Is it just me or are the elections this year a bore? Judging by the lack of yard signs, it looks like I’m not the only who feels that way. Sure, there’s the occasional sign for some judge, but very few other signs. The most I’ve seen so far have been for Steve Beshear or “Young Jack” Conway. I think I saw maybe one or two battered Fletcher signs. It could be because there’s no huge groundswell of any one candidate, or contentious issue (except maybe the matter of casinos, but even that hasn’t got anybody’s goat as Fletcher hoped). I think folks are pretty tired of politics as usual. The Democrats are running retreads and the GOP is imploding in slow motion. I think the Democrats will be successful because people have had enough of Bush, Cheney, the Iraqi War, the dismal housing market, the lackadaisical economy, the high gas prices, the frightening environment, the government’s do-nothing approach on illegal immigration and its failure to make English the national language (not that the Democrats will necessarily do any better mind you). And then there’s Ernie Fletcher.
Could any one person muck up an opportunity for entire political party as much as he did? The Democrats had messed up just about as much as they could when ole “Pants-Droppin” Paul Patton (D) showed us so much more and his apparent affair. The folks in Kentucky wanted a change, and Fletcher offered change. He was the first Republican governor in almost 30 years. Well, we got change alright in the form of scandals and indictments almost from the get-go, and arrogance to boot. Now it looks like it may be another 30 years before the GOP will see another governor. So, with that said, let’s look my predictions for the November elections.
For Treasurer, we have Republican Melinda Wheeler facing off against Democrat LJ “Todd” Hollenbach (you remember his pop don’t you? Yelp, it was former Jefferson County Judge, “Terrible Todd” Hollenbach as he was called back then. He helped to cram forced busing down our throats with this “partner in crime”, Mayor Harvey Sloane back in 1975). Ms. Wheeler would like to do away with the job and save taxpayers several thousands of dollars. However, a lot of people would like to keep this stepping stone office. Given the mood of Kentuckians and the vested interests of the good ole boys on both sides to keep this office, I look for Democrat Todd Hollenbach to win a close victory.
Next we have Commissioner of Agriculture. Democrat David Lynn Williams is challenging incumbent Richie Farmer (don’t you just love that name for an Ag Commish?). Farmer, a Republican should have no difficulty winning reelection.
Democrat Crit Luallen is the incumbent Auditor of Public Accounts. She facing former opponent Linda Greenwell, a Republican. In their first race, Luallen barely beat Greenwell despite having a large monetary advantage, which showed Linda’s campaign tenacity. This time, Crit has about a 10:1 dollar lead and frankly, hasn’t upset anyone. Try as she might, I don’t Linda Greenwell is going to be able to pull this one off, which is shame. She’d be good as Kentucky’s next Auditor. But be that as it may, Crit Luallen has done an excellent job and will be overwhelmingly reelected.
Louisville’s “Pravda on the Ohio”, as the Courier Journal is often called, has run several articles of late implying that incumbent Secretary of State, Trey Grayson’s reelection bid was in trouble. Grayson, a Republican, is fending off Bruce Hendrickson, a Democrat. Grayson is one of the classiest guys you could ever want to meet. He’s managed to stay clear of the Fletcher disaster, and has actually improved the office’s efficiency (what a concept). Hendrickson’s claim to fame seems to be the fact that he’s a Democrat and he’s hoping to slide in amid the anticipated Democratic onslaught. Not only will Trey Grayson be reelected, but he represents the GOP’s best hope for any higher office.
The Office of Attorney General has emerged as one of the most powerful offices in state government. With the incumbent Greg Stumbo (D) out, this is an open seated contest between Republican Stan Lee and Democrat “Young Jack” Conway. Conway cut his teeth working for Paul Patton, while Stan Lee serves in State House of Representatives. Stan has endorsements from just about every Republican State Senator and State Representative, along with several county attorneys, sheriffs, and Kentucky Right to Life. Conway’s endorsements come from about every union, the Sierra Club, as well as several prominent individuals such as Louisville Mayor, Jerry Abramson, former Governor Brereton Jones and Congressman Ben Chandler (all Democrat of course).
I think Conway will win this hands down, but not because he’s that good, but because the State Republicans haven’t learned to take this office seriously despite the beatings they took from Stumbo and put up a seriously qualified candidate. Conway has been looking for a platform to run for governor. After November, he’ll have it.
Finally, we arrive at the race for Governor. I’m never been short for words, but where do I start on this one? To use a nautical description, the Fletcher “Ship of State” is going bow up and slipping beneath with waves of history. This was one of the great “what if” governorships in recent history…anywhere. With decades of Democratic control of the State’s Chief Executive Office, and equally decades of Democratic screw-ups, embarrassments and scandals, Fletcher came along at the right time. He was a successful Congressman and medical doctor. But right from the outset, Fletcher found himself eyeball deep in the muck he promised to clean up. Did he, in his giddiness of being Kentucky’s first Republican governor since Louie Nunn, think he was going to be able to pull the same stunts the Democrats pulled for years? If so, it was either arrogance or simple stupidity. Did he not realize that things don’t work in the halls of Frankfort the way the work in Washington? Several businessmen-turned-governors have found out the hard way that what worked in the boardrooms didn’t mean zilch in Frankfort. We could have had to a competitive two party political system in Kentucky, which would translate into better government for all Kentuckians, but that was not to be.
But to be fair, people aren’t exactly clamoring to get on the Steve Beshear bus either. He’s just another ole Democratic retread with the same rehashed ideas and the same tired old rhetoric. People aren’t suddenly embracing Democratic ideals as much as they are rejecting what Fletcher and Bush (yes, George W. Bush) has stood for. I think it’s time for new ideas and new solutions that go beyond the outdated concepts of “Left’ and Right” or “Conservative” and “Liberal”. People are not as black and white on issues has they once were (if indeed they actually ever were). We need politicians who think outside the box and in ways that represent the best interests of the people they were elected to serve. Until then, look for us to continue to jump back and forth from incompetence to scandal. With that said Kentuckians will hold their nose and vote for Beshear and hope for the best.
Bridges to Tomorrow
The following is an article "Moderate Man" sent me. I thought you'd find it interesting:
Louisville needs the proposed 2 new bridges over the Ohio River, plus the redesign of Spaghetti Junction. But not for the reasons most mentioned. I hope to expand your thinking on the subject. Yes they will be expensive, almost $4 billion dollars. Yes it will take almost 20 years to build. Yes they will last a long time, maybe a hundred years. But it comes down to what type of town do we want to be? A sleepy backwater river town. Or do we dare dream about a larger regional megalopolis that has the population base to draw lifetime residents and quality high paying businesses for a growth community? If that is the goal, then we need more than 2 bridges and downtown bottleneck fix. I don’t usually agree with Councilman Doug Hawkins, but we also need a third bridge in southwest Jefferson County to make the Snyder Freeway a true ring/bypass around Louisville. Look at the other towns that have them: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston, Dallas, Jacksonville, etc. They have developed planned growth and made their town user friendly. However any transportation plan would be incomplete without mass transit. Buses alone are not enough. We need a light rail/monorail combination. This would truly give regional mass transportation to the hundreds of thousands of new workers in the outlying growth areas of the future. Only by building for the future will the growth become a reality. It was at one recent trip I made to Charlestown Indiana that I saw the real importance of the proposed bridges and a modern state of the art mass transit system. I-265 ends near there, awaiting an expected bridge connection from Jefferson County over the Ohio River. Lots of old and new factories, businesses, farm land for buildings, potential subdivisions, etc. The Clark county area ripe for growth, is huge. It’s about 25% the size of Louisville Metro. All those workers, owners, shoppers, residents, visitors will cross the bridges each way to add to the regional economy with jobs, education, tourism, businesses, etc. Everybody wins. And the cost of these transportation items is small, when compared to the economic benefits over their 100- 150 year lifetime depreciation. You have to spend money to make money. How to pay for all the transportation items mentioned so far? I’m sure the price would be enormous. The same arguments were made in the 1950’s in Michigan on how to pay for a huge 5 mile bridge to connect the Upper and Lower parts of the state with the Mackinac Bridge. A private investment banker became interested in the project and offered to manage a group of investment companies which would underwrite the sale of bonds. The Michigan Legislature in an effort to make the bonds more attractive, passed an act whereby the $417,000 annual operating and maintenance costs would be paid for out of gasoline and license plate taxes. Then in June 1953 almost $100,000,000 of bonds were bought by investors all over the country. A large sum by today’s standards. And yes, there are tolls over this bridge. It costs $2.50 a car and more for a truck with additional axles. But they have had over 100 million crossings since it was opened to traffic in November 1957. The last of the Mackinac Bridge bonds retired in July 1986, but fare revenues are now used to operate and maintain the bridge. Our transportation needs could be paid in the same way, including a light rail/monorail, which I have more to say about in a future edition.