Grimes courts labor votes with Warren in Kentucky

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2014 8:35 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren brought her brand of populist politics back to Kentucky on Tuesday to campaign for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes one week before voters go to the polls in one of the country's most closely watched Senate races.

Warren, making her second trip to Kentucky this election season, jumped between full throated attack mode against Republican policies and soft stories of how her janitor father helped her family "make it into a middle class that America's labor unions built."

"There is no better fighter for America's middle class, for America's working people, than Alison Lundergan Grimes," Warren said, citing Grimes' support of raising the minimum wage. "Alison is willing to fight back and better yet, Alison is willing to fight forward."

The rally at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers attracted steel workers, teamsters, firefighters and communication workers who sipped beer in plastic cups and listened to Warren, the first in a lineup of political stars visiting Kentucky in the final week of the contentious campaign. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will campaign with Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday, and Hillary Rodham Clinton will stump for Grimes on Saturday.

Stephen Piercey, a 32-year-old UPS worker and a steward in the Teamsters union, said he supports Grimes because she opposes right to work legislation that would allow companies to hire nonunion workers, which he said would weaken the labor union's ability to bargain for its members.

"We've got outstanding health care, I got a pension I'll have one day, I make good money on the hour," he said. "All of those things combined give me a quality of life I wouldn't be able to have if I didn't have a union."

McConnell, the Senate minority leader, made his pitch for Kentucky's working families in Campbellsville on Tuesday, where he campaigned with country music singer Lee Greenwood at a company that makes clothes for the military. In 2012, Federal Prison Industries, a government-owned corporation that provides jobs to federal prison inmates, sought to bid on the military contract that officials at Campbellsville Apparel said would have threatened their business.

After pressure from McConnell, Federal Prison Industries decided not to bid on the contract.

"He's kept our jobs open," said Beverly Brown, 44, who has worked at Campbellsville Apparel for 15 years. "He's kind of been out there helping us as working people."

McConnell briefly mentioned his efforts to help the company, but spent most of his time telling the crowd about how, despite his 30 years in the Senate, he is the candidate of change in this race while Grimes is just "a new face to vote for the president's agenda."

"Change is not about how new you are, change is about where you want to go and I want to change America," McConnell said.

Grimes, who has refused to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama, has said she would not answer to the president if elected. Tuesday, she called Kentucky's Senate election "a revolution," asking for union workers to help "take back Washington."

"It is labor that has lifted millions out of poverty and it is labor that will help us grow the middle class," Grimes said.