Monday, May 19, 2014

No good options in tomorrow's GOP Senate primary

We really wish there were better options among the Republicans challenging Mitch McConnell in the primary election for the U.S. Senate race.

Some had high hopes for Matt Bevin in his bid to unseat the incumbent who has angered so many conservatives through his capitulation to the three-headed monster of Obama/Reid/Pelosi, but Bevin's campaign never really gained the traction it needed to topple such a powerful sitting senator and tenacious politician.

McConnell lost favor with us eight or nine years ago for reasons of politics, not policy. We went from being ardent supporters of his in 2002 to refusing to support or vote for him in 2008. And nothing that's happened policy-wise in those intervening years has won us back to his side. His capitulation on the debt ceiling vote a few weeks ago encapsulated our opposition to McConnell in a nutshell. His vote against the increase on the Senate floor was inconsequential. The cloture vote was where the real battle was, and McConnell chose the side of the liberals instead of taking the conservative position.

We had really hoped for a viable alternative to emerge, and many had hoped Bevin would be that candidate, but it just wasn't meant to be. Red herrings like MIT, cockfighting and bailouts have taken away from a real and substantive discussion of McConnell's shortcomings as a conservative who is supposed to be leading the opposition to destructive liberal policies, not agreeing with them and pow-wowing with the enemy to pass them.

There are logical explanations for Bevin's MIT/resume and bailout situations, but we're not going to go into them at this time, and it would make no difference to his detractors anyway.

Bevin's gotten the most publicity of the four challengers to McConnell's throne, but there are three other candidates who are virtually unknown to the electorate. One, Shawna Sterling, wrote a rambling letter to the editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader responding to their endorsement of McConnell, claiming that someone had threatened to take her children should she file to run.

One of our collaborators has decided to sit tomorrow's primary out, saying she can't vote for any of the potential nominees and she has no use for McConnell. The rest of us plan to vote for Bevin, all the while knowing that he has no shot at upsetting McConnell.

What about the fall? While none of us could ever bring ourselves to vote for the lightweight candidate the Democrats are going to put forth, neither can we in good conscience support McConnell. In fact, we would laugh uproariously should the Republicans take back the Senate, as many expect, only to see McConnell lose his re-election bid and not get to be Senate president like he's dreaming about. Not that having another Republican besides McConnell as Senate president would be anything to write home about. Unfortunately for American, there are more McConnells and McCains in the GOP wing of the Senate than there are Cruzes and Lees and Rubios. We can't really see much difference between a leadership team of McConnell and Boehner than we do a Reid/Pelosi pairing, because we have no confidence in the leadership of the Republican Party to stand on conservative principles and in opposition to the Obama agenda.

McConnell famously said his goal was to make Obama a one-term president. He failed there, so his new goal should be to stymie Obama's harmful policies. He may talk a good game about Obamacare and the War on Coal, but when the rubber meets the road, what has he done? Capitulate, like he did on the debt ceiling vote and the votes for various of Obama's appointees.

We don't necessarily endorse Matt Bevin, but we cannot in good conscience as conservatives support Mitch McConnell. For all the credit he gets as being the godfather of the modern Republican Party in Kentucky, we haven't and will never forgive him for some of the things he's done to prominent GOP officeholders in Kentucky. Couple that with his abandonment of conservative policies at key moments when important issues are on the table, and we see no good reason to ever support him again.

Bevin may be a flawed candidate, but McConnell is a defective conservative and a broken senator. We liked the McConnell of 1984, or even 2002, much better than the McConnell of today.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Who didn't see this coming?

To absolutely no one's surprise, Attorney General Jack Conway -- not so affectionately known around here as Little Jackie Conway -- announced earlier this week that he intends to run for governor next year.

In doing so, he became the first Democrat to violate the party's wishes that no one begin their 2015 campaign until this year's U.S. Senate race is finished, to avoid stepping on Alison Lundergan Grimes' toes, attention and fund-raising.

He also became the first of the two Crit Luallen acolytes currently holding statewide office in Frankfort to make his announcement. Now it's time to wait and see how long the other Crit disciple, Auditor Adam Edelen, will wait. With Luallen's decision not to run now official, it would seem that it's open season on the governor's race, even as the potential candidates try to tread lightly around Jerry Lundergan's daughter.

Yet another rumored candidate who puts the "ass" in the Party of the Ass, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, still claims to want to wait until after the November election before making a decision. His chances of winning the primary are slim anyway, and they'll evaporate if he waits that long before naming a running mate and starting to raise money.

Speaking of running mates, we're not sure what to make of Conway's choice of Rep. Sannie Overly as his partner on the ticket. For the past several years, Democrats have tried to make Overly the next big thing in Kentucky politics, but we can't see why. She doesn't have an outstanding legislative record to stand on despite being the first female ever appointed to a state party legislative leadership post. We don't see a lot of substance to her. Rep. Stan Lee might call her "an empty dress," much as he did Lundergan Grimes, but he'd be raked over the coals for it despite it being a fairly accurate assessment. So we'll go with "empty pantsuit" instead. It's less sexist and still entirely appropriate.

Maybe Conway wanted a pretty face on his ticket in case he wins and has to face Hal Heiner, who also has an attractive female as his running mate (KC Crosbie).

We're already hearing some speculation about what kind of campaign will occur when Conway and Edelen square off. One of Kentucky's leading liberal Democrat bloggers is suggesting that Edelen will use the fact that his office has referred several audits to Conway for prosecution, but Conway has not acted.

Who made Edelen the sole arbiter of what's legal and illegal? There is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion. That's what allowed Stumbo, when was attorney general, to pursue the Ernie Fletcher administration with such zeal over personnel decisions despite no governor ever being prosecuted for things like that in state history despite the Democrats' record for actual patronage abuses that were much worse than any of the fictional allegations that were wrongly made about Fletcher's term. It's up to Conway to decide what to prosecute and what to leave alone.

Honestly, we don't see much of anything in either Conway or Edelen that inspires any confidence that they'd be good governors. Their party affiliation automatically disqualifies them because of the Democrats' history in running the state. They'd appoint the same old people to positions of power, ensuring no progress in making government run more efficiently and effectively. Edelen doesn't have any big-time audits under his belt of the type that made headlines for Luallen. Conway hasn't run any major investigations or prosecutions. Both are unimpressive Democrats who got where they are through Kentucky's good-old-boy network.

It will be interesting to see how Conway's decision to not participate in the defense of Kentucky's same-sex marriage amendment plays out. Will Edelen point out that Conway had a duty to defend the state constitution despite his personal feelings? It's generally felt that Conway's decision might help in a primary but hurt him in the general election. Edelen has an avenue to use Conway's decision in his campaign if he wants.

And what of Stumbo? His "wait until November" stance might be a smokescreen to see what happens with the House of Representatives this fall. Republicans really believe they have a chance to gain the majority in that body. If that happened under Stumbo's leadership as speaker, he could be mortally wounded in the statewide political game.

On the Republican side, Heiner's campaign has been awfully quiet after being first into the race. He's not making as much noise as he needs to if he's going to combat the name recognition that expected opponent Jamie Comer already has. There are rumors of at least one other candidate getting into that race, but so far nothing's come to pass.

As we've said before, if Kentucky Democrats have to choose between governor and U.S. senator, they will choose the former every time. Running state politics is where they exercise their power to dole out jobs and contracts. If they have to sacrifice Lundergan Grimes to hold onto Frankfort, they will. And even a Lundergan Grimes victory over the GOP nominee won't mean much if, as expected, the Republicans take back the Senate. It just means some other Republican besides Mitch McConnell will be majority leader.

We expect Edelen to join Conway in the race within the next couple of months, but both to lie low for awhile to pay lip service to the idea of not competing with Lundergan Grimes for political air. Then the two lightweights will begin sniping at one another.