Grimes, McConnell spar over jobs comment

Ralph B. Davis rdavis@civitasmedia.com

April 24, 2014

The same day U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said a Lee County newspaper took his comments about job creation out of context, the Democratic front-runner for his seat criticized the senior senator for his remarks and said job creation would be her “number-one priority.”

In an interview with Edmund Shelby in the Beattyville Enterprise, McConnell appeared to deflect a question about creating jobs, saying that was a state responsibility.

“Economic development is a Frankfort issue,” McConnell was reported as saying. “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.”

Shelby also reported that McConnell believes he has a role in the Senate to protect jobs, including “pushing back” against environmental restrictions he says have hurt the coal industry.

In a statement released Thursday to The Floyd County Times, McConnell said his comments were “lost in translation.” He said the full discussion involved the difference between state and federal roles in economic development.

“As the senior senator for Kentucky, I’m constantly traveling across the commonwealth to talk with constituents about how to expand opportunity in their communities,” McConnell said. “This April, I visited Lee County to talk about a top priority of mine: jobs. Unfortunately, it seems my message got lost in translation, and I was surprised to see a headline about my visit that sent the exact opposite message to the one I was trying to convey.”

But Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who appears poised to win the Democratic nomination for McConnell’s Senate seat next month, said Thursday that, if voters send her to Washington, she will work to create new jobs and stop current jobs from going overseas.

“I am the only candidate to have rolled out a comprehensive jobs plan,” Grimes said Thursday afternoon in an interview with The Times.

The Grimes campaign also released a statement, pointing out specific actions she would take to create jobs, if elected senator. They included raising the minimum wage, closing the gender pay gap, closing loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas, working to bring all of rural Kentucky online, investing in infrastructure and tourism, providing federal investment capital to the coalfields, levelling the playing field when it comes to education, and expanding access to affordable childcare.

McConnell pointed out that he has been working to strengthen Kentucky’s economy by trying to obtain relief for the coal industry and by co-sponsoring Sen. Rand Paul’s Economic Freedom Zones Act, which would lower personal and corporate tax rates in economically distressed communities.

“Encouraging positive economic development and job growth is at the center of what I do every day,” McConnell said. “At the federal level I support policies to try to improve the economy as a whole which in turn will help preserve and create Kentucky’s jobs …

“In my travels across the Commonwealth, I hear too often how government is blocking job creation. It’s up to all of us — at the federal, state, and local levels — to fix that. We must ensure that our utility and tax rates remain low and we must enact a right to work law. The better the atmosphere the state sets for job creators, the more effectively Kentucky can compete against other states to add and retain jobs.”

Grimes further said she was “shocked” to see McConnell make his remarks “in Eastern Kentucky, in Lee County, where the unemployment rate is over 14 percent.”

“It just goes to show that the only job he is interested in saving is his own,” Grimes said.