- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is locked in a tight race with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as the GOP tries to retake the chamber. Grimes is seen as an opportunity to not only hold off a Republican takeover, but also a chance to knock off a longtime GOP lawmaker. Here are five things to know about Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race:

IT’S EXPENSIVE

McConnell broke an all-time state fundraising record in July and still came in second to Grimes. The two combined to raise $7 million in the quarter that ended June 30. Together, the two candidates have spent more than $16 million during the two-year election cycle. And they have a combined $16 million left in the bank, while McConnell has about a $3 million advantage on Grimes. And none of this includes the millions of dollars spent by outside groups.

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IT’S CLOSE

Polls have consistently shown the candidates in a dead heat, trading places in the top spot but often within the margin of error. The tight race has no doubt been a boon to both sides’ campaign coffers.

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IT’S PERSONAL

Over two weeks in August, Grimes criticized McConnell’s wife while McConnell criticized Grimes’ father.

Grimes said it was “disappointing” that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is a paid board member of Bloomberg Philanthropies. The group has spent $50 million on an effort to close coal-fired power plants, which account for 90 percent of the electricity in Kentucky. McConnell defended his wife, saying she joined the board one year after that decision was made and had no part in it.

McConnell, meanwhile, suggested Grimes’ father gave his daughter an illegal campaign gift when he purchased a tour bus and let Grimes use it for $456 per day. The Grimes campaign lawyer signed off on the rate and the campaign cited rates from other bus companies as proof the rate was within the fair market value. But at least one of those companies later said Grimes was getting “a sweetheart deal.”

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IT’S SCRIPTED

Congress has tons of pressing issues, but McConnell and Grimes rarely stray from their finely tuned messages. McConnell says Grimes is a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama’s liberal policies, and Grimes says McConnell is out of touch with Kentuckians and routinely votes against their interests.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT COAL

While Kentucky’s coal industry is declining, it still carries a big stick. McConnell and Grimes have had numerous campaign stops in eastern Kentucky, the heart of the state’s coal culture. And they frequently try to outdo each other to show their coal support. Grimes endorsed legislation that would improve mine safety and access to federal black lung benefits. And McConnell has introduced legislation to block new EPA rules that many state officials say would strangle the state’s already struggling coal industry.

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