimed Clinton Democrat. (Never an Obama Democrat.) Whereas Grimes' speaking style can sound lawyer-y and rehearsed, often over-enunciating and falling into a rickety cadence, Clinton is smooth. At a stop in rural Hazard, he drips with the "y'alls." At a fundraiser in Lexington (starting ticket price: $200), underneath chandeliers and before 43 tables dressed in white linens, he's classic Clinton — swagger and hus- ky-voiced, words bubbling forth like a spa. "I really do love Kentucky," he purrs. "When people said no Democrat could carry Kentucky in a general election, you voted for me twice. I appreciated that." He smiles. "You like proving the experts wrong. When people said Hillary was a washed-up candidate, you voted for her by 37 points (in the 2008 primary) .... I ap- preciated that. Not that I was following the vote closely." I actually hear a woman coo. I write in my notebook: Caramel melting of plated cheesecake. To be fair, I'm not sure if this observation is a refection of Clinton or hunger. It's a humid Labor Day morning. Sunny skies erupt into a downpour. Te rain ends by lunch, and Grimes arrives at the Louis- ville Zoo with press spokesperson Norton. Polls released a few days ago show Grimes slipping about four percentage points behind. Te narrative in the press is that McConnell's gaining momentum. Grimes wears a big smile and her casual getup — jeans, cowboy boots, orange button-down shirt, hair pulled back into a slick ponytail. Te occasion is the Greater Louisville United Labor Day Picnic, with union members feasting on hot dogs and potato salad. Tey tote toddlers in strollers and drag along bored teens. It's mostly a staunchly Democratic bunch. Before winding through hundreds, maybe thousands, of picnickers, Grimes makes time for a tall, wiry man grazing the terrain with a cocksure air and nice gray slacks. A photographer whispers to me, "Carl Cameron from Fox News." Microphone in hand, Cameron leans into Grimes with a rambler: "Here you are, facing the most powerful Republican arguably in Washington and or the Senate .… Uh, this is obviously a tremendous re- sponsibility and a tough race. So you guys are both pounding each other. You gotta keep a smile on your face because it's Labor Day. It's a holiday. So set the stage for us." Grimes, wide grin intact, slips into stump-speak. Her light blue eyes never lose contact with Cameron or whomever she's talking to. "Well, we have 64 more days to make sure Kentuckians know all the wrong votes Mitch McConnell has taken … left hardworking Kentuckians behind … promises to millionaires and billionaires … Kentucky needs a fghter in Washington." Grimes' reputation for avoiding the press isn't accurate if taken literally. She allows reporters to ask her questions. She'll often cock her head gently to the right and answer, sort of. "She's basically following the Mitch McConnell model of, when you do take questions that you don't want to answer, you fall back on your talking points," says Joe Sonka, a blogger and longtime political writer currently working for the website Insider Louisville. Spontaneous Q&As are rare, if ever. After a Rotary Club luncheon I attended at the Galt House, an elderly member grumbled in the hallway. Grimes spoke to the crowd but didn't allow for Q&A time, which is the tradition at these luncheons. "Tere's no reason not to take questions," the man said. "She's the frst." Jennifer Dufy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report, says the Grimes campaign hasn't granted interviews to non-partisan newsletters like hers or the Rothenberg Political Report. Dufy says that's unusual for a candidate in such a high-stakes race. "Campaigns will say they're disciplined," Dufy says. "But that's a red fag for me." (Grimes spokes- person Norton says the campaign is focused on Kentucky.) At the zoo, Grimes begins to work the crowd. I lose count of all the hands she shakes and photos she poses for. Cell phones and cameras keep popping out of pockets. Tere must be a couple thousand images of Grimes from this one hour at the zoo. "You ready for a fun day?" she asks him and her, this group and that. After a few teen girls go in for a hug ("I love that!" Grimes says. "I need all the hugs I can get!"), Grimes spots an infant in a gray-and-pink stroller. She picks up the chubby bundle in a white onesie. Te baby's father, a slight man with thin strips of facial hair, smiles next to Grimes for a photo. As she walks away, he looks at a woman next to him and says, "I think I've seen her on TV." Grimes attempts to pluck a stand-up bass with a bluegrass band. She hoists another baby into her arms. She poses for a picture in front of a UFCW 227 trailer, then hops into a shot with the Teamsters Local 89. "One, two, three, go teamsters!" the huddle cheers. Her energy isn't manic, but with one 5-hour Energy shot, it might be. Tis is the side of politics Grimes loves. A young Grimes (far right) hands President Bill Clinton fowers during his 1993 inauguration. Photo courtesy of Alison Lundergan Grimes. Gov. Steve Beshear and Grimes march into the Fancy Farm picnic arm in arm.

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