Here’s a statement that needs to be made loud and clear and often: Kentuckians ought to decide the 2014 U.S. Senate race between Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. Not Super PACS. Not misleading advertising. Not sound bites. And certainly not out-of-state partisan interests.

At the risk of sounding naive, it is important to say Kentucky voters should own this race, and to do that, they will have to work at it. They will have to stay informed and demand the attention and respect of the two candidates. It will not be easy. And it might be impossible because outside forces will spend millions of dollars in hopes of deciding which of these candidates represents our state.

Some political observers have already predicted this race could be the most expensive Congressional race in U.S. history. That would mean more than the 2012 Senate race in Massachusetts between Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Scott Brown. Combined they spent about $70 million.

McConnell, 71, has been in the Senate for 28 years. He’s looking for his sixth term. As the Senate minority leader and the most recognizable opponent to President Barack Obama’s administration, McConnell is the Democratic Party’s prized target. Grimes, 34, has been the Kentucky Secretary of State for two years, and she has a way to go in name recognition and perhaps in political savvy. She will be tested. Republicans, worried about McConnell’s vulnerability, want to cripple her credibility early.

Nearly a year from the primary election, Grimes and McConnell are the likely party nominees — so the focus of the race is already settled on the November general election. That’s 16 months away.

Expect the country’s biggest political names to be involved in this race — both behind the scenes and in front of cameras. That’s means the likes of Karl Rove and Bill Clinton.

At times, it could be difficult for voters to discern what the candidates actually believe or how they would cast Congressional votes on issues of particular interest to Kentuckians. At times, it might not even be clear if political messages are being delivered by the candidates or by a group masquerading as one of the candidates. We’ve already seen it. This week, a few days after Grimes announced she was running, a website dubbed “” was launched online. The first page features a “Grimes for Senate” logo and her photo next to President Obama’s image. It’s not her website, though. It was launched by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

McConnell is a notoriously tough competitor. Grimes’ abilities as a campaigner haven’t been tested yet on a national stage. In the earliest volleys between the two campaigns, we know McConnell will attempt to tie Grimes to Obama at every opportunity. Grimes will attempt to paint McConnell as the ultimate obstructionist.

The Bluegrass could get trampled in this contest between the elephants and the donkeys. So it’s up to voters to demand as much truth as possible from Grimes and McConnell, and from the people who purport to represent them. It’s up to voters to decide what a senator should do on behalf of Kentucky and what’s going to help this state in the next decade and beyond.

Kentucky New Era editorials are the consensus opinion of the editorial board, which includes Publisher Taylor W. Hayes, Opinion Editor Jennifer P. Brown and Editor Eli Pace.

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