LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on Thursday night portrayed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as being out of touch with the struggles of Kentuckians, and said his partisanship has hurt the state.
Grimes told a Democratic gathering in Louisville that McConnell has turned away from young adults facing huge student loan debt and coal miners struggling to receive black lung benefits. She said the five-term incumbent has seen his personal wealth mushroom while voting repeatedly against a higher minimum wage that would help families struggling to get by.
"Partisanship, it has consequences ... that we have felt for far too long in this state — from infrastructure to agriculture to education to manufacturing," she said. "We are ready for a new day. We are ready for a senator that can reach across the aisle and work to put Kentucky and its people first."
Grimes also tried to blunt McConnell's efforts to link her to President Barack Obama, who has never been popular in Kentucky.
"In case you're listening tonight, Senator, let me make this clear: This race is between me and you," she said.
Grimes added, "I'm not a rubber stamp. I'm not a cheerleader."
McConnell blames Obama's environmental regulation for the struggles in the eastern Kentucky coalfields. The coal industry has shed thousands of jobs in the region. Grimes has also spoken out against those regulations.
Grimes said the election isn't about party control but about solving problems that need bipartisan solutions.
"It's about whether we will continue to stay with somebody that has held us back now for three decades, who is only concerned about his own job or whether we will finally move forward where this state deserves and should be."
Grimes also has criticized McConnell for opposing measures that would ensure women are paid the same salaries as men for equal work. She is focusing on the jobs issue in trying to draw a contrast with the incumbent.
McConnell touts his sponsorship of a bill that would lower federal tax rates for areas with high unemployment.
McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore responded to Grimes' attacks by saying, "Her entire campaign is premised on attacking Sen. McConnell for things he's never said, votes he's never cast and experience she doesn't have."
Grimes and several other speakers paid tribute to former Sen. Wendell Ford, a Democratic icon in Kentucky. Ford said late last week that he is undergoing treatment for lung cancer.
Kentucky's Senate race is one of the nation's most closely watched. The outcome could help determine which party is in control of the Senate after November.
McConnell, the longest-serving senator in Kentucky history, is seeking a sixth term. Grimes is in her first term as Kentucky's secretary of state.
The Democratic fundraiser drew about 700 people.