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.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/388156

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Page 40 of 172

38 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 At one point Grimes bends down to a couple, Heather and Frank Cox, who are eating chips on a curb. Heather wears an "I HEART TEACHERS" sticker. "Hi, guys! Good to see you! I heart teachers too. Tanks, guys," Grimes says. Frank's a libertarian. Heather's an independent with conservative leanings. "I vote for whoever is going to do what they need to do," she says. "I know what (McConnell) goes for but not really what she goes for." Grimes is still a relatively new face to Kentucky politics. Al Cross, a veteran Courier-Journal political reporter and columnist, says that without giving undecided voters a better idea of who she is, they may have no reason to swing her way. He calls her "the most careful" Demo- cratic candidate he's ever seen in Kentucky politics. So when a potential "scandal" brews, voters are more likely to store it in their memory. What else do they know? "It's not about who voters like," Dufy of the Cook Political Report says. "It's about who they trust." In August, local and national media reported that the Grimes campaign was renting her bus from her father's company at a questionably low rate. McCo- nnell's campaign trumpeted this as a "sweetheart deal." Grimes also fueled naysayers when she told reporters she would denounce the EPA's regulations on coal emissions during a speech at a fundraiser hosted by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Audio surfaced showing she did not. Her campaign said Reid and Grimes spoke privately. "Yarmuth! John!" Grimes claps her hands before squeezing the Dem- ocratic Congressman's shoulders. "Look at you!" she says. He's dressed in neon-orange running shoes, jeans and an orange polo. Together, they continue through the crowd. Back before Grimes was chosen as McCo- nnell's Democratic opponent, Yarmuth championed Ashley Judd, the outspoken, far-left liberal actress and activist. "I had two networks tell me that if she ran they'd dedicate crews to the candidates for the entire campaign," Yarmuth says. "And of course I want cameras in Mitch Mc- Connell's face every day." Te powers-that-be deemed Judd too risky. Since then, Yarmuth has helped bring Grimes up to speed on nation- al and international issues. "She's incredibly bright — very quick," he says. A few minutes later, I run into Grimes' campaign manager, Jonathan Hurst. Sporting long-weekend scruf, loafers and shorts, he entertains a few questions about what Grimes is like. "Alison isn't a politician," he says. "(She) really cares about people." He rifs on that for a while. He mentions Grimes' "detailed" jobs plan. Te campaign likes to do this. "It's 20 pages," Norton says to me one day, touting its heft. (Side note about the jobs plan. It is a document that advocates for increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and eliminating the pay gap between men and women. Most of it contains brief snippets beneath bolded titles: "Rebuild Kentucky's manufacturing sector" and "Expand investment for clean coal technology." Lacking: the cost of such programs and details on how to pay for them.) As Hurst scrolls through his phone, I ask for an interesting nugget about Grimes. One that few know. "She loves red Swedish Fish," he says. Grimes' friends talk efusively about her. She's in this race because she longs to make a diference, they say. Law col- leagues bring up her pro-bono work with domestic violence victims. State Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Louisville Democrat, likes to tell a story from the 2013 General Assembly. With an hour left to go before the session closed at midnight, Grimes was still in her secretary of state ofce wrangling with Republicans, who Grimes believed had weakened a bill that would improve voting access to military members overseas. "I was so taken by her persistence," Jenkins says, adding that Grimes ultimately agreed to a compromise Republicans ofered. Mary Rose Browder met Grimes the frst week of law school. Te two were usually the frst ones in the library and the last ones out. (Browder names her friend's fuel of choice at the time: chicken salad sandwiches and candy.) Grimes isn't all serious. She's fun to sit down and have a beer with, Browder says. Grimes loves University of Kentucky basketball. An- other friend tells me she has a "dry wit." One of Browder's favorite stories involves Grimes' wedding day, when her husband Andrew fainted at the altar. Te bride didn't freak out. She tended to Andrew and once the timing felt right joked with her guests, something along the lines of "if you didn't want to marry me…." (During an afternoon spent watching YouTube videos, I came across the making of a popular Grimes ad from her secretary of state race. It features her with her two elderly grand- mothers. When Grimes realizes one of them is chewing gum during flm- ing, she teases, "Gum chewer!" Her grandma replies, "Killsport!" Tey laugh. Grimes has a great laugh — hearty and loud.) Browder mentions Grimes' poise. An elegant maturity, down to the glittery ladybug pin — a family heirloom — she'll sometimes clip to her collar for good luck. I had asked way back at Fancy Farm for a sit-down interview with Grimes. A few failed attempts later, it's fnally happening on a crisp September morning. Te campaign had ofered to let me ask her a few questions at the Labor Day picnic. But her press availability is usually compressed to a few minutes. I decided it would be unfair to gobble time with questions like, "How do you start your day? Favorite book?" Stuf I was interested in but might make Carl Cameron vomit. I'm waiting in a small conference room with perspiring pitchers of water, deep-green carpeting and heavy maroon drapes. Norton, the spokesperson, sits next to me. Someone knocks at the door. "We're here," says the tall security man. Norton rushes away. I had read that Grimes gave just over seven minutes to Time. I scramble to prioritize questions. Do I waste time on policy questions, I've heard the stock answers to before? I'm curious about the person, not the politician. Start with fuf? "Hi!" Grimes says, smiling as she walks in. "How are you?" She shakes my hand. I notice her glossy gray nail polish. And the ladybug pin fas- tened to her white blazer. Te grip isn't as frm as I was expecting. I learn she has six nephews and nieces and a 100-pound Bernese Mountain Dog named Nala who's now eight years old. She met her husband in high school. Tey went to her senior prom together and danced to Van Morrison's "Moondance." She was forced to quit ballet after attempting a dance routine with a high-school friend. "I went for a toe touch up in the air and landed on my tailbone," Grimes says, laughing. "It was not fun." She's a former kickbox instructor. A "creature of habit," she starts her day with a run most mornings. Grimes thought about becoming a doctor but, while shadowing a hand surgeon, passed out during a six-minute carpal-tunnel surgery. I ask about the pressure of this campaign. (Te race will only get increasingly nasty as Election Day draws closer. Still, "Tis race is bigger than she is," her sister Alissa told me. Before announcing her candidacy last year, Grimes had reservations. She hadn't fnished her frst term in ofce. She wants to have a family. She discussed her concerns with mentors, including Rep. Jenkins and the Clintons.) "I think the eyes of the nation are watching what happens in Kentucky. Tere's an extreme amount of pressure," she says, before pivoting to talking points. "I think "I think the eyes of the nation are watching what happens in Kentucky. There's an extreme amount of pressure," Grimes says, before pivoting to talking points.

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