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McConnell calls election 'challenging environment' for Senate control

Achieving a solid conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is the talk of the town in Washington these days as the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett winds its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate.

But it’s another majority – one that has allowed him to wield judicial branch-altering power over the past five years – that is more concerning for Kentucky’s senior senator and Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

McConnell, a Republican running for his seventh term in the U.S. Senate and facing a well-funded challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, met via conference call with the Daily News editorial board Friday and talked about the troubling mathematics of this year’s Senate contests.

Republicans, with 53 of the 100 seats, hold a slim majority that has enabled McConnell to transform the federal judiciary since he became majority leader in 2015.

That position has allowed McConnell to achieve what he calls the “single most important long-term contribution” he has made in the Senate: shepherding conservative-minded judges and justices through the confirmation process in order to remake the judicial branch.

“We’ve appointed people who believe in the quaint notion that maybe a judge ought to interpret the law rather than try to act like legislators,” McConnell said.

All told, more than 200 appointments to federal district and circuit courts have been made on McConnell’s watch, and he fully expects Barrett to become a Supreme Court justice and give conservatives a solid 6-3 majority on the high court.

“I’m proud that we’ll put her (Barrett) on the Supreme Court, probably a week from Monday or a week from Tuesday at the latest,” McConnell said.

Why the rush, particularly from a man who derailed then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, saying it needed to wait until after that year’s election?

That U.S. Senate makeup and the election-year calculus may have something to do with it.

“It’s a challenging environment,” the senator said, pointing out that 22 incumbent Republicans and only 12 Democrat incumbents are up for reelection. “It’s a 50-50 proposition. We’re working as hard as we can in Montana, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina and Maine. We have knock-down, drag-out races in several states.”

Despite his history of vanquishing a string of Democrat challengers, McConnell said he’s a “bigger target” now and isn’t taking for granted his race against McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot.

“My opponent will spend over $100 million before this is over,” he said. “I have over 700,000 donors, but she has raised $30 million more than I have. They (Democrats) are doing a heck of a job getting their candidates funded. I think every Republican is going to be out-spent.”

McConnell has no illusions about what’s motivating the opposition party.

“The Democrats are very fired up, and I think we all know why,” he said. “They have a great distaste for the occupant of the White House, and they’re anxious to beat as many of us as they can.”

McConnell himself has been at odds recently with President Donald Trump, a polarizing figure who is facing his own uphill reelection battle against Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump has voiced his support for a larger second coronavirus relief bill than the stimulus package promoted in the Senate by McConnell.

The senator has touted the success of the original Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and related legislation that pumped some $3 trillion into rescuing the economy and fighting the pandemic.

Because of the success of that legislation, McConnell isn’t inclined to support another large, $2 trillion-plus stimulus bill of the type put forth by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“While the economy is still in tough shape, I do think it’s important to note that the doomsday predictions of 20 percent unemployment never materialized,” he pointed out. “It’s not a catastrophic situation.”

McConnell frames his relief package as a “modest approach,” saying: “I put a bill on the floor about a month ago that would spend half-a-trillion dollars, which used to be a lot of money.

“The president has wanted to go vastly beyond that, but it’s more money than my members are willing to vote for.”

Despite that disagreement and despite the president’s unpopularity in many circles, McConnell said he isn’t promoting a strategy of putting distance between Trump and the embattled Senate candidates.

“The fact that I have a difference of opinion with the White House occasionally doesn’t mean I’m any less supportive of what the president is trying to do,” McConnell said. “I think you want all the supporters who are going to vote for the president to vote for you as well.

“In some states, that’s not going to be enough. You have to make a case separately, but not by distancing yourself from the president. You have to make an additional case for yourself.”

One way to do that, McConnell figures, is to campaign against what he sees as Biden’s unspoken desire to add justices to the Supreme Court in what’s called “packing” the court to achieve a more-liberal majority.

“If they say they won’t tell you until after the election, that (court packing) is exactly what they intend to do,” McConnell said. “Court packing is very unpopular.

“That’s a good way for Republican candidates to separate themselves from their Democratic opponents.”

Book chronicles 'Murder Mansion' killings

A double murder that shook Bowling Green and made headlines around the world seven decades ago is still captivating historians and true-crime buffs today, and the story is now available in book form.

“The Cemetery Road Murders,” a book about the 1948 murders of Dr. Charles Martin and his wife, Martha, at their large columned home on Cemetery Road and a second double murder along the same road that summer, is now available from Acclaim Press.

The 216-page book grew out of the exhaustive research done by Daily News Managing Editor Wes Swietek as he put together last year’s three-part series in the newspaper about the “Murder Mansion” where the Martins were killed by Harry Edward Kilgore.

Swietek has expanded on that series that included details about Kilgore’s motivation for the murders, his trials and allegations that he had an accomplice.

While that three-part series delved into the murders and their aftermath with great detail, Swietek said his book will provide more information.

“The (newspaper) series was about 6,000 words, and this book is more than 60,000 words, plus lots of pictures,” Swietek said.

The book will provide more details about Kilgore’s killing of the Martins, a crime that continues to captivate people today. In fact, Bowling Green’s Historic RailPark & Train Museum is offering tours at Fairview Cemetery and the grounds of “Murder Mansion” through the end of this month as part of its UnSeen BG History Walking Tours.

The broad outline of the double murder committed by Kilgore is well-documented.

On the morning of June 30, 1948, the 25-year-old Kilgore killed the Martins, apparently because he felt jilted when the couple’s son married Ruth McKinney, a woman Kilgore briefly dated.

Swietek’s research uncovered many more fascinating details about a case that dragged on for years.

“This made headlines all over the country and even internationally,” he said. “Everyone was talking about it for several years.”

Swietek said the book “explores some of the mysteries” about the murders and the trials, including the alleged involvement of George M. Daggitt, a music teacher at Western Kentucky State Teachers College.

The book also takes a look at another 1948 double murder that took place not far from the Martin’s mansion.

“In doing research for the book, I found that two men were killed that same summer a little farther down Cemetery Road,” Swietek said.

A launch event for the book is slated Nov. 13 and Nov. 14 at the Historic RailPark & Train Museum, with more details to be announced.

– The book is now available and can be ordered at thecemeteryroadmurders.com or www.acclaimpress.com websites. Copies are also currently available at the Historic RailPark & Train Museum gift shop, Barnes & Noble and Barbara Stewart Interiors. Books are also available at the Daily News offices for cash or check only purchases.

Groundbreaking held for future Texas Roadhouse

City and state officials were on hand Friday to break ground for a future Texas Roadhouse in Bowling Green.

The 7,500-square-foot restaurant is expected to open in mid-March.

Construction is expected to begin immediately on the site at 3353 Nell O’Bryan Court, between Cabela’s and Sam’s Club.

Managing partner James Walrath said Bowling Green is an ideal location.

“It’s a great, up-and-coming city,” Walrath said. “It’s definitely an area that we feel we could help out the community and be very successful. The schools are really good around here, and we think we can help with community development and bring jobs in.”

Kelley Construction is the general contractor. The Kentucky company has a long relationship with Texas Roadhouse.

“We are excited to be bringing the Bowling Green community their first ever Texas Roadhouse,” said Joe Kelley, president and chief executive of Kelley Construction in a news release.

Founded in the Louisville area in 1993 by W. Kent Taylor, Texas Roadhouse now has more than 560 locations across 49 states and several foreign countries. It has a number of locations in Kentucky, including sites in Louisville, Lexington, Owensboro, Somerset and Elizabethtown.

On hand at the event was First District Magistrate Doug Gorman, who said he was looking forward to the “quality franchise.”

“I want to thank Mr. Kelley and Kelley Construction for bringing this project to Bowling Green and Warren County,” Gorman said.

“I’ve eaten at five different Texas Roadhouses so I am a big fan. The restaurant industry is extremely important to the entire country, and it’s very important to Bowling Green.”

Also present at the ceremony was District 19 state Rep. Michael Meredith, Kentucky Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson and Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon.

“We want to say ‘thank you’ to the Texas Roadhouse team for the investment into the community,” Meredith said. “We love economic development in Bowling Green and Warren County, and we like it even better when it fills our bellies.”

“Restaurants are especially important to what we are doing in light of coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wilson said. “I can tell you that people are crowded at restaurants and it’s hard to get in. And I can tell you that Texas Roadhouse is one of the best. We look forward to the day we can walk in and have one of those steaks.”

“We have 300-plus restaurants that are actually registered in Warren County,” Buchanon said. “This particular location sees over 25,000 cars a day going down Scottsville Road, and nearly 22 million cars a year coming up and down I-65. This location will see great exposure.”

Ranked No. 1 among full-service restaurants in the American Consumer Satisfaction Index in 2018 and 2019, Texas Roadhouse has seen its annual revenue grow from $900 million to $2.8 billion over the past decade.

In Bowling Green, the chain will be filling a void left by Logan’s Roadhouse, which closed its location on Scottsville Road in March.

FILE - In this May 3, 2020 photo, the setting sun shines on the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Planning commission OKs residential developments

People in the local real estate business will tell you that Warren County has an inventory shortage in housing, particularly for homes in the $200,000 range.

That could be changing.

Two weeks after giving the OK to a 215-lot subdivision with medium-priced homes on 48 acres along Morehead Road, the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County on Thursday approved rezoning applications for two developments that could add a total of nearly 400 single-family homes to the market.

Builder Jody Allen and Kenway Contracting were approved for rezoning 92 acres along Moorman Lane in northern Warren County, where they plan to develop a 330-lot subdivision.

The SevenPlus limited liability corporation headed by medical doctor Onyeoziri Nwanguma won approval for a rezoning that could lead to 27 twinhomes (54 total residences) being built on Nashville Road just south of Taz Court.

Although both applications were contested by neighboring residents during the meeting held via Zoom teleconference, both are moving on to Warren Fiscal Court for final approval.

Seven different residents in the Moorman Lane area joined the online meeting to speak against Allen’s development, but it passed in an 11-0 vote.

Juanita Rice, who lives on Northridge Drive in the nearby Northridge subdivision that Allen developed, argued that the area doesn’t need another large residential development.

“This road (Moorman Lane) simply can’t handle that much more traffic,” Rice said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Others, like Brian Felker of Fairbanks Avenue, argued that the mid-priced subdivision would depress the value of existing homes. Felker also voiced concern about the Moorman Lane area becoming a construction zone.

“My first concern is the trucks going in and out of a construction zone,” Felker said. “There’s a blind curve there that presents a real concern. It’s fraught with danger.”

Allen explained that the development meets a need in a part of the county that is growing.

“There hasn’t been any new development out here since I did Northridge 10 or 12 years ago,” Allen said. “Since then, the Transpark (industrial park) has continued to be hugely successful, and a new interstate exit has been built.”

Allen also pointed to new commercial development across from Warren East High School and to employment growth at the General Motors Corvette Assembly plant as reasons for needing more housing in the area.

“This development is proposed to keep up with the growth out there,” Allen said.

Allen won approval for rezoning the property from agriculture, residential estate and heavy industrial to single-family residential.

His development plan calls for a maximum of 330 homes that will have at least 1,200 square feet of living space and one-car garages.

He said the development, to be called Harmony subdivision, will be built in phases “over six to 10 years.” He hopes to complete a first phase of 29 homes by the summer of 2021.

The SevenPlus application came before the planning commission for a second time, although in slightly altered form.

A September application included a request for a Future Land Use Map Amendment in order to change the future land use from mixed use/residential to commercial, but a motion to approve the FLUM amendment led to a tie vote.

This time, Nwanguma asked for rezoning a 1.9-acre parcel nearest Nashville Road from agriculture to highway business and for rezoning an adjacent 8.2 acres from agriculture to single-family residential.

His development plan for an unnamed commercial development on the 1.9 acres and the 27 twinhomes on the 8.2 acres was met with opposition from a couple of residents near the proposed development.

Ricky Woodcock, who lives at 394 Dillard Road, said he had concerns about water runoff and the compatibility of the twinhomes with nearby residences and farms.

Attorney David Broderick, representing SevenPlus LLC, argued that the development fits in a part of the county that has been growing.

“We believe the residential portion adds to the area,” Broderick said. “It’s very compatible with this area.”

Broderick said possible uses for the general business portion are a convenience store or a Goodwill store.

The application passed 8-3, with commissioners Shannon Blackburn, Sandy Clark and Debbie Richey voting against it.

Also approved Thursday was an application from Rich Pond Grove LLC and Leslie Carter to rezone 1.9 acres at 240 Rich Pond Road from agriculture to general business.

The applicants plan to put a dentist’s office on the property that is near Rich Pond Elementary School and South Warren High School.

The rezoning, which was approved 11-0 by the planning commission, will go to Warren Fiscal Court for final approval.