Grimes, McConnell trade jabs over coal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes says Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do to Kentucky voters for his wife's role as a board member of a group that spent $50 million to close coal-fired power plants.

Grimes says the matter raises serious questions but refused to say Thursday whether she thinks McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, should resign from the Bloomberg Philanthropies board.

McConnell's campaign says it's President Barack Obama's policies that are ruining the coal sector, and says Grimes is an Obama supporter.

Coal policy is an overarching issue in Kentucky's Senate race between McConnell and Grimes.

Chao joined the board a year after Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the $50 million commitment to the Sierra Club for its "Beyond Coal" campaign. A trade group representing Kentucky's coal industry has defended McConnell.

Meanwhile, McConnell talked abortion, gay marriage and the persecution of Christians in Iraq with three of Kentucky's most prominent evangelical leaders on Thursday.

McConnell told about 100 people at the Eastwood Baptist Church that he opposes gay marriage and abortion rights, although he stopped short of declaring an abortion litmus test for Supreme Court justices. He said President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq led to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities there.

Grimes was invited but did not attend. She spent the morning helping serve breakfast at the start of the Kentucky State Fair. Grimes said she is eager to debate McConnell. The two are scheduled to appear at a forum next week sponsored by the Kentucky Farm Bureau.

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