Was the February 14th Special Election for the 37th House and Senate seats a “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” for the Kentucky Republican Party? A possible sign of things to come? Well, the answer appears to be yes…and no. Perry Clark, a long time fixture in South End politics (as was his father, former State Representative Paul Clark), beat Republican novice Debbie Peden in a rather blistering campaign with 54% of the vote.
Peden, wife of current metro councilman James Peden, started her campaign by going negative, and never looked up. Granted, many of her comments about Perry Clark were true, such has his support for 14 year olds being allow to marry, unrestricted gun use, and being the de facto spokesman for local militias and other right wing causes (Perry is more Libertarian than Democrat, and would be the first to admit it). However, voters tend to very quickly get turned off by negative campaigning, especially if they’re not hearing anything else. What Debbie did not do was spend more time telling the voters about herself. She failed to give the voters a compelling reason to oust Clark, who they’ve known for many years. Debbie didn’t establish an “identity” the voters could relate too.
Another problem was that the Republican Party spent thousands of dollars on TV and radio spots which went out over several counties. Well folks, you don’t have to be a political guru to realize what a waste of money that was. We’re talking about one moderate size State Senate district here. The money could have been better spent with additional (and upbeat) mailers, as well as hiring folks to make “personal” phone calls designed to reinforce a positive image of Debbie and to get them to the polls. This is particularly important in a district dominated by the conservative Democrats and you have a well known opponent. But on the upside, Debbie did ok for a first timer. Just watch the mudslinging next time ok?
On the undercard was Rick Johnstone backed Ron Weston against Carolee Allen. Allen, another novice (read “sacrificial lamb”) of the local Republican Party, who had no chance from the get go, not that Weston is some sort of political powerhouse. He isn’t. Weston, a more or less political babe-in-the-woods himself, was elected to the Metro Council in 2000 after switching parties. He served as its first President thanks largely to now Deputy Mayor Johnstone and others, who’ve guided Weston along his political path. Weston was able to get the endorsement of the unions, who in turn were able to get some of their members out. Also, this is a very Democratic district as well. Though Allen claimed to be “pro-labor”, she neglected to drive home the point with having a “union bug” on her campaign signs and literature, which made her look kinda unprofessional.
Allen also made the mistake of praising some of Weston’s decisions, like giving $40,000.00 to his high school’s football team and where he is also an Alumni Trustee; his wife is the secretary; his son is the President; and several of his political supporters are on the board (Weston was also an assistant football coach there about 20 years ago). When asked if she thought the move was politically motivated, she said “no” and added that she even liked the idea! What the…? She also failed to hit Weston on his failure to represent the district outside Fairdale. While he took good care of Fairdale, which admittedly had been long neglected, the rest of District 13 was pretty much forgotten.
Allen also failed to receive any support from her LD Chairman, and very little help from local Republicans activists or precinct captains. She also lacked money. Weston was able to secure big bucks from Labor and through the Democratic Party. Finally, the biggest problem facing Allen came, not from Weston, but alledgedly from within the Republican ranks in the person of Michael Clingaman.
Clingaman had dropped the ball big time in 04 when he failed to provide adaquate support to House Candidates in Jefferson County, which contributed mightedly to the loss of all GOP challengers running in Jefferson County. Word has it that the Democrats later praised Clingaman for his “support” in "protecting Democrat seats" in an executive meeting following the November elections. The GOP was warned about Clingaman by a number of candidates and was promised the appropriate punishment would befall this political “Typhoid Mary”, which turned out to be a promotion to the state party’s campaign manager. Yeah, that hurt. Clingaman, it turned out, was apparently Allen’s political adviser and handled her signs and literature. The result? Weston carried every precinct and won the election with 70% of the vote. Need I say more?
The upside is that Weston will now be in Frankfort, and we'll have the opportunity for some real district wide representation in Metro 13. Of course, we'll see what happens when the May Primaries are over.