Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) on Thursday called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to resign over a series of scandals at the VA that have been receiving national attention, becoming the first major Democratic Senate candidate to do so.
"We owe a solemn obligation to our veterans, and our government defaulted on that contract. I don't see how that breach of trust with our veterans can be repaired if the current leadership stays in place," Grimes said in a statement Thursday.
Grimes is facing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in one of the highest-profile contests of 2014. In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell lambasted the Obama administration over its handling of the situation but did not specifically call for Shinseki to step down. He has said before though that a change in leadership may help improve the situation.
"We need answers from the president and his administration. But the White House claims the president didn’t really even know about the latest scandal until hearing about it in the news. Even though a top official testified he knew of inappropriate scheduling practices at VA health clinics – as far back as 2010," said McConnell. "It sure raises a lot of questions."
Given how unpopular President Obama is in Kentucky, Grimes has been distancing herself from both the administration and the national Democratic Party in he campaign. Moves like the one on Thursday -- applying public pressure on the administration to do something -- will probably be common tactic in the campaign.
Shinseki told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday that he intends to stay on the job.
Later Thursday, a second Democratic Senate candidate called on Shineski top step down. Former Tom Daschle aide Rick Weiland of South Dakota said in a statement, "I call today for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki. But anyone who does not understand that it is the penny pinching stupidity and arrogance of the ‘shut it down’ politicians in Congress that is the real problem is either blind or willfully ignorant."
Updated at 3:49 p.m.