An eyebrow-raising appointment in Beshear's new administration
If it hasn't been announced by the time this hits cyberspace, it should be announced before too long that Charles Wolfe has been named communications director for the Transportation Cabinet.
Wolfe is eminently qualified. After all, he's a veteran Associated Press reporter in Kentucky and has worked in state government communications for the past little while. His appointment is unusual in that most agency spokespeople are former television personalities rather than print journalists, but that's not the main reason our eyebrows went up in Spock-like fashion when we heard the news of Wolfe's imminent appointment.
You see, for the last several months, Wolfe worked in the communications office of Gov. Fletcher. One of his major duties was to write speeches and help coordinate official events, that served as de facto campaign stops, as September and October crept toward November.
His eminent qualifications aside, we don't know why Gov. Beshear and new Transportation Secretary Joe Prather would want someone fresh out of their vanquished opponent's office, who was helping with the campaign against their side, to come to work for them, especially in the agency that was the flashpoint for the problems that cost Fletcher his re-election bid.
Two things jump out at us, and both are quite disturbing given the high value we here at K-Pac put on loyalty.
The first is that Wolfe's loyalty is for sale. He was willing to work for Fletcher, now he's willing to work for the man who beat his former boss. High-level political appointments are different than your average non-merit job. Total dedication to the governor and his policies is essential. And if you are helping craft the governor's message, it's even more critical. It's disturbing to think that someone who was so highly placed in Fletcher's administration could so easily shift gears to the man who beat him.
The second, and more troubling thought, is that while he worked for Fletcher, Wolfe wasn't fully on board. We'd hate to think that someone who was writing his speeches and planning his appearances had secretly cast his lot with the opposition. Fletcher deserved the best possible effort from everyone on his team and we don't want to think he had someone so close to him not giving 100 percent and more.
Honestly, we don't know why Beshear and Prather would want anyone even remotely connected with Fletcher in their government, especially those who were still around during the campaign. It didn't take long for Beshear to take a big broom to Transportation. We don't know specifically who all stayed and who all was booted out, but we do know that Tim Hazlette (the highway safety commissioner who was personnel director during much of the time covered by the Stumbo witch hunt investigation) and Doug Hogan (the man whom Wolfe is replacing as Transportation's spokesman and who also served as Fletcher's spokesman for awhile) were shown the door.
We're already upset with Mitch McConnell, Anne Northup, many other prominent Republicans and about half the GOP electorate for not showing loyalty to the embattled governor. One of the reasons we admire Brett Hall is because he remained loyal to Fletcher even after being fired for using profanity with reporters and daring to speak the truth about the party's efforts to abandon their first governor in three decades.
None of us know Wolfe, none of us have ever met him nor had any dealings with him, we just know of him through professional reputation. So we can't say with certainty what his motives are or what Beshear and Prather are trying to prove by keeping him on in a highly visible position. But given the fact that if we'd just ousted an incumbent governor we wouldn't want any of his key staffers anywhere near our administration unless they'd pledged their support for us early on, we certainly view this appointment with wonderment and suspicion.
Ernie Fletcher lost his re-election bid in large part because his fellow Republicans, those who should have supported him against all enemies, stabbed him in the back. We don't have words to express the disgust we'd feel if we found out that one of his communications office staffers had helped wield a knife.