PIKEVILLE — Three days after it was first reported that none of the three major candidates in next year’s U.S. Senate race were planning to attend tomorrow’s Shaping Our Appalachian Region summit, one campaign now says their candidate will be there for at least part of the day.
Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who is challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell for the Republican nomination in next May’s primary, now plans to attend the morning sessions of the SOAR summit, campaign staffer Rachel Semmel confirmed Sunday afternoon.
Bevin’s campaign had originally said his appearance at the event was “unlikely,” due to conflicts with his calendar, making him the only one of the three candidates to hold out some possibility of attending.
McConnell’s campaign has said the Senate minority leader had obligations to be in Washington Monday, because the Senate would be in session that day. The CN|2 Pure Politics blog reported McConnell will also be attending a $250-to-$1,000-a-plate campaign fundraising dinner in Bethesda, Md., tomorrow evening.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic frontrunner to challenge for the seat in the fall, will not be able to attend due to schedule conflicts, her campaign said. However, the campaign pointed out that Grimes has visited the Eastern Kentucky counties of Floyd, Pike, Lawrence, Boyd, Carter, Rowan, Breathitt, Letcher, Montgomery and Whitley since October and that she is committed to being “a voice for all Kentuckians, especially the hardworking families in Eastern Kentucky.”
The SOAR summit is part of a bipartisan effort between U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Gov. Steve Beshear to bring together Eastern Kentuckians from all walks of life to help craft a plan for improving the region’s economy in the wake of continuing declines in the coal industry. At last report, over 1,500 have registered to attend.
“Everyone in this room knows how the economic pressures of the last few years have hurt the growth and development of Appalachia and intensified hardships for families here,” Beshear said during an October press conference announcing the summit. “For Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky to catch up and move ahead we need new strategies. What are those strategies? Well, that’s what we want to find out.”