If you heard this morning’s Democratic Response to the latest blatherings of the Usurper, remember it. You may have heard the voice of …The Man Who Takes Down Mitch McConnell in 2008.
McConnell, Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate, has owned Kentucky since he beat two-term incumbent Dee Huddleston in 1984 with one of the original attack ads (bloodhounds searching the U.S. Capitol for Huddleston, who had a tendency to miss votes.)
But his star has been fading since his hand-picked Boy Guv, Ernie Fletcher, shat on the Governor’s Office carpet in 2004 by breaking state civil service laws to get his idiot cronies into state jobs.
Now national Democratic leaders have seen fit to reach deep into Kentucky politics to lift up Iraq War Veteran and retired Marine Lt. Col. Andrew Horne to give the Democratic response to Dear Leader’s weekly radio address today.
Horne lost the Democratic primary for Kentucky’s 3rd District Congressional seat (Louisville) last year to John Yarmuth, who went on to take down five-term incumbent Anne Northup, another McConnell protégé.
Yarmuth is now the heartthrob of Kentucky progressives, who hang on word of his Washington doings like prepubescent teens following Britney Spears.
But they also still carry a torch for Horne, whom they supported in the primary, before swallowing their pride after the primary loss and working their tails off for Yarmuth.
McConnell, who may be best known for his cast-in-stone opposition to campaign finance reform, has a reputation for campaign success second only to Karl Rove’s.
But we all know what happened to Karl in November.
And McConnell is up for re-election in 2008, at what will undoubtedly be his weakest point in 24 years.
Last week, we heard the first rumors here in Kentucky that Horne might take on McConnell next year. People leaped into action at the news, but one of his original supporters put a damper on it by saying Horne had made no decision yet.
I think we can start lining up campaign contributions now.
Update, April 1, 8:56 a.m.
Some choice excerpts from Horne's response to the Usurper:
" ... I am proud of my service, and very proud of those men and women currently in harm’s way who are doing their best in a terribly difficult situation. ...
"In short, the Commander-in-Chief has failed to properly lead the troops, and previous Congresses didn’t ask the tough questions, or demand accountability. The result is the mess we are in today
"... these bills both demand something that previous Congresses did not – accountability from the administration. Both bills demand that the President continue to verify that we are moving Iraq towards stability, and that we are on track to disengage our combat troops from the Iraqi Civil War by 2008.
"Accountability is something this administration has demanded of everyone else. Go to the website of the White House, and put in a search for the word “accountability.” What comes up is a list of nearly 2,000 pages on the site that mention the word.
"It's ironic that an administration that has touted its commitment to tying accountability to funding for things like schools or social programs is so opposed to any performance evaluation itself, especially with American lives on the line.
"Both Houses of Congress have done their jobs and will soon finish a bill that will provide for the troops. When they’re done, the only person who could keep funds from reaching troops would be the President. If the President vetoes this bill because he doesn’t want to formally demonstrate progress in Iraq, never in the history of war would there be a more blatant example of a Commander-in-Chief undermining the troops. There is absolutely no excuse for the President to withhold funding for the troops, and if he does exercise a veto, Congress must side with the troops and override it.
"As a loyal Marine who loves my country and my fellow troops and veterans, I ask you, Mr. President, please do not withhold funding from our troops because you are afraid to change course and show progress in Iraq."
It looks like the House Dems may have come up with an Iraq bill the Usurper can't veto.
The House has passed a $124 billion war spending bill - wait, wait, it gets better - that sets an August 31, 2008 deadline for bringing the troops home.
The Washington Post initially managed to spin it as a defeat for liberals (seriously, why hasn't Ben Bradlee beaten the crap out of every editor there yet?), but dropped that nonsense after the final vote.
It's a military spending bill with a troop withdrawal deadline. Boy George has sworn to veto any Iraq deadline, but wouldn't vetoing the funding mean hurting the troops?
The vote was 218-212, with two Republicans voting yes and 14 Democrats voting no.
The two Republicans voting yes were Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Wayne T. Gilchrest of Maryland. Seems to me I've heard good things about Jones before, in terms of being kool-aid-resistant, but why does Gilchrest hate America?
I'd bet that Kucinich for sure and probably the California dems voted no because the deadline isn't yesterday, but does anybody know anything about the others?
Here in Kentucky, the vote broke along party lines. Not sure whether liberal John Yarmuth or Blue Dog Ben Chandler was more reluctant. I'm sure John hates the late deadline and Ben hates having any deadline at all.
Now it goes to the Senate. Who originally said that the Senate is where good bills go to die?
Hate the republicans in the Senate? Think Minority Leader Mitch McConnell should be tarred and feathered? Afraid Kentucky just doesn't have what it takes to get rid of him when he runs for re-election next year?
Over the next 20 months, we'll center our efforts there on holding MitchMcConnell accountable for his legislative and political record, one we believehas made Americans less secure in nearly every aspect of their lives: in their finances, retirement, health, on the job, and from threats of terrorism at home and abroad.
Twenty months is certainly an eternity in politics, but as things stand now, we see McConnell as very vulnerable. He's framed himself as President Bush's biggest enabler in the U.S. Senate and as the chief obstructionist of a progressive Democratic agenda that majorities of Americans and Kentuckians support. Moreover, the Kentucky GOP -- the house that Mitch built -- is showing major cracks in its foundation. Mitch was right, it takes "money, money, money" to build a political party, but we're learning by example that it takes a different kind of competence and character to maintain and nurture it. From our perspective, a perfect storm in November 2008 would find Kentucky Democrats energized by a dynamic presidential candidate and anticipating a landslide victory, and would see turnout among Kentucky Republicans depressed because of problems and divisions in the GOP nationally and at the state level.
We know this fight will be a tough one, as these entrenched incumbents rarely fall outside of narrow margins, but we believe that our cause is right for the future of Kentucky and the nation.
We've brought onto our team blogging veterans from the highly successful efforts in '06 to defeat Conrad Burns and George Allen; these people will be contributing on both the tech and content sides of the operation.
I would appreciate any "heads up" you're able to give concerning McConnell-related content you might be featuring on your own sites. If you have any questions about Ditch Mitch KY, please direct them to me, and I welcome any feedback.
Now, we don't actually, technically, have a candidate to challenge Mitch yet. But with seven Democrats vying for just one spot in the gubernatorial primary in May, there'll be at least six losers licking their wounds and eyeing Mitch's seat.
And who knows? There are two leading Democrats who passed on the governor's race - Auditor Crit Luallen and Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler - plus Louisville businessman and Chandler's 2003 Lite Guv running mate Charlie Owen who might jump in, depending how things look come next January (filing deadline is the 30th.)
Owen, by the way, has been faithfully sending Christmas cards every year to everyone who contributed to the Chandler-Owen campaign in 2003. He's definitely running for something.
Never underestimate the ability of wingnuts to come up with new ways to punish those who don't fit the Ozzie and Harriet mold.
Here in Kentucky, an attempt by the University of Louisville to follow the Fortune 500's lead in offering benefits that attract top-quality employees had the repugs setting a new low in hate legislation.
Last year U of L began offering employees the option of buying health insurance for "domestic partners."
The "religious" freaks naturally - well, freaked. "Slippery slope!" they screamed. "Gay marriage!" "Mandatory sodomy for 5-year-olds!"
Never mind that the program applied to any domestic partner - heterosexual or homosexual. Never mind that the benefits would be purchased by the employee at no cost to the university or the taxpayers of Kentucky. It was a small step toward dragging Kentucky into the 21st century. It had to be stopped.
So the republicans proposed legislation banning domestic partnership benefits. But it was written in their usual force-everyone-on-earth-to-do-things-our-way style. It would have banned benefits being offered to anyone other than a spouse or children. No benefits for heterosexual live-ins. No benefits for indigent parents. No benefits for orphaned nieces and nephews, or abandoned grandchildren. No benefits, no how, no way.
Get married or else.
The Democrats in the House managed to beat it back, but barely. Two of the Democrats on the House Health and Welfare Committee - Bob Damron of Nicholasville and James Spencer of Prestonsburg - voted in favor of the bill. It's too bad - Damron is a good guy on a lot of things, but when it comes to anything remotely smacking of sex, he releases his Inner Puritan.
Seriously, somebody needs to get these idiots laid.
Don't you wish your gubernatorial races were this much fun?
Via Bluegrass report, Mark Hebert of WHAS-TV in Louisville is reporting that former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry's questionable campaign finances have been referred to the U.S. Attorney in Louisville.
Henry is - or was - leading the polls in the seven-way contest for the Democratic nomination for Kentucky governor. Henry, who was lite guv from 1995-2003, dropped out of the 2003 gubernatorial race to deal with charges of Medicare fraud in his orthopedic surgery practice.
For the past several months, Mark Nickolas at Bluegrass Report has been covering new accusations that Henry violated campaign finance laws in raising money for a Senate campaign that never got off the ground.
About now, his six competitors in the race are struggling to stop laughing long enough to answer reporters' phone calls.
I've said for years that Kentucky political shenanigans rank second only to Louisiana's. Looks like we might be moving to the top of the list.
The only question is whether the U.S. Attorney can get an indictment before the May 22 primary.
Update 1 - Via Kevin Drum at Political Animal, the fabulous Paul Krugman (damn you, TimesSelect!) covers a study showing probable anti-Democrat bias in the local corruption cases chosen by the shrub Justice Department. If the Henry case falls into that category, it'll be the first favor shrub has ever done for Kentucky Democrats.
Tired of waiting to find out how your Congress Critters voted on the vital issues of our day, not to mention the non-binding resolutions declaring this Potato Peelers Appreciation Week?
Now you can Do It Yourself!
A new site called Open Congress makes it even easier than Thomas. It's organized by bill, by representative, by senator, by committee, by issue and even by industry. Each lawmaker page lists background information, sponsored and co-sponsored legislation, and votes on recent legislation.
It's a gold mine.
(Full disclosure: I found this today while catching up on my blog reading - Josh Marshall had this on Talking Points Memo February 26.)
Don't worry - we'll still be comin' atcha with all the vote-related praise and snark you expect.
Let's say you're a Kentucky Democratic voter. You're stomping your hooves for the chance to kick out Ernie Fletcher, who beat your man Chandler for the governorship in 2003. You're in the voting booth in the May primary, looking at the seven names listed as Democratic nominees for governor. You can't believe your eyes. One of them is Bruce Lunsford. The exact same Bruce Lunsford who dropped out of the democratic primary in 2003 because polls showed he was losing bad to Chandler. The same Bruce Lunsford who then turned around and ENDORSED Ernie Fletcher, the republican nominee and eventual winner. The same Bruce Lunsford every breathing Kentucky Democrat blames for Chandler's loss to Ernie.
So here's the question: How much money will it take to persuade you to vote for Bruce Lunsford?
If you answered "there is not enough money on earth or in heaven," congratulations! You just graduated from the How Not To Piss Off Voters You Will Need Later class Greg Stumbo flunked out of.
Stumbo is Lunsford's running mate, and opinion is about evenly divided as to whether Greg has taken complete leave of his senses or has a major trick up his sleeve that no one can figure out. Stumbo is currently Attorney General, and could have cruised to re-election. He could have made a credible run for governor on his own. Instead he attaches himself to a coward, turncoat and criminal whose name will be forever attached to one of the biggest corporate financial disasters in Kentucky history.
Opinion's leaning more to the "gone nuts" theory since Greg started threatening union leaders who refused to endorse Lunsford. It'd be funny if it weren't downright scary.
Jody Richards is the Speaker of the House who is running with John Y. Brown III, former Secretary of State and son of the former governor. Richards also lost to Chandler in the 2003 primary, but at least he had the guts to stick it out until the votes were counted. Richards apparently doesn't have a campaign website, but he does have a long record of swearing to House colleagues that he would not run for governor in 2007. Jody's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and doesn't exactly impress on the stump. He also doesn't seem to know what to do with a large Democratic majority. Mostly, he lets the Republican minority slap him around pretty good.
You want fun? You want guns? You want drugs? You want a candidate who shows up stoned to community meetings and talks about how stoned he is? Gatewood Galbraith is your man! I'm probably going to vote for him, if only because he'd be non-stop entertainment, of which Frankfort could use some. His running mate is Mark Wireman, an engineer from eastern Kentucky (to balance Gatewood being a Lexington lawyer) who just retired from the Transportation Cabinet. Nobody ever heard of Wireman before, but as the Transportation Cabinet was the Central Cesspool of Ernie's Merit Mess, we're all agog to hear what Mark might know.
Otis Hensley is an Eastern Kentucky demolition contractor who's running with the nickname "Bullman" and the promise to "run the Bull out of Frankfort." He's even got a picture on his home page of himself riding a giant statue of a bull. He got a grand total of 9,372 votes in the 2003 primary, but it hasn't given him a big head. His web site is actually pretty detailed on numerous policy issues. And it reads like it was written by a real person, as opposed to a campaign consultant - funny and self-deprecating but serious. His running mate's name is Richard Robbins. The Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Billy Reed handicaps Hensley's chances at "a zillion to one." That's not fair. There are fewer than two million voters in Kentucky.
Some of you political science majors out there may be wondering what happens if none of the above lovelies (including yesterday's three) gets a majority of the primary vote on May 22. Yes, Kentucky does have a runoff provision. If no candidate gets at least 40 percent of the primary vote, the top two vote-getters face each other in a runoff.
It hasn't been used since it was established in 1992, but it looks likely to get a workout this year. There's been a lot of talk during the General Assembly this year about repealing the runoff provision. The big problem is the millions of dollars that the individual counties will have to pay to set up a second election just 35 days after the first one. County Clerks, who run elections and will have to come up with the money, are dead-set against it and want the provision nixed. But the goo-goos object that it's not fair to eliminate the runoff this close to the primary, after candidates filed while perhaps counting on a runoff.
But runoffs are tricky. Just when you think not having a runoff is going to help you, you end up on election night a close second to someone you might have beaten in a runoff.
So members of the General Assembly are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, filing contradictory bills and changing sides, sure of nothing except they've got just a few days left to completely screw up the most wide-open election in Kentucky history.
There are seven - count 'em, seven - Democrats fighting for pole position in Kentucky's May gubernatorial primary. Not one of 'em a thoroughbred.
The two top Democrats in Kentucky aren't even in the race. Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler bowed out once Democrats took back the U.S. House. As the senior Democrat from a red state, he's in tall cotton these days, snagging a plum spot on Appropriations even though he's in only his second term.
State Auditor Crit Luallen - a dedicated public servant with twice the brains and three times the government experience of anybody else in the race - was the first to decline the governor's race, causing a run on Prozac by goo-goo Democrats who forget that politicians of genuine integrity tend not to get far in this state.
Another statewide-elected Democrat is running as second-banana on a no-hoper ticket, a decision that has him being stalked by white-coated gentlemen from Eastern State Mental Hospital. More on the Attorney General tomorrow.
So, who's left? We've got the state Treasurer who's barely old enough to vote, two former Lieutenant Governors with loser reputations, a crooked businessman who specializes in throwing old poor people out of his nursing homes to make room for richer patients, a Speaker of the state house who can't get Democratic bills passed by his own Democratic majority, a gun nut who favors legalizing marijuana and a highway contractor who came in dead last in the 2003 primary.
Are you really going to make me tell you more? Fine. You asked for it. Treasurer Jonathan Miller is actually not a bad guy, and is the goo-goo crowd's second choice after Luallen. (At 39, he's one of the youngest gubernatorial candidate ever.) His running mate, Irv Maze, is the Jefferson County Attorney who is both successful and popular in Louisville, but unknown elsewhere. Their two big handicaps are geographical - Miller is from Lexington, so they're a Golden Triangle ticket and thus mistrusted by the East and West - and religion - Miller is Jewish.
(Not that Kentuckians are anti-Semitic, it's just that Kentucky Democrats think everybody ELSE is anti-Semitic, and therefore doubt Miller could win the general election in November.)
Former Lieutenant Governor Steve Beshear used to be the goo-goos' champion, but that was back in the '80s, before he lost the 1987 gubernatorial primary. Since then, he's been a lawyer to big financial interests, which doesn't sit well with Defenders of the Poor and Downtrodden. If you want to start a fight among Kentucky Democrats, just mention the name of Beshear's running mate, State Senator Dan Mongiardo. Mongiardo, a physician, came within a whisker of beating incumbent U.S. Senator Jim Bunning in 2004. Doctor Dan's supporters seem to think he deserves Lite Guv as a consolation prize. His detractors say any Democrat worth his salt should have been able to crush the senile Bunning in a landslide, and Mongiardo deserved to lose for co-sponsoring an anti-gay marriage amendment that cost him lots of Democratic votes and failed to gain any others.
Steve Henry was Paul Patton's Lite Guv '95-'03. Another physician, but this one with charges of Medicare fraud to his discredit. His main claim to the Governor's Mansion seems to be that his wife is a former Miss America. We had one of those as First Lady before (Phyllis George Brown, '79-'83), and it wasn't pretty. Henry's running mate is Renee True, the Lexington Property Valuation Administrator, and the only woman running for guv or lite guv. I don't know anything against True, but I do know that after Henry was the first person to declare for governor last year, he had to hold off making it official for MONTHS because he couldn't find a running mate. Just about every dem in the state with a pulse turned him down. He barely got True on board in time for the January 30 filing deadline. I'm not sure what Renee is thinking.
Tomorrow: The Traitor, the Speaker, the Pot Head and the Bullman. Read Part Two
"Blue" in Blue in the Bluegrass refers to my politics, not my state of mind, although being progressive-democratic in Kentucky is not for the faint of heart.
The Bluegrass Region of Kentucky is Central Kentucky, the area around Lexington. It's also sometimes known as the Golden Triangle, the region formed by Louisville in the west, Cincinnati in the north and Lexington in the east-south corner. This is the most economically advanced, politically progressive and aesthically beautiful area of the state. Also the most overpopulated by annoying yuppies and the most endangered by urban sprawl.
A Yellow Dog Democrat is one who will vote for even a yellow dog if it is running as a Democrat. I can't claim to be quite that fanatically partisan, especially since quite a few candidates who run as Democrats in Kentucky are more Republican than a lot of Republicans I can name.
But I do love the story Kentucky House leader Rocky Adkins never tires of telling about the old-timer in Eastern Kentucky who was once accused of being willing to vote for Satan if Satan ran as a Democrat. Spat back the old-timer:
"Not in a primary, I wouldn't!"