Grimes primary opponent sues state party, threatens independent bid

Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes's Democratic primary opponent is suing the state Democratic Party for allegedly favoring her candidacy, and says he might run as an independent.

Ed Marksberry, a former congressional candidate who lost badly in a matchup with Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) in 2010, told Post Politics he filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Circuit Court on Monday and delivered it to Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon.

"If I don’t get some respect, I’m going to pull out and run as an independent," Marksberry said, adding: "They’ve picked on the wrong guy here."

Marksberry's lawsuit alleges that the state party violated its bylaws by supporting Grimes in a way it hasn't supported him or the other primary candidates.

Shortly after Grimes announced she was running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), state party aide Jared Smith sent a fundraising e-mail promoting her candidacy and using it to raise money for the party.

"Alison is the strongest candidate we could've had against Senator McConnell, and she will defeat Mitch," Smith wrote.

Marksberry notes that state party bylaws say the party should be neutral in primaries and, when it does offer assistance to candidates, it should do so in an even-handed way. He says his candidacy hasn't received any such assistance.

Here's what the state party bylaws say:

"No Democrat Committee governed by these By-Laws, or any Democratic Party Officer acting in his or her official capacity, shall endorse or support one Democratic candidate over another Democratic candidate in a Democratic Primary Election. No assets of the Democratic Party shall be used in a Democratic Primary Election unless they are made available equally to all Democrat Candidates in that specific primary election."

The state party hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.

Marksberry isn't considered a top-tier or even a second-tier opponent for Grimes, who is expected to win the Democratic nomination with ease. He doesn't appear to have filed fundraising reports with the FEC during his 2010 campaign and hasn't filed one yet for his 2014 effort. He lost to Guthrie 68-29 in 2010 -- underperforming President Obama's 2008 showing (38 percent) by 10 points.

But if he were to run as an independent, he could potentially pull some votes from Democrats on the liberal end of the political spectrum and hurt Grimes's campaign. Marksberry has been given a speaking slot, for instance, at this weekend's Fancy Farm Picnic -- a major political gathering in rural western Kentucky where Grimes, McConnell and other top politicos will speak.

Marksberry said it isn't his intention to hurt Grimes, but that he's tired of Kentucky Democrats acting like Republicans.

"This has nothing to do with Alison Lundergan Grimes," he said. "I love her, and I encouraged her to get in this race."

In order to run as an independent, Marksberry would have to collect 5,000 signatures by August 2014.

Update 3:53 p.m.: And here's the suit, courtesy of the Hillbilly Report:

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Philip Rucker | July 29, 2013