Kentucky. The home of the Kentucky Derby, beautiful mountain scenery, and Rand Paul. John McCain won the state by a comfy margin and Republicans have hold a solid 7-2 advantage in the state's congressional delegation. Democrats have not won a seat in the US Senate from Kentucky in nearly twenty years (albeit the last 3 have been competitive). However despite this Kentucky Democrats are likely going to have their best election in nearly a decade. This year Kentucky put up an amazing set of candidates.
What are the ABC's that the voters should know you ask? They are the 2011 Democratic ticket. Here is my summary of the candidates.
Jerry Abramson- Governor Steve Beshear shocked the political establishment when he chose Jerry Arbramson to be his running mate for a second term. It was widely believed that Beshear would pick well respected State Auditor Crit Luallen for the post. However Abramson went with his old friend. Abramson served as Mayor of Louisville for 21 years. During this time he maintained extremely high approvals as he helped to expand the city into the new generation. Polls have shown him with approvals in the 80's and he was most recently re-elected with 67% of the vote against Metro Council President Kelly Downard. Obviously Abramson will help solidify the Jefferson county base, and bring them to the polls. He has also helped the ticket in regards to fundraising. I recently read that a conservative estimate would be that Abramson personally brought 1 million dollars to Beshear's campaign account. Abramson is very liberal with pro-choice and marriage equality views. This is much a step above the current extremely conservative LG, who stepped down to lose the 2010 Senate primary to Attorney General Jack Conway. Abramson winning is a win for Kentucky as he is a proven leader and is much deserving of the job.
Steve Beshear- Beshear is currently finishing his first term as Kentucky Governor. He is the son of a Baptist preacher and grew up in rural Kentucky. He briefly practiced law in New York before returning to Kentucky and getting elected to the state legislator. He moved up quickly getting elected Attorney General in 1980, and then Lieutenant Governor in 1983. After a failed bid for Governor in 1987 Beshear retreated from public life. He made an attempted comeback in 1996, acting as a sacrificial lamb candidate against Mitch McConell. As McConell joked at this years fancy farm picnic the race was called in for him to pick up his dry cleaning. Beshear once again took a political retirement, practicing law in Lexington. A political comeback for Beshear looked unlikely. However when incumbent Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher looked to be vulnerable because of his many ethics controversies Beshear threw his hat in the ring. In the turbulent primary Beshear defeated conservative self funding businessman Bruce Lunsford (Beshear would later encourage Lunsford to make his failed bid for Senate in 2008), former Lieutenant Governor Steve Henry, House Speaker Jody Richards, and good ol' Gatewood Gailabrath, who decided it was most convenient to be a liberal that election. With Governor Fletcher surviving his own primary challenge the general turned out to be a cake walk for the elder statesman. The central issue of the campaign was Beshear's support of legalized gambling. In office Governor Beshear has ultimately been a good Democrat. He has made strong strides at legalizing gambling, however State Senate President Williams (a Mitch McConell protege) has done what obstructionists do best, and block any vote from coming to the senate floor. Williams is known for racking up gambling debt in Indiana, were gambling is permitted. Beshear tried to oust Williams by appointing Republicans from swing areas to various posts, however while Beshear got painstakingly close, he did not succeed in this pursuit. Beshear has done well for Kentucky though. If it was not for him then Kentucky would be like New Jersey right now in terms of education funding. He has consistently put his foot down on that. To the dismay of his arch nemesis Williams he used his line item veto to get rid of unfair Republican cuts to the state budget, saving jobs and prosperity in the bluegrass state. Beshear also lead the effort in raising the minimum dropout age. To help combat unemployment Beshear created many tax incentives to help businesses created jobs in the commonwealth, including some for Senate President Williams own father. Of course Beshear has taken some conservative lines, it goes with being a Democrat in Kentucky. He did not seem pleased about it, but he did give tax breaks for a creationist theme park. I know, I know, but ultimately it does bring jobs to the state, and it was part of a compromise that had to be made. Beshear has constantly campaigned for fellow Democrats, and despite it being very political unpopular he has taken a strong line in his endorsement of President Obama for a second term. He also has the dangerous position of being pro-choice in Kentucky. He really does care about his party maintaining strength in the state, and has gone out of his way to help. This is the main reason I like him so much. It is not often you see someone so devoted to party unity. Given a second term Beshear will continue to ensure that Kentucky does not go the route of Wisconsin or New Jersey, like his opponent would like to have it.
Jack Conway- Conway is currently running for a second term as AG. Before his election to AG Conway served in a variety of posts in state government for Governor Paul Patton. Despite being the sizable underdog going in Conway lost a highly contested race for Congress in 2002 by a very narrow margin. He was heavily recruited to run in 2004 and 2006 by the national party, but he declined both times. When the incumbent Attorney General decided against running in 2007 Conway saw an opening and ran for the post. Conway was elected in a blowout election, topping 60% of the vote, and went quickly to work as the commonwealth's top cop. To combat the epidemic of prescription drugs in Kentucky Conway created a highly acclaimed drug task force that has been copied across the country. Conway was instrumental in creating the Cybercrimes Unit in the Attorney General's office, which has lead to the removal of over 200,000 child porn images and videos of the web. He also taken the lead at fighting price gauging at the pumps, prosecuting many gas stations in Kentucky that took advantage of tragedies. To put it bluntly Conway is great at what he does, I really mean that. Of course he is probably most well known for his failed Senate bid in 2010. Originally thought to be an underdog, Conway clinched the Democratic nomination over the setting LG. He faced Rand Paul in a hotly contested general election. I know you guys know how that turned out. In a last ditch move Conway aired the aqua buddha ad. His polls had him close, but he just needed something to put him over the edge. He knew it was risky airing it, and it did not do the trick. However in another year Conway likely would have won, and not aired the ad either. 44% of the vote is pretty darn good when you look at other margins in the night for Democratic candidates. Republicans of course despised Conway over the ad, and his attacks over Paul. The campaign was brutal and Conway considered returning to private life, but decided last minute to run for another term as Attorney General.
Democrats- Overall straight ballot voting is going to help down ballot candidates a lot in this upcoming election. I will get more to that below.
Adam Edelen. The Democratic nominee for State Auditor, Adam Edelen has a truly amazing story. Born to a single teenage mom, Edelen was raised on a farm as a member of a middle class family. Edelen rose up and excelled during college. He started his work in public service at just 21, serving as an aide to Governor Jones. He worked his way up both political and business circles, eventually becoming Chief of Staff to Governor Steve Beshear. After two years with Governor Beshear, Edelen stepped down in order to run for the post of State Auditor. A strong candidate, Edelen is seen as a rising star in the Kentucky political arena. I have personally seen him speak multiple times, and can honestly say he is one of the most impressive performances I have seen in quite a while. I really do think that Edelen has more than just the spot of state Auditor in store for his future.
Bob Farmer- What is Bob Farmer, or Farmer Bob as he likes to refer to himself as, running for? Why Agriculture Commissioner of course. Farmer is a native of Louisville Kentucky. He is a marketing executive with 30 years experience. He has also served as editor of the farmers almanac. Though he has no experience actually farming, the position of agriculture commissioner mainly involves marketing, which he is aptly qualified for. As a hobby he also does a comedy and a country music performance routine. This of course got him in some hot water when he made some jokes, similar to those of Jeff Foxxworthy about rural Kentuckians. When you run for public office those sorts of things tend to bite you in the ass. If elected he has pledged to never run for Governor, or any other higher office.
Alison Lundergan Grimes- Out of candidates running this cycle, Democratic nominee for Secretary of State, Alison Grimes has gotten the most attention. Daughter of the former Kentucky Party Chairman, and state rep, Grimes is a Rhodes College and American University honors graduate. Before running for Secretary of State Grimes practiced law in Lexington with her husband. When Secretary of State Trey Grayson announced his resignation, Governor Beshear decided to select Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker for the position over Grimes, despite the fact that Walker was not even running for the position, while Grimes was. This is likely do to the feud between Beshear and Grime's father. Despite this obstacle Grimes won the primary over Secretary Walker by double digits. Her and Beshear appear to have a good relationship despite her fathers differences with him. Beshear has even had Grimes fill his spot at county dinners when he went overseas. Grimes, as well as Edelen, have had much speculation done over their political future.
Todd Hollenbach- The last of the ABC's is incumbent Treasurer Todd Hollenbach. Hollenbach is a lawyer from Louisville Kentucky. Before his election as Treasuer Hollenbach served in different positions of statewide government. He spent 8 years as a commissioner of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, and served on the commission in charge of investigating the merit higher system. Swept in office four years ago on the backs of Beshear, and other Democrats, Hollenbach has been a competent Treasurer. He has gotten rid of some of the frills of his office such as the option of a pricey state issued car (something Richie Farmer refused to do) instead driving his ten year old van that has 200,000 miles on it. He also declined to get a janitorial service clean his office, instead doing the job himself. Hollenbach isn't an impressive speaker or politician, but he gets the job done.
Here is the actual ballot for review
Steve Beshear- Incumbent Governor. Democrat.
David Williams- Senate President. Republican.
Gatewood Gallbraith- repeat candidate. Independent.
Jerry Abramson- Former longtime Louisville Mayor. Democrat.
Richie Farmer- Agriculture Commissioner and ex basketball player. Republican.
Dea Riley- Marketing Consultant. Independent.
Jack Conway- Incumbent Attorney General. Democrat.
Todd P'Pool- Prosecuting Attorney. Republican.
Secretary of State
Alison Grimes- Attorney, daughter of former state party chairman. Democrat.
Bill Johnson- Businessman. Republican.
Adam Edelen. Former Beshear Chief of Staff. Democrat.
John Kemper. Businessman. Republican.
Todd Hallenbach. Incumbent Treasurer. Democrat.
K.C. Crosbie. City Councilwoman. Republican.
Random Libertarian dude running to abolish office
Bob Farmer. Marketing Executive. Democrat.
James Comer. State Representative. Republican.
First off I highly advise going back and reading my overview of Fancy Farm 2011. Fancy Farm is the political equivalent of the Superball in Kentucky politics.
Anyway, without further ado here is my overview of elections, and how I think they will turn out Tuesday.
Steve Beshear is one lucky son of a gun. Kentucky, like all states, is hurting. They have all the problems facing other states, but unlike other Governor's Beshear has kept his head above water. Originally his approvals did take a slight hit, and early polling had him very vulnerable, however he has recovered nicely. That is not all do to him though. Remember above when I talk about how Senate President Williams is Beshear's arch nemesis? Well it is only fitting that he faces off with him in this one epic race.
Of course Governor Beshear is the good guy, and the good guy always has to win. Some villains can hide the fact they are villains. Well David Williams sure as hell can't. He is about as likeable and telegenic as Dick Cheney with a riffle. Seriously, he is extremely unpopular and has run a god awful campaign. He actually started off strong, selected the state's agriculture commissioner and basketball star Richie Farmer as his running mate. It was thought that Farmer might run himself, and when he took LG it got us election nerds curious. At the time it was puzzling, but now it makes more sense as he has gone through a messy divorce and has faced many more ethical issues and other controversies, and his approvals have gone the other way. He used to be one of the most popular pols in the state as well.
Williams won by an embarrassing amount in the Republican primary against a random unknown tea partier and a county clerk. He has never really been able to get back support he lost in the primary. Many Republicans are voting for Beshear, Gatewood, or just not voting. Not voting helps the best for downballot races. Williams has been stuck in the ditch, and has not been able to make any traction. He has constantly polled in the 20s for ages now. At this point he has been appealing to Republican base voters, hoping to get enough of them to get a somewhat decent showing. It really has not worked.
This race has been a nasty one. Both sides have gone negative, though Williams more so. One of the best laughs I have had all year was when Williams said in a debate that he had run a completely positive issued based campaign, and that he wished Beshear would follow his lead. This coming from a guy who had his step dad pour millions of dollars in a legally questionable move to a front group airing ads about Beshear cozing up with sex offenders and murders and how he is Barack Obama's BFF. Williams also released an ad going after Beshear's running mate, and tried to invoke Abramson's Jewish faith into the mix as well. What is funny is they actually aired this ad in Louisville,, as a DKE user pointed out that is like airing anti Obama ads in Cook County Illinois. Also late in the campaign Williams did a disgusting attack on Hindus and Beshear. I won't type it, its too nasty.
Of course you can't have a classic Kentucky race without Gatewod Galbraith in the mix. Gatewood is an interesting fellow. He has been running for various offices for years. Some years he will be a tree hugging, pot smoking liberal, others a small government conservative. You never know with Gatewood. Though he seems pretty consistent on pot, I'll give him that, though the ways he defends it can change. He has gone to the right this time, attacking Beshear as much as he can, and courting pissed off Republican voters. He has participated in the debates, but hasn't done much to distinguish himself. A user here correctly pointed out that Gatewood usually does better than he polls, but my guts says he does worse this time. Right now my predict is the following:
Secretary of State
First tea bagger Businessman Bill Johnson wanted to be Senator. Then he decided he didn't want to be destroyed by an overall better bagger Rand Paul, so he drops out to run for Governor in 2011. Then he decided with fellow teabagger Phil Moefett in the mix already he would have to find another election. So he runs for SoS.
Johnson narrowly defeated the establishment picked candidate in the primary and currently faces Alison Grimes, who also defeated a tough primary opponent. Because of her father's connections Grimes has been able to strongly fund raise and on her own merits has proven a strong candidate altogether. Johnson has been a rather weak one, and hasn't been on the air in quite some time.
A tea party Republican running to be a state's chief voting officer. Guess what his biggest campaign issue is? Voting fraud of course! Though he has taken the usual Republican hysteria about voting fraud, and doused it with a can of redbull and some lighter fluid. In Bill Johnson's world the number one threat to humanity is big bad Democrats stealing elections. He is out talking about ACORN, voter IDs, and taking away the voting rights from the homeless and victims domestic abuse . That is right, ever single campaign speech he talks about how you should have to have an address to vote, because of the dire consequences that could happen otherwise! Kentucky law currently lets you list your address as the county clerks office, giving voting rights to those without a home, or those wishing to not make their residence public (voting logs are freely available).
He talks about ACORN a lot and the GOP flavor of the month, voter id cards. He has also taken a page out of Sen. Williams book and talked against restoring voting rights to rehabilitated criminals. He has been consistently proven wrong, quoting wrong law for backup, and showing complete in-qualification for the office.
Grimes has handled this insanity well. It is not hard to call him out for his homeless bashing. But she also does an excellent job fighting against voting id cards. In fact her argument against them is one of the best I have ever heard. It is not an easy argument to make after all. She has also talked a lot about creating a central office for all Kentucky business permits, which is a very popular idea. Also her ads have been refreshing and enjoyable. Especially the one with her two grandmothers in it.
The Kentuckians went for the tea party last year, they will not this year though.
Attorney General- Jack Conway is a good Attorney General. You can hate his politics, despise him for Aqua Budha, but he is genuinely good for Kentucky. Hmm, I wonder why Republicans have targeted? I mean you can't be tough on crime and drugs, and a Democrat. No, that is just crazy.
Republicans had originally given themselves high hopes at winning here. Had Trey Grayson ran then this would have been somewhat competitive. Republicans went with a meh prosecuting Attorney named Todd P'Pool (pronounced Pee Pool) to be their nominee. P'Pool has done ok, but he is no match for Conway. Republicans are still giving their attention to P'Pool instead of Williams. They even sent in NYC's own Rudy in to stump. I think the strategy is to soften Conway for future political ambition.
P'Pool's main selling points are that he would have sued over Obamacare. While the President's health care plan is obviously not uber popular in the bluegrass state, that argument is really not enough to overcome Conway's personal popularity, fundraising skill, and overall record as AG. Local elections are obviously much more easy for Democrat in Kentucky.
The State's Junior Senator has campaigned and pulled hard for P'Pool. Paul still hates Conway for their 2010 election. The whiny little baby just can't get over how big bad Jack was mean to him. Seriously though a Conway win will be a nice egg in the face for Paul, who had originally invested a lot in P'Pool.
Republicans despise Todd Hollenbach. I am not really sure why, he hasn't done any great atrocity. But they like to make light of his overall meh nature and call him an empty suite a lot. Though he is nothing special, he does get the job done well enough.
His opponent is rich and well connected. Though despite this I find her to be an average candidate. She is a rather dull speaker, and really has no record herself to run on. Though she has been able to fund raise and advertise some, it is more because of her hubby's connections than her own political finesse. I think her running here is just her way of creating a name for herself. Not all together an awful strategy mind, but it could very well backfire.
Any hope Republicans ever had here (really not much to begin with) is taken away by the libertarian that is in the mix. The lib is running on a platform of abolishing the office (absolutely ridiculous). He has actually polled fairly high, up to 16% in one poll. I expect a lot of tea party support to go third party here.
Mr. Empty Suite beats the Sarah Palin clone.
Jack Kemper is the textbook definition of generic R. He is as inspiring as a turtle and is facing a skilled politician. He really has a pretty generic background and actually has controversy of his own regarding his bankruptcy.
Like I said I can not speak more positively about Adam Edelen. He has ran a great campaign and will go far after office. Most of his spots have been positive, though he has a nice attack ad also running.
Really not much more to say, it has been an uneventful race. I gave him a point less than Grimes because she has been on the air much more, and faces a worse opponent.
Often in politics these small elections do not strike a big interest in voters. Why would some steel worker, with no family that farms, in Louisville care about who their Agriculture Commissioner is? Sadly this is a common mindset. You see while AC might not affect many, the simple fact is James Comer will run for Governor in four years if wins, and electing him now could very well screw over many people later on.
Democrats foolishly nominated Bob Farmer. They actually had a decent array of candidates running, but many say Farmer won because voters got him confused with the current ag commissioner (also named Farmer). I do not know if I really buy that, but what is done is done. Farmer will have to do. I come from a farming family and if I really though Farmer was unqualified then I would not support him. But at the end of the day he can get the job done. Now getting him into office is another story.
Comer is a strong candidate. A fiver term state rep, Comer comes from a farming background. He was FFA President, attended college for farming, and is a farmer now. He is a good fit for the spot and does well explaining his qualifications to the voters. Republicans were smart to select him.
It is very important for us to keep Comer out. It may seem foolish to care much about a small office like Ag Com, especially when our guy is never going beyond the spot, but this should be a top priority for Democrats Comer is telegenic, personally popular, and an overall skilled politician. He will not be an easy one to beat when we try to hold on to the Governor's office in four years. He is a tea partier, and would be awful as Governor. Also if we beat the GOP's golden boy now then it will naturally (and rightly) be blamed on Williams, giving more incentive for Republicans to toss his sorry ass out.
As I said above Farmer received controversy because of his jokes. Comer put them in a tv ad, and though he has aired the positive intro spot more, the other has gotten a fair amount of attention.
Polling by Braun had Farmer up a ton, polling by PPP had a narrow Comer lead. I do not know what to believe. At the end of the day I am going to say that Beshear's coattails pull Farmer over the finish line. Who knows though? If we win this one then it is a good night. If we win Bob Farmer should personally send a bouquet of roses to Sen Williams office as well.
Well, that is all I have. I welcome any comments, predicts, or grievances in the comments section. Thanks all.