The independent candidate in a three-way race for the vacant 56th House District seat has denounced the influence of super PACs as the June 25 special election nears.
During a press conference Thursday at the Woodford County Courthouse, John-Mark Hack, 46, singled out a mailed advertisement produced by the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee.
The ad, in support of Republican candidate Lyen Crews, featured Democrat James Kay, 30, dressed in a yellow jockey Halloween costume with the phrase “This jockey is a joke” and that Kay is “too liberal for Kentucky.”
“I’m sick — and I believe the voters are sick — of the personal character assassination that has become the hallmark of both political parties,” Hack said in a statement.
The three are in a heated race to fill a vacancy in the 56th House District, which covers Woodford and parts of Franklin and Fayette counties, after former Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, resigned to lead the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corp.
Aside from the nearly $150,000 raised by the candidates as of May 30, outside super PACs have poured money into the district and are poised to spend more.
The RSLC has spent $146,189 thus far on mailers, canvassing and advertisements to support Crews’ candidacy, according to the state Registry of Election Finance. Kentucky Family Values has reported raising $7,500 plus $17,500 in in-kind contributions for polling and research from the Kentucky Democratic Party, but the group has not reported spending money in support of Kay.
Hack denounced the tone set by outside groups running attack ads in the race.
He played a voicemail Crews, 51, left for him in which the Republican candidate said he would run “an honorable campaign that I can be proud of.”
“After finding this (the RSLC mailer) in my mailbox Monday, it is clear that Mr. Crews is comfortable with his Washington party bosses deciding how his race will be run,” Hack said in the statement. “Their methods represent the same old tired politics of the past.”
Crews referred questions on Hack’s comments to Republican Party of Kentucky spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper, who attended Thursday’s press conference.
Cooper said Crews is “running a positive campaign based on the issues confronting this district and our state.” She said every dollar Crews has raised has funded an issues-based campaign.
Candidates cannot coordinate with super PACs per state law, she said.
“Crews has no control over the types of communications coming out of groups such as the Republican State Leadership Committee, as there is no communication between his campaign and those organizations,” she said in an email to The State Journal. “In fact it would be illegal for Lyen Crews to coordinate with such an outside group.”
Hack said that response “only serves to further insult the voters’ intelligence.”
Cooper also raised questions of the legality of the Kentucky Democratic Party contributing research and polling worth $17,500 to Kentucky Family Values. The group reported the in-kind donations to the Registry of Election Finance.
“It appears that the KDP has made in-kind contributions to the Kentucky Family Values super PAC that are intended to support Kay’s campaign, and the evidence indicates a possibly illegal coordination between the two groups,” she said in the email.
Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon said those types of in-kind contributions are allowable per the Registry of Election Finance.
“There has been absolutely no coordination,” Logsdon said in an email. “The Kentucky Democratic Party strictly follows all campaign finance laws.”