Friday, February 28, 2014

Eliminating an election cycle: A good idea but a terrible approach

Two decades ago, Kentucky effectively got rid of "off-year" elections by extending the terms of local officeholders by one year in a one-off deal to combine local elections with the congressional midterm races. Now, local politicians run for county judge-executive, sheriff and other local offices when members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Kentucky General Assembly (all representatives and half of the senators) are elected. This eliminated an election cycle, saving state and local governments some money. The "off-year" election traditionally drew the lowest voter turnout numbers, and by adding local races to the legislative contests, interest increased in those elections.

Now, something similar is being considered to eliminate yet another election cycle in the Bluegrass. A bill is currently under consideration in the General Assembly to lengthen the terms of statewide offices from four to five years for one time only, to make them coincide with the presidential election.

That's an idea we have supported for years, but this particular proposal has a fatal flaw. When the election for a five-year term for county offices took place in 1993, everyone knew that the people elected then would be serving an extra year for that term. The proposal currently under consideration for statewide offices would extend the current terms, making statewide elections occur in tandem with the 2016 presidential race.

There's no way we could support anything that would result in Steve Beshear staying in office one minute longer than is currently scheduled. Having him as governor an extra year would be disastrous.

Would knowing in 2011 that Beshear would be serving for five years have made a difference in the election outcome? It's highly doubtful, given the weaknesses of the David Williams-Richie Farmer ticket that have become apparent in hindsight. But we think people would have wanted to know that the people they were voting for would be serving five years instead of four.

Democrats offered an objection to this measure that we didn't expect. They think that electing Kentucky's governor on the same ballot as the president will hurt their chances, since Kentucky tends to vote Republican in federal races. While that may be true, it could work the other way. Kentuckians tend to pay more attention to the governor's race than any federal races, so perhaps having the gubernatorial election on the ballot would help the Democrats' presidential and congressional candidates.

Or, maybe the next state terms could be shortened to three years to have them coincide with the midterm elections. That would also serve to eliminate an election cycle and would let voters know well in advance how long their next governor's term would be.

Another advantage would be that an incoming governor would be taking office in the middle of a biennium. A state budget would already be in place, and the new governor wouldn't be faced with putting together an administration and developing a budget at the same time, which is currently the case. Having a year under his or her belt would give the governor plenty of time to become familiar with the state's financial situation.

If the five-year term is applied to the winners of the 2015 statewide races, making the next gubernatorial election coincide with the 2020 presidential election, we're all for it. If a single three-year term is the preferred solution, we're on board with that too. We just can't support a scenario that lengthens the current terms to eliminate an election cycle. The voters didn't vote for that, and we're not sure the state could survive another year of Steve Beshear.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Decision time for Conway and Beshear: Obey the law or listen to the radical left?

Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway have some tough decisions to make.

Do they carry out the will of the majority of the members of both houses of the General Assembly and the wishes of the people as expressed at the ballot box?

And more importantly, do they follow their sworn legal duty to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky?

Or do they listen to the power brokers and deep pockets in their party and the loud radical voices on the left, trying to transform this country into something it was never meant to be?

This dilemma comes courtesy of last week's court ruling holding that Kentucky cannot refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, along with a new lawsuit seeking to completely overturn the definition of marriage as enshrined in the state's Constitution.

Our position is that we oppose the redefinition of marriage, whether it's between two people of the same sex, or one person and several members of the opposite sex. Marriage by definition is between one man and one woman. We don't oppose civil unions between two people of the same sex, but we don't think those unions should be called marriages.

We also think there are much better solutions to the problems that same-sex couples claim they have than allowing them to wed. For instance, the court case that resulted in parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act being invalidated stemmed from a dispute over the inheritance tax. We think the best way to solve that is not to allow gay couples to wed to enjoy a spousal exemption, but to eliminate the death tax entirely.

But this isn't about gay marriage. It's about the duty incumbent upon Kentucky's highest elected officials to carry out the law, whether or not they and their supporters agree with the law.

California's Proposition 8 lost a court challenge not on the merits, but because state officials in The Land of Fruits and Nuts refused to defend the law as they were duty-bound to do. A third party attempted to defend Prop 8 in court, but the Supreme Court ruled that the third party did not have standing. Because California's governor and attorney general put their personal beliefs over their sworn duties, the will of the people was overturned.

This, then, is where Beshear and Conway find themselves. Yes, they are liberals. They are probably more liberal than the average Kentucky Democrat. But for as much as they have denounced -- Beshear especially -- the national leftist agenda on some specific issues, they are still liberal Democrats before all else. Will they pay attention to Kentuckians or will they heed the wishes of their puppet masters in D.C., New York, San Francisco, Chicago and elsewhere?

For Beshear, there is probably little political risk in thumbing his nose at Kentuckians and doing what national party leaders would prefer. Recent speculation about Beshear being a good running mate for the 2016 Democrat presidential nominee notwithstanding, Beshear has pretty much declared that this is the end of the road for him politically. He probably won't be facing Bluegrass voters again, so he's free to dismiss them as a constituent bloc.

But what of Conway? He's said to be considering a run for governor year after next. And therein lies his conflict. If he refuses to defend Kentucky's Constitution, as he has sworn an oath to do, and appeal the court decision, he risks alienating the majority of Kentuckians who are against redefining marriage. But he earns the gratitude of national Democrat movers and shakers and the radicals in his party. Should he do his duty, he risks alienating liberal donors in the big coastal cities.

We feel the decision is simple. Beshear and Conway should ignore the wishes of national Democrats, and quite probably their own personal feelings, and do their sworn duty. If they don't, they should be impeached and removed from office. The question is, do they have the courage and the integrity to do what's right? Will they fulfill the duties required of them? Are they willing to endure the criticisms of the radicals to obey the law?

Or will they put the interests of national Democrats above those of the majority of Kentuckians of both parties? Will thin skins trump legal responsibilities? Will they leave the voters of this state hanging with no one to represent their interests and directives?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jack Conway: Contender or pretender?

It seems odd that Kentuckians are talking more about an upcoming Republican gubernatorial primary than they are the Democrat primary, but that's been the case for the past several months as interest builds as to which candidates will vie for the nomination until 2015.

That is, until recently, when a profile of Attorney General Jack Conway indicated that he'll be announcing his candidacy within a few months.

Even though the national spotlight is on U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election bid, it's the governor's race that is the big prize in Kentucky politics. Back when Kentucky governors were not allowed to succeed themselves, speculation began about who'd be running in four years almost as soon as the new Democrat-in-charge was inaugurated in December.

While lots has been said and written about the potential Republican primary, the Democrat contest has been largely ignored.

The Conway profile piece, written by new Lexington Herald-Leader political reporter Sam Youngman, states that should he run, he'd be the front-runner based on name recognition from his failed campaign for U.S. senator against Rand Paul more than three years ago.

We're not sure that's the case.

So far, the most frequently mentioned potential Democrat candidate is Adam Edelen, elected state auditor in 2011 after serving in Gov. Steve Beshear's administration. Many well-connected political observers and liberal pundits consider Edelen to be the lead dog in the pack of mutts who'll likely be running for governor on the Democrat side. He's said to already have the support of many of the party's influential backers and rich donors. He'll probably have Beshear's backing, and as previously mentioned here, current Agriculture Commissioner and possible Republican gubernatorial nominee Jamie Comer hand-delivered him his biggest accomplishment as auditor.

Conway's in his second term as attorney general and has no noteworthy achievements on which to hang his hat. He ran a terrible campaign against Paul (remember the Aqua Buddha ad that backfired on him?) and he has some serious issues dogging him in his hometown of Louisville concerning his brother's involvement in a drug case. Look up "empty suit" in a dictionary of Kentucky politicians and if Conway's picture doesn't show up first, he'll be up front in the list of Democrats who define that term.

"Little Jackie Conway," as we like to call him for his lightweight political stature, is a protege of Crit Luallen, longtime Democrat operative and former state auditor who is also said to be considering a run for governor. Both Conway and Luallen say they'll make their decisions on running independently of one another, so it will be interesting what one of them does if the other comes out first.

Another oft-mentioned potential candidate is former Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who's had some of the worst luck of any Kentucky Democrat we can think of in recent years. Mongiardo, a former state senator from Hazard, was picked as Beshear's running mate to provide some eastern Kentucky balance to the western Kentucky native/Bluegrass area resident. As soon as they were inaugurated, Mongiardo became the forgotten man in Beshear's administration. When Mongiardo decided to run for the U.S. Senate, Beshear didn't even save a place for him on his re-election ticket. Saying he needed to raise money for the 2011 campaign, Beshear replaced Mongiardo with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson. (Interestingly enough, despite Abramson's declaration that he won't be running for governor or any other office, he's been infinitely more visible in Beshear's administration than Mongiardo was). And to add injury to insult, although Beshear said publicly that he supported Mongiardo over Conway, it's well-known that the governor worked behind the scenes to aid Conway's campaign over Mongiardo.

Conway might get a boost from the anti-Beshear forces who are still active within the state party. The political marriage between longtime enemies Beshear and Jerry Lundergan is very much one of convenience because Beshear hates Mitch McConnell and knows he has to partner with Lundergan to boost Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign. Once this year's U.S. Senate race is over, Beshear and Lundergan are free to go their separate ways, and probably will. If Beshear backs Edelen, as is expected, will Lundergan go for Conway?

And what would the entry of Luallen, Mongiardo or possibly Greg Stumbo do to shake up the dynamics of the race?

At any rate, we're not sold on the idea of Conway becoming the instant front-runner if or when he decides to run. He does have more experience in statewide elective office than Edelen, but both he and Edelen were successful the last time they went before the Kentucky electorate.

It will be interesting to watch how Kentucky's Democrats tip-toe around Lundergan Grimes' candidacy as they pursue their own interests in the holy grail of political office in the state. We've said before that there's no office in the Bluegrass State that Democrats want to control more than that of governor, and they'll sacrifice a potential Senate victory to keep the Governor's Mansion under their control. But for now, we're not ready to concede the Democrat primary to the pretty boy sitting attorney general.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A quick update

We want to update a recent story with some news about an election filing.

The public official referenced in the story filed for re-election to their current office, rather than the higher office they were rumored to be seeking. The incumbent in that higher office also filed for re-election. We're told the incumbent wants to serve one more term and then will retire, after which the lower-level official who is Steve Beshear's patronage person in that particular community will seek the higher office.

We're not ready to say we were wrong in what we reported, but perhaps just a few years premature. The use of patronage to line up votes is still going on, our sources tell us.

Steve Beshear wants to raise your taxes

There aren't a lot of surprises in the tax revisions announced yesterday by Gov. Steve Beshear. For many Kentuckians, taxes will go up, while certain special interests will see tax breaks.

Beshear's tax plan seeks to impose the sales tax on services such as automobile repairs and tanning bed visits, increases taxes on some retirement benefits/pensions, does away with the "married filing separately on combined return" income tax status that usually results in lower taxes and/or higher refunds, eliminates the state's modest individual income tax credit and increases taxes on cigarettes.

Meanwhile, some alcoholic beverage taxes are lowered and the horse industry gets undeserved tax breaks. There's a small reduction in individual income tax rates, but that won't be noticed by the average taxpayer. The slight decrease in the corporate income tax rate won't do anything to attract jobs to Kentucky.

And he's pushing for allowing a local option sales tax, which is really what this state needs so our sales taxes can be a hodgepodge of rates from locality to locality like Tennessee. The Volunteer State's lack of a state income tax is greatly offset by its outrageously high and varied sales taxes. You should pay the same sales tax no matter where you buy something, be it Nashville or Pigeon Forge.

In short, Beshear's tax plan is a joke. Just like he is. This plan should get a bipartisan panning and be sent back to the overflowing sewer from which it originated.

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign's war on women

Just because most Republicans and conservatives believe it's wrong to kill babies, they have been pegged by the American Left and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media as waging a "war on women."

That might have some semblance of truth to it if conservatives opposed only the aborting of female babies and not male babies, but since they oppose killing of babies of both sexes, it's absurd to claim that conservatives hate women and are against them.

The left is busy trying to tarnish Mitch McConnell because his campaigns have been financially supported by those associated with the company that was victim of the accidental chemical spill in West Virginia. Do they really want to go there? Because if they do, they invalidate all their attempts to appeal to female voters in the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the presumptive Democrat nominee for the senate seat, has been trying to position herself as the candidate best able to cater to so-called women's issues. And not just because of her genitalia, either. She's been busy speaking to female-dominated groups and reciting that tired old line about the GOP's "war on women."

That line didn't make sense when the Democrats used it against Mitt Romney just because he admitted to recruiting qualified women to fill positions in his administration when he was governor of Massachusetts, and it doesn't make sense now, especially considering from where Lundergan Grimes is getting much of her support.

One of her biggest boosters in Kentucky is Greg Stumbo, current Kentucky house speaker and former attorney general. It really shouldn't be necessary to remind Kentucky voters of his history, but we'll do so anyway.

It's well-known in Kentucky political circles that Stumbo fathered a child out of wedlock years ago with a woman other than his wife. For years he failed to pay child support to the mother of his child. When she finally decided to claim child support, Stumbo filed a lawsuit against her for harassment, claiming she was only seeking child support to damage him politically.

(Note to Stumbo: The only liberating that will happen in Kentucky is when the Republicans take over the Kentucky House of Representatives and liberate this state from the control of you and your party. We would have said "leadership" but you and the Democrats are about as far away from being leaders as Peyton Manning was from being a Super Bowl winner).

If you listen to Lundergan Grimes' corrupt father, Jerry, you'll constantly hear him talk about how he so close to President Bill Clinton and how Clinton will come to Kentucky to campaign for Grimes once the primary is out of the way and his daughter is running against either McConnell or Matt Bevin.

Do we really need to go down the Clinton path again? The man who bit the lip of one of his non-consenting sexual partners and then told her to put some ice on it and the swelling would go down? The man who exposed himself to a low-level state employee when he was governor of Arkansas and told her to kiss it, then when she didn't give him oral sex she was retaliated against at work? The man who had a sexual relationship with an intern in the White House then lied about it during testimony in a sexual harassment lawsuit? Paula Jones? Monica Lewinsky? Gennifer Flowers? Kathleen Willey? Juanita Broaddrick?

To us, it sounds like Lundergan Grimes' strongest supporters are the ones waging a war on women. Her campaign may wish to rethink soliciting the blessing of such female-hostile Democrats like Stumbo and Clinton if they want her to be taken seriously as being the leading candidate on women's issues. She can't claim to be a pro-female politician if the likes of Stumbo and Clinton are cheering her on.