Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is having a tough week. Not only is she trying to unseat the Republican senate leader in a tight, hard-fought race, but now she’s facing problems within her own party. In addition to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a critical arm of the Democratic Party, giving up on her race, she is now facing the wrath of progressives.
The progressive group, Democracy for America, led by former Vermont Governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, has derided Grimes for one of her ads focusing on immigration, calling it “offensive” and demanding that her campaign take it down immediately.
In the ad released in early October, the narrator attacks Grimes’ challenger, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for “giving amnesty and taxpayer funded benefits to 3 million illegal aliens.” It is referring to votes McConnell took in the 1980s.
Grimes looks directly at the camera and says she approves the message because she’s “never supported amnesty” and “never will.”
DFA, which has spent $500,000 in the Bluegrass State to beat McConnell, calls the ad “problematic,” not only because it refers to immigrants as “illegal aliens,” but also because of the ad’s message.
Grimes is using “right-wing talking points to dehumanize struggling immigrant families,” DFA Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said.
Grimes’ ad could easily be used by a Republican candidates who invoke the word “amnesty” to negatively portray Democrats’ position on immigration.
In September,a pro-McConnell group called Kentucky Opportunity Coalition released an ad that says Grimes is a “proud supporter of President Obama’s amnesty plan.”
When asked for comment, Grimes’ campaign manager, Jonathan Hurst, didn’t address her ad specifically, but said Grimes “favors” comprehensive immigration reform and that “Mitch McConnell's hypocrisy on this issue is breathtaking.”
Grimes is trying to win in a red state, and the Latino population is small – only 3% according to Pew Research.
But Latino leaders are not happy. Cristina Jimenez with United We Dream, an group working on behalf of young undocumented immigrants, said the ad proves that Democrats “very easily sell us out for their political interests.”
While DFA did not say that it would stop spending money to defeat McConnell, it’s criticism of Grimes ads to a growing list of problems facing her campaign in the final weeks. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it would not to renew television advertisements in the race, indicating that it has stopped fighting in one of the most high profile races in the country.
And Grimes continues to be criticized for repeatedly refusing to say if she voted for President Barack Obama, instead invoking the right to secrecy of the voting booth.
- Leigh Ann Caldwell