by Roger Alford
The Associated Press
Frankfort, Ky. —
Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, pushing to make gender an issue in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, called Friday for additional tax breaks for businesses that provide on-site child care services for working women.
Grimes, aiming to unseat Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in next year's general election, also called for pay equity for women in the workplace and for an increase in the minimum wage, an issue that tends to directly affect more women than men.
"I don't think we need to force the families of Kentucky to determine whether they're going to put food on the table or gas in the car," Grimes told The Associated Press. "Every Kentuckian deserves the opportunity and ability to earn a living wage."
Grimes is the Democratic front-runner heading into next May's primary. McConnell, seeking re-election to a sixth term, faces Louisville businessman Matt Bevin on the Republican ballot.
The women's issues platform was released just days after Republicans tweeted an edited image of Grimes superimposed on the body of "Obama Girl," a model who made racy videos about her crush on then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2007. The woman in the photo was wearing a snug-fitting Obama T-shirt with her midriff showing.
Grimes said such "sexist" attacks are "to be expected" from her GOP foes. "That doesn't mean they're acceptable," she said.
The "Obama Girl" tweet came from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, not the McConnell campaign.
McConnell, Kentucky's longest-ever serving U.S. senator, isn't conceding the women's vote that has helped to keep him in office for five terms.
"As the father of three daughters, fair pay for women is more than a talking point for Sen. McConnell," said campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore. "It's something he's worked to achieve his entire career by setting an example for others and promoting thoughtful policies to ensure talent overcomes bias."
Moore said Kentucky needs leaders who focus on providing opportunities that allow workers to reach their maximum potential rather than have to settle for the minimum wage. Moore said big government has severely hurt job creation, and that has people like Grimes focusing on the minimum wage instead of on allowing businesses to expand and hire.
Grimes said more than 140,000 working Kentucky mothers have children under 6, suggesting the level of need for child care services. She said that's why she feels strongly that additional tax breaks beyond those already in place should be available to companies that assist mothers with child care.
Moore credited McConnell with hammering out an agreement earlier this year that extended tax credits for up to $150,000 in employer expenses for acquiring, constructing, rehabilitating or expanding property for child care.