Sunday, June 01, 2008

What's wrong with Kentucky politics in a nutshell

If you really want to know what's wrong with Kentucky politics, look no further than the recently-contested race for state senate in the 29th District.

This district, which covers the most heavily Democrat part of the state (Breathitt, Floyd, Knott and Letcher counties) featured two candidates that, quite frankly, were not worthy of the public trust. The phrase "let the best man win" certainly didn't apply to this contest. Neither candidate could have been considered "best."

The incumbent, Johnny Ray Turner, was recently slapped on the wrist by the feds for a rampant vote-buying operation that was busted in Pike Floyd and Knott counties a few years back. Turner somehow managed to avoid any real responsibility for his role in the scheme.

He won re-election last month (there is no Republican candidate in the fall) over Eric Shane Hamilton, who is joined at the hip to the Hindman Mafia which dominates politics in Knott County and is a regional force.

The titular leader of the Hindman Mafia is former State Sen. Benny Ray Bailey, whom Turner defeated several years ago to be elected to that state Senate seat. Other members of the group include Grady Stumbo, former gubernatorial candidate; Bill Weinberg, son-in-law of ex-Gov. Bert T. Combs; Ron Daley, former Hindman newspaper publisher; and various current and former administrators at Alice Lloyd College in Knott County. Hamilton is a relative of Bailey, was seen as his surrogate by many, and thus must be considered a junior member of the Hindman Mafia.

(It should be noted that in the de-facto election for state representative in nearby Perry County, Bailey's son (also named Benny Ray Bailey) ran and lost, in large part because it was revealed that the younger Bailey has allegations of domestic violence in his past.

The Democrats have controlled this corner of Kentucky for years, and billions of dollars worth of public projects have been directed to the area, but still the region remains one of the country's poorest. The Democrats treat political power as their birthright and the counties and cities as their own little fiefdoms. They produce lackluster candidates with questionable intelligence, poor communication skills, limited educations in many cases, and more often than, not, lacking ethical and moral standards.

A crooked politician vs. the puppet of the Hindman Mafia. The voters of that Senate district didn't have a choice. And as long as they keep electing the officials they send to Frankfort, to the county courthouse and to city hall, they don't have a prayer.

It's not just in eastern Kentucky, either. Out in the Purchase, Democrats nominated pardoned federal felon Carroll Hubbard, who embarrassed the state with his misconduct while he served in Congress, for a state Senate seat. Julian Carroll, whose term as governor was tainted by a number of ethical lapses, resurrects his political career as a state senator and constantly panders to his constituency (state employees) to get elected, then turns around and betrays them via his votes.

It's just not Democrats, either, although they are the dominant political party in the state and they enjoy a distinct monopoly in many areas. We can point to counties where voters elect known alcoholics and bootleggers, who are Republicans, to local office.

But if we want to point out just why Kentucky and Kentucky's political scene is so screwed up, we will look unto the hills, from whence cometh not our help, but our answer. Johnny Ray Turner needs to be drawing his teacher's retirement check, and Shane Hamilton needs to be teaching karate, but one of them was going to end up representing a chunk of the mountains in the state Senate. And the people of Breathitt, Knott, Floyd and Letcher counties are poorer as a result.


At 10:11 PM, June 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you dig a little deeper into the Mountain Mafia, you'll discover their leader,BRB, was responsible for Johnny Ray Turner's problems. Benny Ray has been mad at the world since he lost the election to Turner and anyone that he hasn't supported who was elected has been criminally charged. Strange isn't it? Turner is a fine person, intelligent and really cares about the people of his district and represents them well. He works well with leadership in both houses and parties. The representative from Knott County now, that's another story...he's a real piece of work. I think he fits your description of our elected officials to a tea.


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