Alison Lundergan Grimes says she learned the importance of public service early in life, from the civic activities of her grandmothers in Mason County, and from her parents, who took the family to volunteer at the Salvation Army every Thanksgiving. And even as child, politics was a part of the mix.
“I could read precinct lists before I could walk,” Grimes jokes. “And the moment I was walking, I could go door to door, trying to get out the vote on Election Day.”
Grimes, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Kentucky, spoke with KET’s Bill Goodman on a special edition of One to One Monday night.
When her father, Jerry Lundergan, served in the state legislature in the 1980s, Grimes says she saw first hand the positive impact that government can have on peoples’ lives. But it wasn’t until she was in her own career as an attorney in Lexington that Grimes says she thought about running for public office.
Grimes easily won her first race, the 2011 campaign for Kentucky Secretary of State. In her three years in that office, Grimes says she’s worked to make the operation friendlier to the needs of businesses, as well as to craft bipartisan legislation to strengthen voting rights for veterans and protections for domestic violence victims.
“Nothing in life ever happens unilaterally,” Grimes says. “You’ve got to reach out across the aisle, and that’s what we have done in Frankfort. That’s what we’re going to do in Washington.”
In the One to One interview, Grimes discussed her views on a number of policy issues facing the state. She says supports investments in infrastructure and tourism to help diversify the economy of eastern Kentucky. She also calls for a funding plan for a new northern Kentucky bridge that doesn’t include tolls.
Saying education is a passport into the middle class, Grimes supports allowing individuals to refinance student loan debts. She also backs enhanced training programs that better prepare workers for the jobs of the future.
Like other Democrats, Grime favors increasing the minimum wage and pay equity. She also argues against policies that she says encourages companies to send jobs overseas.
On health care issues, Grimes opposes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But she says certain aspects of it need to be fixed, including the ability to keep a preferred doctor or insurance plan. To prevent businesses from cutting worker hours to avoid the forthcoming employer mandate, Grimes wants to create incentives for companies to provide their employees with health insurance. She also argues for more government funding to help fight drug addiction problems in the commonwealth, especially the heroin epidemic in northern Kentucky.
When asked to name those who have had a great influence on her life, Grimes cites her fourth grade teacher, who encouraged her love of learning and working for others, and Martha Layne Collins, the first woman to be elected governor of Kentucky.
Grimes says the state could make history this year by electing its first woman to the U.S. Senate. She downplays the importance of Capitol Hill seniority and says she wants to follow the model of a longtime Democratic leader in Kentucky.
“Seniority, it isn’t worth anything when it’s been up for sale to the highest bidder for far too long,” Grimes proclaims. “I will be a senator in the spirit of Wendell Ford who cares, who will show up and speak up for the people of this state.”