Moral of the story: Don't count on Ky. Dems to do the right thing
In some ways, it's absolutely astonishing that Democrats in the Kentucky House of Representatives could elect such a reprehensible creature as Greg Stumbo to be their leader.
But for the most part, it's par for the course. We're not sure why we ever had any faith whatsoever that they would do the right thing, the decent thing, the honorable thing.
Greg Stumbo is morally unfit to be a leader in this state. He's a deadbeat dad, an adulterer, is lucky not to have a DUI conviction on his record and is, we highly suspect based on numerous reports and first-hand knowledge gleaned over the years, a drunkard. He was up to his eyeballs in the BOPTROT scandal and the related Entertainment Outings, Ltd. affair that starred Legislative Research Commission high-roller Kent Downey. After his term as attorney general ended, he finagled his way back into his old House seat in ways that still have not come to light.
And what of his term as AG? He abused the power of his office for pure partisan politics, to bring down the first Republican governor Kentucky had elected in a generation. He led the prosecution of Ernie Fletcher and members of his staff for acts that Stumbo himself had committed as a legislator. Does anyone remember those letters of recommendation, written on House letterhead and signed by Stumbo, that he prepared during the Patton administration?
Let it be clear, we have no great love for Jody Richards, the longtime speaker Stumbo dethroned. We consider Richards to have been an obstructionist and an obstacle for Fletcher during the legislative sessions held in his four years. Yet we acknowledge the hard fact that the Dems have a majority in the House and thus get to elect the leader. We just felt that Richards was a good and decent and honest and moral man, and Stumbo has none of those attributes.
Stumbo reportedly won by three votes, but we'll probably never know which legislators cast their vote on the side of decency and morality, and which ones voted for an adulterer and a deadbeat dad.
We're already hearing talk that Stumbo's rise to power in the House may galvanize Republicans and those Democrats who oppose him and result in the election of a Republican governor in 2011. Maybe so, but we look out on the field of possible (or, to put it another way, most frequently mentioned) candidates and are less than enthused. We see no rising stars in the ranks of Kentucky Republicans who have paid their dues and served their party loyally who might be ready for the job.
The only bright spot in all this will be watching Senate President David Williams clean Stumbo's clock when the two chamber leaders negotiate on legislation. Republicans owe Stumbo a beatdown for what he did to Fletcher, and Williams was, on balance, a defender of the governor although he wasn't as vociferous as we'd have liked. (But compared to Mitch McConnell, any defense of Fletcher looks like outspoken advocacy). Still, this is the chance for Republicans to get revenge on Stumbo by killing his pet legislation and projects.
Stumbo is an advocate of casino gambling, Williams is steadfastly opposed. Stumbo has advocated tax increases in the past, such as a bottle bill and a fast-food wrapper tax, and Williams maintains his resistance to tax hikes. If Democrats really chose Stumbo because they think he'll work better with Williams, they may be in for a very rude awakening.
We can't help but be disappointed that the majority of House Democrats lacked the moral clarity to vote against someone of Stumbo's character. But we really aren't surprised. Democrats have never come down on the side of righteousness. Why else would they continue to support legalized abortion, yet oppose the death penalty? We just guess we weren't ready for the harsh slap of reality to our faces.
But now we know for certain. When given the opportunity to do the right thing, Kentucky Democrats will instead do the wrong thing. The majority of House members have embraced a leader with no character and no class, and that decision will eventually reflect upon all of them.