Saturday, June 28, 2014

No rooster-fighting drama next year? Dems' gubernatorial race may be over before it begins

Given the tenor of many of the past several open primaries for the gubernatorial nomination on the Democrats' side, we were looking forward to another rock-em sock-em campaign next winter and spring.

But are we -- and the rest of Kentucky's political aficionados -- going to be deprived of the drama and vitriol in 2015? Early signs say the Democrats may be trying to consolidate support early behind one candidate, eliminating a down and dirty primary.

So far, only one Democrat, Attorney General Jack Conway, has announced his candidacy. Two oft-mentioned candidates, former Auditor Crit Luallen and current Auditor Adam Edelen, have said they won't be running.

Even though a few other prominent Democrats are said to be considering entering the race, they seem to be waiting until after this year's U.S. Senate race between Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell is over before announcing.

In the meantime, a number of influential party bosses have already thrown their support to Conway. In addition to Luallen, who was Conway's mentor as well as Edelen's, former governor and senator Wendell Ford and John Yarmuth, the only Democrat in Kentucky's congressional delegation, have announced early endorsements of Conway even though no one else is running.

Are they trying to clear the field to avoid a divisive primary in an election year in which a Republican is thought to have a better-than-average chance of winning?

Who knows, but we're afraid they're going to bring down the curtain on some certain political drama.

We've been watching Kentucky politics for decades now. We have faint memories of John Y. Brown's late entry and whirlwind campaign in 1979, but the first race we really paid attention to was in 1983, the close contest between Martha Layne Collins, former Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane and eastern Kentucky's Dr. Grady Stumbo.

Four years later, a particularly nasty campaign between Brown and then-Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear opened the door for businessman Wallace Wilkinson to win in a crowded field that also included Stumbo as well as former Gov. Julian Carroll. Wilkinson's signature issue was the creation of the state lottery, and his campaign brought national prominence to a consultant named James Carville.

In 1991, the fireworks weren't quite as loud or bright as Lt. Gov. Brereton Jones, a former Republican from West Virginia, moved up the ladder. The oddest part about that campaign was the presence of Wilkinson's wife, Martha, in the race because Jones and Wilkinson had not enjoyed a good working relationship. Martha Wilkinson dropped out about three weeks before the primary, and the race was not a headline-grabber.

The 1995 primary wasn't full of animosity, either. Paul Patton was the first candidate to run on a slate (he chose Dr. Steve Henry from Louisville) and was the first governor who was eligible to succeed himself. He wasn't challenged for renomination and cruised to victory in the general election. We still believe that Mitch McConnell made a deal with him about not pushing a Republican candidate against Patton in 1999 if Patton would not run against him for re-election to the Senate.

So it wasn't until 2003 that there was another Democrat primary, and it was probably the nastiest one we've ever seen. Attorney General Ben Chandler was the front-runner, but was under siege from Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford. Less than a week before the election, Chandler launched a television ad featuring a woman who attempted to personally blame Lunsford for the death of her mother at one of the nursing homes Lunsford owned. Lunsford didn't have time to release a counter ad, so he dropped out of the race and endorsed House Speaker Jody Richards. When Chandler beat Richards, Lunsford ended up endorsing Republican nominee Ernie Fletcher because he was so angry over Chandler's dirty trick.

With Fletcher winning in 2003, Democrats had to regroup, and the open primary of 2007 was mostly devoid of rancor. Beshear was running against a group that included Henry and Lunsford, but both of them brought baggage to their campaigns. State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, who also had plenty of personal baggage that was well-known to political insiders but not by the general public, dropped out of the running and endorsed Beshear. Richards was back in the race, and his loss probably sealed his fate as House speaker.

We were really hoping for a repeat of 2003 or 1987 in next year's race. We really wanted to see a blood-letting among the Democrats. That's beginning to look increasingly unlikely.

By the time the U.S. Senate race is decided, so many prominent Democrats may have jumped on the Conway bandwagon that speculative candidates like Dan Mongiardo or Greg Stumbo may have nowhere to turn to for support or financial donations. It may be the Republicans who are treated to a hostile campaign if (when) Jamie Comer jumps in against Hal Heiner.

We'll continue to hope for an explosive Democrat gubernatorial race, but the odds are looking slimmer. That's too bad, because catfighting among the donkeys and roosters is always highly entertaining.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fauxcahontas coming to Kentucky, business owners who did build that prepare to be insulted

Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts who is sometimes mentioned as the next person most likely to break Hillary Clinton's heart by stealing the Democrats' presidential nomination away from her, is best known for two things.

One is her false claim of being an Indian and using that to advance her career and referring to herself as Harvard Law School's first minority female. That has led to her being not-so-flatteringly being dubbed as "Fauxcahontas" by conservative commentators. Just Google the term and you'll see what we mean. As should be expected, Twitchy amply captured a sampling of the well-deserved mocking.

Her other claim to fame is being the first person to ever advance "you didn't build that" as a way to diminish the accomplishments of American business owners. That concept and phrase got more play when President Obama uttered it at campaign event in Virginia during his re-election bid, but Warren was the first person to, in so many words, say that those who have succeeded owe their success more to socialistic government policies than to their own knowledge, hard work and perseverance.

That narrative won't play well in Kentucky, where so many people have struggled to create, own and operate businesses in spite of the government, not because of it.

So when Warren said she planned to come to Kentucky to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes against Mitch McConnell, it's no wonder the McConnell campaign cheered.

We can almost hear Brer Rabbit hollering, "Please don't throw me in the briar patch."

We can't imagine Fauxcahontas' appearance garnering much support for Lundergan Grimes, or for Elisabeth Jensen, who's running against Andy Barr in the Sixth Congressional District. Many Kentuckians already feel that the government puts too many burdens on them and inhibits their ability to conduct business or earn a living. Being lectured by someone who thinks that they don't deserve the credit for their success is probably not something they want to endure.

If Warren does come to Kentucky to campaign for Lundergan Grimes, we think she should pick either Richmond or Mt. Sterling as her rally locations. Because in both towns, the high schools have the nickname "Indians" for their athletic teams. For Fauxcahontas, those would be fitting venues.

Maybe some of the local business owners can greet her by holding up signs saying, "Yes, we DID build that."

This is just more proof that Lundergan Grimes and her campaign are more in line with liberal national Democrats than they are with Kentucky, Kentuckians and Bluegrass values.

Master of puppets, Reid's pulling her strings

With apologies to Metallica's James Hetfield, who recently admitted to leaning conservative-to-libertarian in his political beliefs, we can't help but have the title track from the band's third album, "Master of Puppets," go through our heads as we dissect Alison Lundergan Grimes' recent exhibit of saying one thing in Kentucky and doing another in Washington, D.C.

Because Lundergan Grimes knows how important coal mining and coal-fired electricity production is to the state's economy, she's positioning herself to Kentucky voters as a defender of the coal industry. This is in stark contrast to the national leaders of her political party, most notably Senate President Harry Reid and President Obama, who can no longer be accused of not running a war on coal after an EPA bureaucrat got caught using that phrase to describe the federal government's position.

In fact, Lundergan Grimes said that she planned to discuss coal's importance to Kentucky with Reid at a D.C. fundraiser for her a couple of weeks ago.

Except she didn't. A recording of her remarks shows that not once did she mention coal when she was in the room with Reid and his cronies. The Lundergan Grimes people claim that instead, she discussed the matter with Reid in a private conversation, but evidence indicates that no face-to-face meeting occurred, and neither did a phone conversation. What makes this even more fascinating was that the story was broken not by any conservative outlet, but the left-leaning Politico, which one would think would be sympathetic to her campaign and not interested in reporting news that will hurt her chances of being elected.

It's obvious that Lundergan Grimes thinks Kentuckians are dumb enough to believe she will be an independent voice for our state and its interests if she is elected to the Senate. No one with an ounce of intelligence believes that. She will do exactly as instructed by Obama, Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the out-of-touch leaders of the national Democrat Party unless the matter can pass without her vote. Then, and only then, will she be given dispensation to vote against the Democrats and with Kentucky. One only has to look at former Congressman Ben Chandler's votes on cap-and-trade and Obamacare to see how that works.

The story gets more interesting. One of Kentucky's most disgusting liberal pundits, who formerly operated a blog out of Lexington but now blogs for a leftist Louisville outfit, has been doing a guest gig for a couple of national outlets recently. He's claiming that the recording was made by a Mitch McConnell operative who infiltrated the fundraiser, and is crying foul about it.

This coming from the same category of people who cheered when Jimmy "Thank God for Obama, now I'm no longer the worst president in American history" Carter's grandson recorded Mitt Romey's truthful remarks about 47 percent of Americans being lost to Republican candidates because they're takers, not taxpayers? There's a reason we hold this particular Louisville blogger in so much disregard.

A pro-Republican PAC has seized on Lundergan Grimes' lies and has produced a commercial on the subject, and it's getting heavy rotation on television. This, while her campaign has placed a media buy in community newspapers, extolling her virtues as a nonpartisan, independent voice for Kentucky and Kentuckians.

No one's buying that. We admit to not being the biggest fans of Mitch McConnell, but for the most part we think he's supported policies that are good for Kentucky.  It's painfully obvious that Lundergan Grimes will be under the control of the most liberal politicians D.C. has to offer. She will do what they say and vote how they say, irregardless if it hurts her home state. She should change her name to "Mary," short for "marionette," since she will belong to Reid and Obama and Pelosi and will be their puppet if she's elected to the Senate.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Edelen drops a bombshell

To the surprise of most political observers in Kentucky, Adam Edelen announced this week that he would not run for governor next year, instead choosing to run for re-election as auditor.

This came as a shock to many, us included, because not only was Edelen expected to run for governor, he was seen by many as the front-runner.

His decision leaves Attorney General Jack Conway as the only announced Democrat candidate for the governor's race.

It was really no surprise when Crit Luallen announced she wasn't going to run. We believe she loves the attention and speculation and the courtship more than she really wants to lead the state. But all signs pointed toward Edelen running, setting the state for a contest between two Luallen proteges.

We don't expect Conway to have a free pass for his party's nomination. Greg Stumbo continues to be mentioned as a candidate, although he keeps saying he won't have a decision until after this fall's Senate race. Former Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo's name keeps coming up as well.

Of the announced or perspective Democrat candidates, Mongiardo has the least amount of baggage. Conway has issues dealing with his brother's involvement in a Louisville drug case. Plus, he's getting a lot of grief from one liberal Kentucky blogger over his inaction in a controversy involving the school board and superintendent in Montgomery County. And Stumbo's problems are well-documented, and we'll be glad to repeat them again and again should he jump into the race.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Edelen's announcement is Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer, who still hasn't committed to a run on the Republican side. We've previously documented how Comer handed Edelen a campaign issue that would have been very effective against a Comer candidacy. With Edelen out of the picture, that will no longer be the case.

While Comer continues to sit on the sidelines, the only announced Republican in the race, Hal Heiner, is already out running ads and establishing an Internet and social media presence in an attempt to introduce himself to voters outside the Louisville area. While Comer has the weight of his office available to travel the state and appear at public events, Heiner has to resort to paid advertising to build name recognition. He starts out behind Comer in that regard, but he may be able to close the gap, especially if Comer continues to wait to declare his candidacy.

We recently heard the name of former Congressman and 2003 gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler mentioned. This is the same candidate whose district was gerrymandered to help him win re-election two years ago but was still unable to beat back a challenge from Andy Barr. He's also the same person who basically said he was glad he lost the governor's race because of all the headaches it brought Ernie Fletcher when dealing with various budgetary issues. To date, Chandler still holds the record for the dirtiest campaign ad we've ever seen, when he ran a blatantly misleading ad against Bruce Lunsford in the waning days of the 2003 primary.

But for now, it's Conway and Heiner and a whole bunch of speculative candidates. Heiner's hit the ground running while Conway's been very quiet. Mitch McConnell vs. Alison Lundergan Grimes notwithstanding, we expect the campaign for governor to heat up later this year.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wonder what Jim Bunning thinks about this?

On matters of policy, we always were bigger fans of Jim Bunning as a U.S. senator from Kentucky than we were of Mitch McConnell. Bunning usually staked out a more conservative position on many issues, and there were many times when Bunning canceled out Mitch's vote when McConnell sided with the liberals on certain things.

Politically, however, Bunning ran aground on the same rocky shore as McConnell did when they both failed to support Gov. Ernie Fletcher, first when he came under attack from Democrats when he tried to end years of hiring abuses in state government, and then when he ran for re-election in 2007.

In fact, many believe Bunning carried much of McConnell's water during the 2007 gubernatorial election. While McConnell never made any public statements, many believe he was responsible for recruiting former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup to run against Fletcher in the Republican primary. On the other hand, Bunning actively endorsed and supported Northup against Fletcher.

Three years later, Bunning got a taste of his own medicine. When he launched his re-election bid in advance of the 2010 Senate race, McConnell turned against Bunning. He urged his donors not to contribute to Bunning's campaign, and put the weight of his political machine behind Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Grayson, a former Democrat, had won election to statewide office in 2003 by riding the coattails of Fletcher, then won re-election in 2007 against a lightweight Democrat opponent.

We all know how that ended up. Bunning was forced from the race, and his preferred candidate (Rand Paul) toppled McConnell's hand-picked candidate (Grayson), then Paul rolled to victory in the fall.

McConnell never explained why he turned against Bunning. But he certainly made it known that he did not support the incumbent's re-election in 2010.

Why do we bring this up now? Because McConnell has gone from working against an incumbent from his own party in his own state four years ago to working for an incumbent in another state this year.

Mississippi's Thad Cochran lost his primary to challenger Chris McDaniel a few weeks ago, but Mississippi law requires a runoff because McDaniel did not cross a certain percentage threshold. Cochran is an establishment moderate Republican -- the type we and others not so affectionately call RINOs -- and McDaniel is a more conservative Republican who enjoys the support of TEA Party backers. McConnell has gone all-in for Cochran, hosting fund-raisers and trying to put the full weight of his apparatus behind the incumbent.

There were whispered rumors about Bunning's mental abilities in 2010, but the same comments about Cochran are not a whisper, but a roar. News story after news story seves to raise the question about his sharpness. Last week's episode surrounding a weird comment Cochran made about inappropriate acts with farm animals is probably the most bizarre thing we've heard in awhile.

We'd certainly love to know what Bunning thinks about all this, as he watches his former colleague do a 180 from four years ago. And we'd love to hear McConnell explain this, as well.

Perhaps some small-town newspaper editor with a political agenda can ask McConnell about this matter when he shows up for a town hall meeting this summer. Somebody needs to get Mitch on the record about this blatant episode of hypocrisy and betrayal.