August 17, 2013

Julian Carroll helped launch McConnell’s career

Reprinted from Kentucky Roll Call newsletter, Aug. 15, 2013.

From 1974 to 1980, Roy Stevens served as a chief aide to Gov. Julian Carroll and to Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. In a memoir, Grass Roots, released this summer, Stevens recounts how Carroll subtly helped launch Mitch McConnell’s political career. It happened as follows: In the 1975 governor’s race, Gov. Carroll was running for a full term, after ascending to the office from lieutenant governor when Gov. Wendell Ford resigned to go to the U.S. Senate.  Jefferson County Judge (judge-executive now) Todd Hollenbach Sr., on the basis of his strength in the state’s largest county, filed to run in the Democratic primary against Carroll. Hollenbach carried Jefferson County by more than 5,000 votes, but Carroll handily won the race.

Stevens writes, “Hollenbach did himself no favors by running for governor in 1975. In 1977, Julian had an opportunity to send that message and underscore that point when Hollenbach was running for re-election as Jefferson County Judge. Hollenbach’s 1977 opponent was a lesser known Republican lawyer named Mitch McConnell. Julian, the Governor and titular head of the Kentucky Democratic Party, was asked about McConnell’s candidacy. Julian’s response was to publicly compliment McConnell, in effect, telling Democratic loyalists in Jefferson County they should feel comfortable supporting a Republican in that particular race. After holding a 44 point lead in early polling, Hollenbach was defeated by McConnell. ... The election launched a winning streak by McConnell, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and is now the Senate Republican Floor Leader.”

[Editor's note: A copy of Roy's memoir, Grass Roots, is available, as the limited the supply lasts, to individuals who donate $20 or more to the Princeton Animal League (PAL), 1300 South Jefferson, Princeton, KY 42445. He may be reached via e-mail at]