A lawyer for U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler’s re-election campaign contends that a coal executive featured in at least three political ads has become a public figure, which negates claims he has been slandered.
Louisville attorney John Mc- Garvey responded by letter Tuesday to a claim that the Chandler campaign had slandered River View Coal Vice President Heath Lovell, who supports Chandler’s Republican opponent, Andy Barr.
Chandler and Barr are engaged in what is expected to be Kentucky’s most competitive general election congressional race. Barr, a Lexington attorney, sought a rematch with Chandler after losing a squeaker to him two years ago.
Lovell had threatened to file a slander suit against Chandler over one of the ads running on Lexington TV stations. An attorney for Lovell sent a letter to Chandler Monday demanding that the ad be taken off the air.
“Not only has Mr. Lovell thrust himself into the public eye by appearing in a television commercial regarding a prominent and contentious political election, but he has also thrust himself into a particularly popular and important public controversy over the use of coal as an energy resource and the overall impact of coal in Kentucky,” McGarvey said.
Lovell, dressed in a hard-hat and miner’s garb, initially appeared in a TV ad promoting Barr and accusing Chandler and President Barack Obama of “devastating” the coal industry. A second ad aired by the Chandler campaign shows a well-dressed Lovell posing for photos with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In it, the Chandler campaign charges that Lovell is a wealthy coal operator, not a miner. In a third ad, Lovell lashes out at Chandler for “calling me a liar.”
Coal issues have played big in the matchup in the Lexingtonbased 6th District even though most of the state’s mines are miles away in the more mountainous Appalachian region.
Both candidates know mining issues matter in Lexington, which has a sizeable bloc of Appalachian transplants as well as offices for the Kentucky Coal Association and several major mining companies. The city is also home to environmentally concerned voters who bitterly oppose the effects of mining on water quality and the Appalachian landscape.
McGarvey said the Chandler campaign’s ad wasn’t aimed at Lovell. “It was aimed at Andy Barr and his deceitful and nasty campaign,” McGarvey wrote. “Unfortunately, Mr. Lovell volunteered to become a part of that campaign.”