A little history lesson
We've quite frankly been a bit amazed at the level and content of the responses to our most recent post about Bill Patrick's appointment as Kentucky's drug czar. We have no way of knowing if all the anonymous comments critical of that particular decision and the Fletcher administration's appointments in general are from the same poster or from different posters. We don't have an IP address tracker here to see how many "hits" we get or where the visitors come from -- and quite frankly, no one in our little collaborative effort here has the technological savvy to know how to install one and we're working stiffs who really can't afford to go out and get a fancy "kentuckypachyderm.com" domain with all the bells and whistles like Osi or Brett or even Markos Nickolas when he infested the Bluegrass State.
But for that poster (or posters) and others who may be laboring under those misconceptions, a little history lesson is in order.
Kentucky Republicans out in the state weren't clamoring for high-powered appointments in the Capitol. They didn't want to uproot their families and move to Frankfort. They just wanted access to the highway department and social work and similar merit system jobs that had eluded Republicans for decades, even in counties with 75 to 80 percent Republican registration where the Democrat power structure controlled who filled the infrequent state vacancies.
That was the genesis for the much-discussed Governor's Personnel Initiative, which really was a centralization of the hiring process. Even with a Republican administration, Democrat county chairs and local Democrat officeholders still had more influence than the Fletcherites in local hiring decisions, primarily because the merit system managers responsible for those personnel decisions were products of the Democrat patronage system and still owed their allegiance to it. After complaints from Republicans who were still being shut out of state merit jobs, along with the local GOP movers and shakers who were taking heat from local party stalwarts and jobseekers, the administration took steps to wrest control of hiring from loyal Democrats who were still doling out state jobs like political candy on Halloween only to good Democrat kiddies wearing jackass costumes.
Meanwhile, let's not forget that for the high-level non-merit gubernatorial appointments, the state's federal delegation had an inordinate amount of influence over who got those positions. At the time, Kentucky had two U.S. Senators and five U.S. Representatives in the GOP column, with one vacancy because Ernie Fletcher's seat had not yet been filled. Those senators and representatives chose many, if not most, of the non-merit appointees. (Although we'd like to forget that Mitch McConnell was directly responsible for Dan Druen getting his job with the Transportation Cabinet). Fletcher also brought along much if not all of his Congressional staff, including Chief of Staff Daniel Groves and Bluegrass Regional Representative Terry Ammerman among others.
A lot of high-powered Republicans from out in the state ended up in plum positions, many from Hal Rogers' district. Fletcher also reached across party lines to tap old and trusted friends such as Brad Cowgill for key posts. But the reality is that Fletcher was elected with an awful lot of Democrat support and he owed some debts to those who went out on a limb and crossed over to be in his corner. That loyalty to the Fletcher campaign needed to be repaid.
And something a lot of people don't know is that for some of the politically appointed positions, there are specific experience requirements that no Republicans met because they hadn't been in a position in state government to acquire the necessary background. Some of the non-merit engineering positions in Transportation are like that; there are others scattered across state government. There was no other option but to put Democrats in those jobs, and Fletcher needed to make sure they were loyal to him.
If our anonymous friend or friends want to call Fletcher a RINO and point to his non-merit appointments as proof, they're welcome to do so. But those are statements made out of ignorance by someone who obviously isn't familiar with the situation and with the landmines that a Republican statewide official must navigate to win office and cultivate loyal support.