TIME Religion

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Won’t Get Tax Breaks

'Ark Encounter' is struggling to stay afloat

A life-size Noah’s Ark theme park planned in northern Kentucky won’t receive $18 million in tax incentives after concerns from the state over its hiring practices.

The state’s tourism secretary wrote a letter Wednesday saying that Answers in Genesis, which is funding the planned Ark Encounter theme park, was requiring “salvation testimony” and a “Creation belief statement” in its job postings, which the state said was discriminating based on religious grounds.

(MORE: Modern-Day Noah: Dutch Man Builds Ark of Biblical Proportions)

“It is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourist attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives,” wrote Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart.

The Ark Encounter, which would feature a 510-foot wooden replica of Noah’s Ark as described in the Bible, has been underway since 2010, but the $170 million project has run into financial difficulties since getting approval in 2011 from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

TIME

Mitch McConnell’s Secret Weapon: His Wife

Elaine Chao Mitch McConnell Kentucky
US Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, waves to supporters with his wife Elaine Chao during his victory celebration at the Marriott East Hotel in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 4, 2014. Mark Lyons—EPA

Campaign insiders say Chao was a driving force of his reelection campaign

The weekend before the midterm election, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, campaigned at a restaurant in Montgomery County, east of Lexington. Chao introduced McConnell to the packed house, but after the event was done McConnell sat down to grab a late lunch with a staffer. A woman and her two daughters approached the leader and asked for a photograph. His aide said, “Sure thing, can you just wait until the leader is finished eating?”

“Sure,” replied the women, who then continued to stand, staring at the leader as he ate.

Chao then sat down and she motioned for the woman and her daughters to join her at the other end of the table. And for 10 minutes, Chao engaged the family. “Are you two sisters?” she asked. They shyly nodded.

“I grew up with a lot of sisters, too. There’s nothing better than girl power,” she said, regaling the girls with stories of her five younger sisters and her family, who arrived in the U.S. from Taiwan on a freight ship in 1961, when Chao was eight, fleeing the communist revolution on mainland China. By the end of her stories, the girls were beaming and giggling.

McConnell, 72, was never one for retail campaigning. Childhood polio left him tender and averse to backslapping. To avoid it on the campaign trail, he’ll often grip a person with his left hand on the upper arm, holding them away from him, as he shakes their hand with his right. He’s also hard of hearing, which means in loud rooms he often misses what people say. But on the campaign trail, Chao, 61, makes up for her husband’s shortcomings.

Over the past two years, Chao headlined fifty of her own events and attended hundreds more with and on behalf of McConnell. She also raised “a huge part” of McConnell’s $30 million war chest, says John Ashbrook a spokesman for McConnell. But, perhaps most importantly, she was the campaign hugger.

Dr. Noelle Hunter said she’s formed a “special bond” with Chao over the past year, after McConnell worked to recover Hunter’s eight-year-old daughter, Muna, from Mali, when she was taken there by Hunter’s ex-husband. The political science professor, who was the subject of one of McConnell’s most memorable campaign commercials, was a former Democrat until she met the McConnells at a parade in Paintsville last year in August. “I went to shake her hand and she just grabbed me and held me gave me a mom-type hug,” Hunter said. “She said, ‘We are praying for you to get Muna home.’ She was so warm and gentle. I’d never met her before. I had no idea she even knew about my situation. And it meant the world to me that clearly these two people were talking about Luna over the dinner table.”

Chao is also the one who keeps tabs on various political allies across Kentucky. “She very actively listens. She really pays attention and remembers details about people,” says Kelly Westwood, head of the Kenton County women’s Republican group. “She doesn’t see them for months and then says, ‘I know you sprained your arm, how’s it going?’ Or, ‘How’s you bid for city council going?’ She remembers everything.”

It is perhaps Chao’s personal touch that helped McConnell offset his opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes’ attacks on him as anti-women. Chao starred in several ads on McConnell’s behalf talking about his record on women’s issues. In the end, McConnell beat Grimes 56% to 41%. “The biggest asset I have by far is the only Kentucky woman who served in a president’s cabinet, my wife, Elaine Chao,” McConnell said at the annual Fancy Farm GOP political picnic in August.

Soon after that event, Kathy Groob, the founder of a Democratic PAC, Elect Women, mocked Chao’s heritage on Twitter. “She’s not from KY… She is Asian and [President George W.] Bush openly touted that,” Groob said. Groob also referred to Chao as McConnell’s “Chinese wife,” and said McConnell is “wedded to free trade in China.

Groob deleted the tweets and shut down her account. The Kentucky Democratic Party also condemned them.

Perhaps the only thing that really angers McConnell is when Chao is attacked. This has happened before, in 1996, when surrogates for his opponent that year (Democrat Steve Beshear, who is now governor of Kentucky) started saying, “It’s time to elect an All-American family to represent Kentucky.”

“It was a racial slur in my view and it infuriated the Senator,” says Billy Piper, a longtime former McConnell aide, who remains close with the leader. “He is not ever going to take it when she gets attacked.”

Chao is proud of her family’s history. Not only did they struggle against communism in a very personal way, but her father came to the U.S. with nothing and built a multi-million dollar shipping business.

And that legacy of hard work rubbed off on Chao, who wanted to give back to the country that gave her family so much. She graduated from Mount Holyoke and Harvard Business School before becoming a White House fellow in the Reagan Administration. She served as deputy Transportation Secretary under George H. W. Bush and director of the Peace Corps. In the Clinton era, Chao was named the head of the United Way before becoming Secretary of Labor for all eight years under George W. Bush.

McConnell, who married Chao in 1993, often quips: “People remark that I’m in a mixed marriage. I don’t see it that way. In my first marriage, I married a Liberal. Now that was a mixed marriage. With Elaine, she and I understand one another.”

Read next: Go Inside Senator Mitch McConnell’s Winning Campaign

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Interstellar, SEAL Who Shot bin Laden, and Gay Marriage Bans

Here are four of the biggest stories for the first week of November

This week, a former Navy SEAL admitted he fired the shot that killed Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. Robert James O’Neill, who now works as a motivational speaker, hadn’t come forward because of privacy and safety concerns.

Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time in almost a decade.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld laws against gay marriage in four states — Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

And Interstellar opened two days early in limited release at theaters around the country, earning a whopping $1.35 million.

TIME 2014 Election

Mitch McConnell Makes His Closing Argument

GOP Senate Candidate Mitch McConnell Marches In Veterans Day Parade
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell waves while riding with his wife Elaine Chao in the Hopkins Country Veterans Day Parade on November 2, 2014 in Madisonville, Kentucky. Win McNamee—Getty Images

He could lose the title of Senator on Tuesday, or gain the title Majority Leader

Amidst the rolling hills of southeastern Kentucky, many of them cut into odd-shaped pyramids by miners, a tiny plane touched down Monday afternoon bearing Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Kentucky senator Rand Paul. McConnell was stopping in the city of Hazard to pay his respects to the coal community and deliver his closing argument on why he should be granted a sixth term over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Greeting him on the tarmac was House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, since Hazard is part of his congressional district. Though the television series The Dukes of Hazzard was filmed in Georgia (and added a ‘z’), it was based on this Hazard County and the local government regularly names people it honors “Dukes of Hazard.” McConnell is one such Duke and has been for decades. Hazard is also one of the poorest areas of Kentucky.

“Welcome to the hottest part of the state for Mitch McConnell,” Rogers, a fellow Republican, told the cheering crowd of about 50 people. “There’s a reason for that. It’s partly to do with coal, but it’s also because eastern Kentuckians realize the importance of clout. Eastern Kentuckians know and appreciate clout when they see it. We need help. We know and admit that.”

At this, Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who comes from a corner of the Republican Party that doesn’t necessarily believe in government welfare, nodded his head, smiling. He wasn’t there, after all, to debate the direction of the Republican Party, but to support McConnell’s reelection bid. McConnell was in the race of his life against Grimes, a dynamic 35-year-old Democrat. But in the final days, polls seemed to be going McConnell’s way and he told a local television crew in Hazard that he felt confident going into Election Day.

A lot rides on his reelection. Tuesday could be the first of McConnell’s final days as a senator, but it could also kick off his final days as Senate minority leader, with his party poised to pick up the seven seats needed to win control of the chamber. “There is one thing me and my opponent agree upon. We agree that she’s a new face. She is,” McConnell told the booing crowd. “But a new face to do what? A new face to vote for the President’s agenda. A new face to vote for Harry Reid in the Senate, A new face for no change at all. A new face for the status quo. I want to change America and take us in a different direction.”

McConnell, to some degree, based much of his campaign on the argument that as Senate majority leader he will be able to do wondrous things for Kentucky. Grimes notes in her speeches that despite McConnell’s 30 years in office—and 8 years as minority leader—Kentucky is still struggling and ranks at the bottom of many national indicators.

McConnell disputes that notion. “Kentucky has never been better positioned than we are now. Your congressman is the chairman of the appropriations committee, one of the two most important committees in the House, my junior senator, who — do you like that?” he asked a laughing, cheering crowd — “is literally redefining for Americans what it means to be a Republican, and we could have the one person in the senate who sets the agenda in the Senate. Everybody’s got a vote but everybody’s not equal in influence. Only one senator gets to set the agenda and that’s who leads the majority.”

The question is: if McConnell wins the majority, which way will he take the party? Towards Paul’s new brand of Republicanism or Rogers’ bring-home-the-bacon Republican Party? McConnell has spent $55 million straddling those questions in the primary and general election. And on Tuesday, he’ll potentially win himself the prize, or quandary, of being responsible for answering them in the majority.

TIME 2014 Election

DSCC Back On Air to Support Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Pablo Alcala—AP/The Lexington Herald-Leader

The DSCC returns to Kentucky in its bid to oust the top Senate Republican

The official Democratic group working to saving the party’s Senate majority is going back on the air to provide a late boost to Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Democrat trying to throw out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a week after the group shocked political observers by appearing to pull out of the race.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will reserve $650,000 in advertising, according to a DSCC official, who said that internal polling shows undecided voters turning to her.

A week ago, it appeared that Grimes would be left on her own as she entered the home stretch of the race with the DSCC going dark in Kentucky. A Real Clear Politics polling average shows McConnell with a slim but persistent lead.

It is unclear if the DSCC ad buy will move the needle in Grimes favor, but the spending will take away money the Democrats could use elsewhere.

Election handicappers place the odds in favor of Republicans to take the majority; the GOP needs a net gain of six seats and have pickup opportunities in many states, including Montana, West Virginia, Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and North Carolina.

The DSCC ad buy was first reported by Politico.

TIME celebrity

After Drake Totally Airballed a 3-Pointer, Nothing Was the Same

He was on his worst behavior on the court

Over the weekend, Drake was warming up with the University of Kentucky’s basketball team, because he’s a big basketball fan and the Wildcats are one of his favorite teams. Sadly, though, Drizzy’s participation indicated that he should probably stay beside the court, where he can safely lint-roll his pants, instead of on the court. Because when he attempted to go for a three-point shot, this is what happened:

Oh man. Aiiiirbaaaallll.

Here’s another angle which really captures the hopelessness:

Oh, Drake. Maybe you should just stick to doing Drake things like rapping and manufacturing lint rollers.

TIME 2014 Election

On the Road with Rand Paul

Can he fix what ails the GOP?

The tattooed and pierced longhairs never showed up to see Senator Rand Paul speak with students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia last month. Those in attendance drew instead from the preppy set, with brushed bangs, blue blazers and proper hemlines, some wearing sunglasses on neck straps like jock jewelry. They mostly hailed from college Republican circles, and the room where they gathered, a wood-stained memorial to the state’s old power structure, was named for the politician who led the fight to protect school segregation in the 1960s.

You could call them activists, even rebels in their way. But this was not a gathering of losers and outcasts. Paul knew this. And that was the whole point…

Read the full story here.

TIME 2014 Election

Democratic Group Goes Dark in Key Senate Race

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Pablo Alcala—AP/The Lexington Herald-Leader

The DSCC is not airing TV ads in Kentucky, where Alison Lundergan Grimes in campaigning to unseat Mitch McConnell

The Democratic candidate in one of the most closely-watched Senate races in the country is entering the homestretch of her campaign without TV advertising support from a key party group.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is not airing TV ads in Kentucky, a DSCC official confirmed, where Alison Lundergan Grimes in campaigning to unseat Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“The DSCC has now spent more than $2 million in Kentucky and continues to make targeted investments in the ground game while monitoring the race for future investments,” the DSCC official said. The committee, Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, could still announce a TV ad buy in the future.

The DSCC, which has outraised its Republican counterpart group, is on the air in many other competitive states, including Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and South Dakota, as the party fights to keep its Senate majority.

McConnell is leading Grimes by about three points, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polling data.

TIME 2014 Election

McConnell Slams Democratic Opponent for Staying Mum on Obama Vote

Alison Lundergan Grimes won't say if she voted for the president in 2008 and 2012

In a new ad released Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasts his Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes for declining to answer questions on whether or not she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012.

The Kentucky Courier-Journal editorial board posed the question four times to Grimes during an interview Oct. 9, but she repeatedly dodged it. The Democratic candidate replied that she was a “Clinton Democrat,” that “this election isn’t about the President,” and that she respects “the sanctity of the ballot box—and I know the members of this editorial board do as well.”

Grimes’ maneuvering has been heavily criticized. The ad uses footage of NBC Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, speaking on MSNBC Friday. “I think she disqualified herself,” he said. “Can Kentuckians expect her to cast a tough vote on anything? Is she ever going to answer a tough question on anything?”

With President Obama’s approval rating hovering around 30% in Kentucky according to NBC News/Marist and CNN polls published last month, Grimes has sought to distance herself from Obama both in ads and on the trail.

Grimes, meanwhile, touted an endorsement from former Kentucky Democratic Senator Wendell Ford in a new ad. Ford worked to portray Grimes as someone who would reach across the aisle when in office:

“When I was in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans worked together,” he says. “Mitch McConnell doesn’t understand the problems, he’s just been against everything. He’s Mr. No… Alison can work with both sides.”

 

 

 

 

TIME 2014 elections

Kentucky Democrat Takes Shots at Mitch McConnell and Obama in New Ad

"I'm not Barack Obama," says gun-toting senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, before lecturing Republican opponent on how to hold a firearm

Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes shows off her skeet shooting skills in a new ad distancing herself from President Barack Obama.

“I’m not Barack Obama,” says Grimes, decked out with earplugs, a shooting vest and yellow tinted glasses, and holding a semi-automatic Remington rifle. “I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.”

Grimes also blasts her National Rifle Association-approved opponent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for awkwardly holding a gun earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“And Mitch, that’s not how you hold a gun,” says Grimes. Her campaign confirmed that the firearm used in the ad is owned by the Democrat.

The ad follows a tradition popularized by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who famously shot a hole through cap-and-trade legislation in a 2010 campaign ad. Republicans have also picked up on gun imagery this year. Alaska Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan shot a television in protest of special interest advertising and Iowa’s Joni Ernst shot a target in protest of Obamacare.

McConnell is up by 5 points in the race, according to polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics.

Update at 12:05 p.m. on September 16

The McConnell campaign responds with a new ad.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser