Fletcher's crossover support will be stronger than expected; prominent Dem takes high-level position in administration
In a state where 65 percent of the registered voters are Democrats, it's a political fact that any Republican candidate for a statewide office has to have significant crossover support to win.
That's what makes Ernie Fletcher's 11-point victory over Happy Chandler's grandson in 2003 all the more amazing. Fletcher's victory was the equivalent of a Morehead or Murray State not only beating UK in basketball, but blowing them out by double digits, in Rupp Arena no less.
Conventional wisdom has it that this year, Fletcher's support among Democrats will be seriously eroded because his administration has been accused of favoring Republicans and discriminating against Democrats in state hiring practices. This is the only real issue the Democrats have to use against Fletcher, and since it breaks along party lines, the pundits think Fletcher won't get the Democrat support he got four years ago.
Don't count your roosters before they hatch.
What the pundits conveniently forget is that 60 percent of the Fletcher administration's non-merit appointees are Democrats. They obviously wouldn't have been appointed if they didn't support him, and they logically wouldn't still have their jobs if they were not planning on supporting him this November.
Most of these appointees are politically active and influential. They will hold sway over friends, family members, trusted employees and people they know in the community. One of the criticisms of Fletcher has been that he appointed too many Democrats to non-merit jobs, but in reality it was a politically shrewd move since only 35 percent or so of the state's voters are registered with the GOP and they will be inclined to support their party's nominee anyway.
One recent appointee signals just how strong Fletcher's crossover support may be this fall.
Longtime Democrat activist Bill Patrick was named yesterday as the director of the Office of Drug Control Policy. Bill Patrick is no ordinary Democrat. He's been a party official, held many positions in Democrat administrations and served as county judge-executive in Powell County. It's a safe bet that Patrick brought a pledge of support for Fletcher to this appointed position, and no doubt he will use his influence with his significant political network to drum up support for the incumbent.
Patrick's promotion to a high-visibility position (previously held by another Democrat supporter of Fletcher, former Franklin County Judge-Executive Teresa Barton) is a clear indication that the heralded Democrat unity behind Steve Beshear's candidacy is a myth. When a high-profile Democrat like Bill Patrick aligns himself so closely with the Republican governor, that should be cause for alarm for the Beshear camp.
The reports of Ernie Fletcher's political death may have been very premature. Stay tuned. It's only August.