Raising the state’s minimum wage was a rallying cry during Jackson Day, the Tennessee Democratic Party’s largest annual fundraiser. Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes headlined the event on Saturday.
Grimes is running against Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. Some polls show she has a chance of upsetting the five-term Republican: A recent NBC poll found that 46 percent of registered voters in Kentucky support McConnell while 45 percent back Grimes. According to the Associated Press, Republicans see holding onto Kentucky as vital to picking up six Senate seats and capturing the majority.
The campaign is being flooded with money from interest groups, and it’s expected to be the most expensive race in U.S. history. Some estimates say outside groups will expend more than $100 million on the race.
To an audience of a few hundred in Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, Grimes said fighting for a higher minimum wage would be among her top priorities if elected.
“When we increase in the minimum wage, we grow the middle-class. We actually all not just survive, but thrive as a nation.”
Grimes also made overtures about closing the pay gap between women and men, and she bashed McConnell for his right-to-work legislation, which Democrats see as an effort to unravel unions:
The chairman of Tennessee’s Democratic Party, Roy Herron, said pushing for what he calls a living wage could help reverse Democrats’ losing streak.
“Tea party Republicans in the legislature would not raise the minimum wage, but there are states all over the country that have done the right thing,” he said. “If we get enough Democrats elected, I predict the legislature would do the right thing then.”
In February, Democrats introduced a bill to increase Tennessee’s middle wage by a dollar, though not for everyone. Even watered down, the bill failed almost as soon as it was introduced.
Here’s the full audio of Grimes’ speech: