Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ernie’s Paradox: He Is Trapped

From Pol Watchers:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher's re-election campaign began airing its second TV commercial today. The 30-second spot, set to an upbeat version of "This Little Light of Mine," focuses on the state's economy during Fletcher's administration. The spot began running on network stations in Lexington, Louisville and Bowling Green this morning, said campaign manager Marty Ryall. It will run on cable outlets in other media markets, he said.

Here's an analysis of the ad that will run in Wednesday's Herald-Leader: Fletcher’s main strategy in the primary election is to tout his accomplishments, noting that he was able to remain focused on Kentucky’s future during the grand-jury investigation of his administration’s hiring practices. Establishing that Kentucky has a vibrant economy is fundamental to the campaign’s success.

However, the assertion that Kentucky’s economy is "booming" isn’t supported well by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Job growth has lagged the national average. So has growth in the average worker’s income. And the state’s unemployment rate went from 37th worst to 46th. The number of employed citizens has grown, but at a rate slower than the national average. How much slower depends on which data you believe.

One set of numbers says the number of employed workers grew by 3.4 percent under Fletcher, compared to a national average of 5.5 percent. Another data set says employment has grown by 5 percent in Kentucky, compared to 5.4 percent nationally. Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate has remained relatively steady at a time when the national unemployment rate dropped significantly.

Kentucky’s unemployment rate fell from 5.9 percent when Fletcher took office in December 2003 to 5.7 percent in February. Nationally, the rate dropped from 5.7 percent to 4.5 percent in the same time period. "Ernie Fletcher claims an economy that Kentuckians just don’t see," said Michael Clingaman, campaign manager for Anne Northup, one of two candidates challenging Fletcher in the GOP primary.

Lending credibility to Clingaman’s point is this: only five states had weaker personal income growth from 2005 to 2006. Still, whether voters believe the economy is booming or busting, they would be wise to put the issue out of their minds while in the voting booth, said University of Kentucky economist Kenneth Troske. "The president of the United States has a fairly limited impact on the short-term fluctuations of the U.S. economy," he said. "A governor would have even less of an impact."

Governor Fletcher is pathetic. He touts his accomplishments? The Lexington Herald-Leader proved them non-existent. Kentucky is struggling with unemployment and lower personal wages. Ford is floundering. Our children are endangered. Our college students are exiting. Fletcher’s light has been doused.

Obviously, Fletcher must campaign. You cannot win with “I have failed, I am flawed, I cannot produce recovery.” With that stated, this deception illuminates an irony. Fletcher cannot win. He cannot win with lies. He cannot win with his record. Both can be disproved.

Northup to Alaska: The Rush Is On

From the latest Economist magazine: The Republican who heads the executive is wildly unpopular. His scandal-plagued administration is accused of arrogance and indifference to the public mood. Others in his party are desperate to avoid losses at the polls. This scenario turned out badly for congressional Republicans last November, when an unpopular president cost them control of both chambers. Now Kentucky Republicans face a similar challenge.

The state's governor, Ernie Fletcher, has little public support... [and] Northup's strengths would arguably help her even more in a statewide race than they did in her heavily Democratic Louisville district, where she won five straight congressional elections before last year's defeat. She won those races not by being a centrist or moderate, as Republicans in other heavily Democratic districts have configured themselves, but by combining an air of competence and concern for the district with a conservative message. That combination should work even better in more conservative parts of the state.

Although they do not yet know who the opponent will be, Kentucky's Republicans know enough about their incumbent to be worried. The details of his administration's patronage scandal, as is usual in such cases, are tedious and unseemly. Politically, it is enough to know that Mr Fletcher has pardoned lots of his own people and refused to testify. Whatever the merits of the charges, moreover, the governor has failed in general to endear himself to voters.

Last autumn, as many states prepared to elect new governors, only two—Alaska's Frank Murkowski and Ohio's Bob Taft—were more unpopular than Kentucky's. In Alaska, Republicans had faced up to their problem by replacing Mr Murkowski in the primary. The Republican nominee, Sarah Palin, then won the general election handily. So far in Kentucky, the polls show a close race between Mr Fletcher and Mrs Northup. But a growing number of influential Republicans are in favour of the Alaskan approach.

In 2006, Anne Northup was defeated. This is correct. She combined an air of competence and concern with a conservative message? She combined pork barrel spending and a liberal voting record. Polls show a close race? Last month, Northup gained nothing. Republicans favor the Alaskan approach? Correct. We favor sending Northup there.

Gubernatorial Debate Analyzed

From NKY Politics:

Watch Monday night's KET debate between GOP gubernatorial candidates Ernie Fletcher, Anne Northup and Billy Harper? Who won? Who looked good, or bad? Who scored points? Before I give my thoughts, I want to address a couple of concerns raised by posters.

I asked about the hiring scandal because it will be an issue in the general election even if Fletcher does not win the nomination. The Dems will use it to show that the GOP should not be returned, so it is not going away. Also, this is a primary, different animal than a general. The base voters want to hear Fletcher's response, those that support him want to hear that it was a "political witch hunt" as he put it. That won't work in a general, at least not as well, but it is red meat for his backers.

I also ask the gambling question because in my mind the state is squandering an opportunity to go after a big pot of money. I hear pols in every election talk grandiose plans but with little ways to pay for their proposals. Gambling is a viable business in other states, KY should consider allowing casinos to operate.

Now, to the debate. Fletcher did a decent job handling the questions about the hiring scandal and had a command of the facts. He, of course, painted a rosy picture, but he looked more at ease than usual. Didn't give a lot of concrete proposals, but this primary is about deflecting criticism about the scandal and showing, in his mind, that he performed well while under criminal indictment and political pressure. A lot of people gave him up for dead a year ago, but he is definitely alive.

Northup did not seem as comfortable as Fletcher but she did a good job making her pitch that Fletcher can't be re-elected in the fall without sounding mean-spirited. Again, this is a primary and she clearly wants to instill in the base that if Fletcher wins the nomination the Dems win in the fall. Northup also pointed out that the state's unemployment rate is higher than the national average, which was a good point to counter Fletcher's claims about the strength of the economy during his administration.

Harper is a businessman who wants to run government like a business - a good concept but not always doable. Businesses need to turn a profit, government doesn't. That does not mean sound businesses practices can't be applied to government. But business owners are used to telling employers how to get something done; governors have to build consensus. That said, Harper did a decent job portraying himself as the outsider who can bring new ideas and approaches to state government. He does have some strong ideas about education and he made the point that job creation will be paramount in his administration.

From Bill Bryant’s Politics:

The Republican Debate on KET Monday night provided few surprises. Governor Fletcher tried to tout his accomplishments. Anne Northup tried to predict that Fletcher’s renomination would doom the GOP… She repeatedly said "We need a new standard bearer" and "We need to put this behind us," a reference to the merit hiring investigation. And Billy Harper tried to push his business background and said more than once that he would not run a negative campaign.

In staking their positions… the candidates were also working their strategy. Fletcher is trying to demonstrate that his administration’s accomplishments have been obscured by what he called again "a political witch hunt." Fletcher also pointed out that Attorney General Greg Stumbo is now running on a gubernatorial ticket as the governor predicted.

Northup was out to prove that she could be a tough leader and that as the party’s nominee she stands a better chance of winning. She pointed out that 29 members of the Fletcher administration were indicted and pardoned and that the governor pled the fifth amendment. The governor responded that he asserted his rights because it was in the best interest of the state.

And Harper went the route of saying he won’t run a negative campaign and would refrain from talking about the other candidates. He talked up his business experience. The issue of expanded gambling is likely to be higher stakes this fall now that the Republicans are all clear in their opposition to the idea…. while most Democrats say they’re for it.

Jim Clark Scrutinizes Debate, Criticizes Northup

The debate – not actually, just more campaigning – that took place on KET among the republican gubernatorial hopefuls on 09 April was not an exercise that would "captivate" an audience, certainly, but it served a useful purpose in that it provided the vehicle for allowing a voter to remark the differences in the candidates. Latitude was taken with the facts in some instances by Governor Fletcher and former Congresswoman Anne Northup, but this is always expected. Businessman Billy Harper played it pretty straight. The interrogators were Bill Bartleman of the Paducah Sun and Patrick Crowley of the Kentucky Enquirer.

As expected, there probably are few differences among the three with respect to the issues. None approved of casino gambling and made that plain. All three spoke at length about education but produced little more than clich├ęs about the need to make it better. The issue that should have been discussed was the suggestion made recently by some entity and endorsed strongly by the Lexington Herald-Leader that math and science teachers should be paid more than other teachers, since Kentucky students lag behind those in most other states in these study-areas. None seemed to have an answer to the "testing" problem.

None of the three saw fit to mention that Kentucky lags behind in education after 16 years of being operated under the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, a nightmarish mixture of pork with pedagogy all tied up in the largest tax increase in the state’s history at that time. None even mentioned that legislatures through the years have rescinded much of the act but have done nothing to improve education. None of the candidates had anything new to say regarding the subject, but all agreed that something has to be done. The loaded question came early in the evening when the question was asked as to whether or not the candidates believed any fellow-candidate had misbehaved. This was the cue for Ms. Northup to lash out at the governor in no uncertain terms, citing the particulars of the "merit scandal," noting that blanket pardons had been granted, and lamenting that the facts would never be known since no trials had been or would ever be held.

Governor Fletcher insisted, as he has all along, that the effort by Attorney General Greg Stumbo in that matter was a "witch-hunt," proven by the fact that Stumbo has entered the gubernatorial sweepstakes as the number-two guy on a democrat ticket. Stumbo, of course, long ago stated publicly that he would consider a candidacy if Fletcher became "wildly unpopular." He was probably wise in going the lieutenant governor route to get the top job, since he hasn’t looked all that good in the merit thing himself. Also, he can ride on millionaire Bruce Lunsford’s financial coattails, thus dodging the pesky business of fund-raising.

Northup brought up the usual "blacktop gimmick" used in every race by a wannabe to color the incumbent as a con man bribing voters by building roads in their sections during election times. Using the golden opportunity she handed him, Fletcher listed some of those projects, even emphasizing one in deep-democrat country in the western end of the state. Harper is a contractor, part of whose business is building roads, so he predictably didn’t harp on the subject. In fact, he stayed away from mudslinging, leaving that up to Northup, who made a pretty good effort at it.

Crowley, strangely, seemed to try to make the case for casino gambling, throwing out the suggestion that the revenue it would generate would be worth going that route. The numbers batted around differed by the hundreds of millions. Northup and Harper turned him aside completely, though Fletcher repeated his position that if the legislature enacted a casino amendment-proposition to be put on the ballot, he would not stand in the way, letting the citizens decide. He made it plain he would not be for it.

The most grating thing in the nearly hour-long program was Northup’s constant use of the terms "leadership" and "plan." She used these terms sort of as a mantra, no matter the subject, making it plain that Fletcher had damaged the party and, at least inferentially, could not hope to be elected, and that he is a man without a plan, apparently for most everything. Harper played it cool on the subject, though, if memory serves, Fletcher’s "not-a-chance" was perhaps the primary reason he gave last year for his getting in the race.

Stridency best describes Northup’s performance. The target of her barbs was Fletcher, though she presented no "plans" in the process. Harper was kind of laid back and harped constantly that his being a businessman was the reason he should be elected. Fletcher was upbeat and able to tick off a number of accomplishments during his administration, not the least of which has been turning a sizeable deficit into a sizeable surplus in three years time. He also made it a point to mention how he has helped Louisville, Northup’s home-base.

Cheering From Frankfort

FBI avoiding Kentucky? Governor Fletcher is elated

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Before the FBI led two high-profile investigations into public corruption in Clay County, voters were so disgusted with the county's crooked politics that few went to the polls. Two years later, investigations have led to charges against a former county election commissioner turned drug dealer, a county clerk, the Manchester mayor, an assistant police chief and a 911 director. Residents say the federal investigations have restored some faith in the system. "It gave people courage," said Doug Abner, a local minister.

Many former and current law enforcement agents are worried that a drop in the number of federal agents -- particularly FBI agents -- will mean fewer public corruption investigations such as the ones in Clay County. Former and current law enforcement agents say some FBI offices in Kentucky have been investigating criminal cases with fewer than half the agents they had 18 months ago. Last year, the FBI closed an office in Ashland after it had been open for decades. The bureau is also considering closing its Elizabethtown office, but no decision has been made yet, said an FBI spokesman.

The current number of FBI agents in Kentucky is not known. Nor is the net loss of agents over the past 18 months. The Herald-Leader sent the FBI a public records request in January, asking for a breakdown of the number of agents in Kentucky by office. More than 60 days later, that request is still pending.

A shift in the priorities of the FBI since Sept. 11, 2001, has meant there are fewer agents available to investigate white-collar crime and public corruption across the country, former and current law enforcement officers say. "Everyone in Eastern Kentucky should be concerned about this," said Scott Barker, a former supervisor for the FBI in Eastern Kentucky.

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer investigation has found that 2,400 FBI criminal agents nationwide who were transferred to counterterrorism squads since Sept. 11, 2001, have not been replaced. The FBI has requested money for more agents over the past two years, but those requests have been denied, according to the Post-Intelligencer story printed Wednesday. The six-month newspaper investigation found that the overall number of FBI-driven criminal investigations referred to federal prosecutors dropped from 31,000 cases in 2000 to 20,000 in 2005.

Many in Congress are calling for an increase in the FBI's budget. Sen. Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat, pushed legislation to hire 1,000 more FBI agents and add money to state and local law enforcement budgets, but the measure died. Since the Seattle newspaper's investigation, Biden and others are trying to push the legislation forward in the next Congress. Kentucky federal officials say there has been a drop in the number of agents in Kentucky but say that over the past several months they have hired some agents to fill some of those vacant positions. Tracy Reinhold, FBI special agent in charge of Kentucky, said that over the past year the FBI has expanded its task forces and partnered with more local and state agencies to augment their forces.

Reinhold pointed to the Clay County investigation as an example of a case that used multiple agencies and got results. Reinhold said every tip that comes to the FBI's attention is investigated. U.S. Attorney Amul Thapar, the top federal prosecutor for Eastern Kentucky, said FBI agents and federal prosecutors are doing more with fewer resources. Thapar said the lack of resources is not just a Kentucky problem or a federal issue. "There isn't a federal agency or a state agency that has enough resources," he said.

The task forces have created a closer working relationship between state, local and federal officials, Thapar and Reinhold said. "Kentucky has been one of the best places I've ever worked," Reinhold said, whose career stops include FBI offices in Detroit and Las Vegas.

But many former FBI agents say that task forces have their limitations. A federal officer has to serve on those task forces to get a case into federal court. In some areas of Kentucky, federal resources are spread too thin. There are Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents that are on drug task forces because there isn't a Drug Enforcement agent available, agents say. Jim Huggins, a retired FBI agent and former supervisor, said some of Eastern Kentucky's most well-known public corruption cases have involved state and local police. Those are the types of cases that task forces can't handle, Huggins and other agents say.

David Keller, a former FBI agent whose work led to the arrest of several corrupt Kentucky sheriffs and police officers, said the bureau's decision to close smaller offices such as Ashland could result in fewer tips and investigations. "You can't cover Ashland from Lexington," Keller said. People in rural areas are more likely to report suspicious activity to someone they know -- a local FBI agent -- than call a 1-800 number.

"For some people, calling Louisville is like calling a foreign country," Huggins said.

Agents in Lexington and Louisville are so loaded with work that they can't take on cases in the far eastern portions of the state, former agents say. Both Huggins and Keller and other former agents the Herald-Leader spoke to said they have high regard for their former employer and are not criticizing bureau leadership. The agency has to work within its budget, they say.

"We are in a fight against terror across the globe, and there is only so many resources to go around," Keller said. "We have to address our needs here at home as well," Keller said. "In the past 25 years, I've seen Eastern Kentucky become a much better place to live. If the feds pull back because of funding, we could easily slip back to the early 1980s where we nearly had an open market for marijuana."

Anne the Pointless Pugilist

From Cyber Hillbilly:

The real campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination begins today, with all three Republican candidates up on the air. Anne Northup’s introductory ad casts her in terms likely to resonate with Kentucky Republican voters: a fighter, a successful public servant, and a dedicated family woman. It’s short and to the point.

The bottom line is that Anne Northup is the only Republican candidate who can win in November. With the current Governor embroiled in scandal, at barely over 30% approval ratings, and facing polls that show a full 60% of Republican voters prefer another candidate, it’s time Republicans turn to the candidate best suited to lead them to victory in November and, most importantly, beyond.

Anne is a fighter? She is best suited to lead? She will win? Three words cannot have this impact. (Everyone now, Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win…)

Finger In A Flood

From Louisville Courier-Journal:

As many as 500 temporary employees have been hired at Louisville’s two Ford Motor Co. plants in recent months to replace workers who have accepted buyout offers from the troubled automaker. There were almost no temporary positions at the two plants before the buyout offers were made last fall. Rocky Comito, president of United Auto Workers Local 862, said the temporary workers earn 70 percent of the typical full-time union wage. For an assembly worker, that would mean almost $19 an hour.

Comito said there are more temporary workers at Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road, because more full-time employees from that plant accepted buyouts. He said a smaller number are working at Kentucky Truck Plant on Chamberlain Lane. About 30,000 workers nationally accepted the Ford buyouts and started leaving their jobs in January. Comito said the temporary workers filling vacant jobs pay full union dues and are allowed to vote on union issues, but they don’t receive a pension and other benefits.

Marcey Evans, a Ford spokeswoman, declined to comment on the number of temporary workers in Louisville or for the company as a whole. She said the temporary workers also don’t receive health insurance or accrue seniority, and there are no plans to offer any of them full-time jobs. "Every plant is working on its own transition plan for moving employees out who accepted buyouts and keeping their facilities running efficiently," she said.

Fletcher has instituted Fordfare. Thousands have lost employment. Ford is hiring temps?

Conservative Edge Compliments Harper

Harper campaign coming into it's own

Having watched the Billy Harper for Governor campaign for several months, it is becoming apparent that the campaign is coming into it's own. There were some stumbles in the beginning, but lately he's been to good to ignore. Take for example his message. It's positive, and casts a reason for wanting to be Governor and a vision for the future.

Billy Harper wants to be Governor to better the lives of Kentuckians through improving education and bringing good jobs to the state. Harper contends that he is qualified to do this becasue of his expereince as a succesful businessman. Harper is also ringing the "outsiders" bell. By positioning himself as the "un politician", Harper is going after a percentage of the electorate that is tired of politics as usual.

The only downside to this approach, is that it is a better message for a general election than a primary. Most primary voters are probably not "sick and tired" of the same old thing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Harper's decision not to trash Governor Fletcher is also paying dividends. His debate performance drew praise from several quarters. It's certain that Billy Harper will have to be reckoned with by the two front runners. The question will be how they will do it, while keeping their own message on track.

Billy Harper ascendant?

Sources close to the Billy Harper campaign are telling me that the Harper campaign is feeling good these days. According to the source, Harper's up beat performance in Monday night's debate, coupled with Northup's lackluster performance and tired appearance means there is room for the Harper campaign to take over the second spot in the GOP primary. With 16% in the most recent poll, to Northup's 31%, it would be a tall order for Harper to catch Northup, but momentum may be on Harper's side.

He gained three points in 4 weeks, while Northup remained stagnant. In addition, Northup lost a similar lead to John Yarmuth last fall. If Harper can move in to second place, and Northup's constant attacks on Fletcher bring him below 40%, Harper could wind up in a runoff with the Governor. At that point anything could happen. Which begs the question: Is Harper ascendant?

Harper, Northup’s Echo: Fletcher Can’t Win

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Two Republican candidates for governor questioned Gov. Ernie Fletcher's ability to win a second term on Wednesday, each saying they could fare better against the Democratic nominee in the November election. Former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup and Paducah businessman Billy Harper found little to disagree about during a forum with audience members at a downtown Louisville restaurant. Fletcher had planned to attend the one-hour forum but bowed out to speak at a funeral for an Army soldier killed in Iraq.

Harper said only he can attract Democratic voters in the fall election, while Northup said Fletcher has "no chance" to win and remains saddled by a hiring scandal. "This is a person who ran on a single issue, to change the culture and the climate and the ethical behavior in Frankfort," Northup said. "The question for our party, is whether we want to have a standard-bearer who is going into the general election with these problems."

Fletcher has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats for pardoning his entire administration, except himself, after several officials or supporters were indicted in a state hiring investigation. They were charged with violating state hiring laws by appointing political supporters to protected state jobs. Fletcher himself was charged with three misdemeanors that eventually were dropped in a deal with prosecutors.

Harper has avoided criticizing the governor directly, but indicated that some voters may select Northup in the May 22 primary because they dislike Fletcher. Kentucky is one of three states electing a governor this year. "You have two career politicians and one businessman on the Republican ticket. You have a positive choice for who you can vote," Harper said. "You don't have to vote against somebody, you can vote for somebody."

Fletcher campaign manager Marty Ryall called the hiring scandal "old news," saying voters would be more interested in Fletcher's plan for the future. He disagreed with Northup's contention that she would be a stronger Republican in November. "We had three candidates on the Democrats' side running for governor attack us yesterday, so clearly they don't agree on who they're more worried about facing in the fall," Ryall said.

The Wednesday forum was meant to be the second meeting of the three Republican candidates after a televised debate Monday night. Northup and Harper took issue questions from audience members during the forum. Neither said they want to raise the state's cigarette tax, both want to repeal Kentucky's alternative minimum tax on businesses and both said they don't favor expanded gambling. Northup, however, said the gambling should be left to the General Assembly. Fletcher has also said he personally opposes expanded gambling, but would not stand in the way of a referendum.

On health care, Northup said she would favor expanding private care to more citizens, while Harper said he would encourage preventative efforts like healthier eating in schools. Fletcher spoke Wednesday during a funeral service for Sgt. William Bowling, 24, who was killed in Iraq April 1 by a roadside bomb.

Conservative Edge Excoriates Northup

The Northup/Hoover campaign has put out a press release that basically accuses Governor Fletcher of lying during Monday night's debate. Unfortunately for Northup, the attack is based on faulty reasoning, illogical arguments, incomplete facts and simple minded rhetoric. It continues her arrogant, liberal like "I am smarter than you" campaign that has sickened many in the GOP. Over the next few days, I will take apart the Northup press release argument by argument. Here's the first installment. Northup's release is italicized, my rebuttal is in bold print. In Monday night’s televised KET debate, Ernie Fletcher made the following claims, now you can read the facts… "

And I think it’s important to focus on how we’ve begun to change the culture in Frankfort" Fact: Fletcher has been embroiled in a merit hiring scandal for the last 2 years and was himself indicted on 3 misdemeanor charges. Northup's sole fact does not refute Fletcher’s claims. Had Northup/Hoover bothered to check for more facts, they would have discovered that Fletcher’s change to the Frankfort culture is what triggered the investigation. Frankfort Democrat’s didn’t want Fletcher messing with their jobs. In addition, the merit system is not the only "culture" in Frankfort, that Fletcher has changed.

Under Fletcher's leadership, wasteful spending, indemic over employment and unaccountability are no longer the culture in Frankfort. The fact that Northup/Hoover think that their one, misleading fact, refutes Fletcher’s assertion is troubling. It demonstrates an arrogance, that Kentuckians aren't smart enough to think for themselves. Another very important fact that Northup failed to mention, is that all charges against Governor Fletcher were DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

I'd suggest that the Northup team consult with unbiased former prosecutors to learn what that dismissal means. In short, this attack by Northup gets an F- in thought process, honesty and originality. Next up: "We put in people based on experience and that shared our conservative values. And we said to all of our folks, we want to level the playing field." Fact:

A grand jury comprised of everyday Kentuckians issued a report stating the following: "People less qualified were hired simply because they supported Governor Fletcher financially and politically. Deserving and qualified people did not get jobs simply because they had a different belief system from that of Governor Fletcher and his supporters." Again, Northup’s one fact doesn’t refute the contention made by Fletcher. Is the Northup team unable to understand a complex thought?

Or are they again arrogantly insinuating that Kentuckians are incapable of thinking for themselves? Fletcher hired people "based on experience AND that shared our values". Surely Northup cannot be that dense to not catch the second part; the part that makes the thought, complex. As well, the grand jury foreman and at least three other grand jurors were merit employees. To call them "everyday Kentuckians" without mentioning the fact that they were merit employees is disingenuous.

Those jurors had a vested interest in protecting their turf. In addition, it’s preposterous for Northup to criticize the Governor for wanting to hire people who shared his values, just as the grand jury is ridiculous for raising that criticism. Any chief executive is perfectly within his rights to hire an individual who will carry out his wishes, over a more talented person who will undermine the chief executive. Plus, every person hired by Governor Fletcher was qualified for the position. If they were not qualified they could not have been placed on the hiring roll. The grand jury and Northup insinuate that the people hired, were not qualified. For Northup to imply that the Governor was being deceitful in the debate, while leaving out pertinent facts herself, is hypocritical and dishonest. I have hired numerous people.

I didn't always choose the most qualified. Sometimes the most qualified person is over qualified. Sometimes the most qualified person doesn't really want the position. They are using it as a stepping stone. Even a junior level human resources executive would know something as basic as this. It is almost beyond comprehension that this issue was raised by the Northup team. But, if Northup truly thinks the hiring practices of the Governor were a problem, she should pledge to hire people who do not share her values if elected Governor.

Of course, if she made that pledge, she would be unqualified to be the state's chief executive. We couldn't afford to have a Governor who would hire people that were unwilling to help her achieve her goals. I realize that my criticism of Northup is harsh. Some may even claim that it is unfair. But Northup put out the press release. If she thinks that she will get a free pass, or won't have to have her work scrutinized, she's mistaken. In additon, her press release is equally harsh on Governor Fletcher. If she and her supporters can't take the return fire, they shouldn't be in the game to begin with.

Northup’s Family Contributes

Anne Northup has one hundred and twenty-three relatives attending Western Kentucky?

From a WKU Press Release:

The Student Government Association in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Kentucky held a mock primary for the gubernatorial candidates in preparation for the May Primary.

The Mock Primary familiarized students with the candidates running for all the statewide offices, allowed students to use and be accustomed with the new voting machines, gave opportunities for unregistered students to register, and gave information on the absentee voting system. One hundred and twenty three students participated. The students of Western Kentucky University voted in the following manner:

Republican Winner: Anne M. Northup/Jeff Hoover

Kentucky Pachyderm Chastises Northup, Supporters

We find it oddly telling that there's one question floating around out there in cyberspace that the Anne Northup supporters -- particularly those Benedict Arnolds who supported Ernie Fletcher four years ago -- refuse to answer.

So we'll ask it again. Let's assume, for the sake of this hypothetical, that Northup is elected governor this fall. Let's also assume that Crit Luallen is re-elected auditor (quite likely, we sadly note, given our like for Linda Greenwell).

Let's further assume that Jack Conway is elected attorney general. That's also quite possible. Now, we know that Luallen is a Democrat stalwart who may have designs on the governor's office at some point in the future, especially if her health stabilizes.

Conway is an old political enemy of Northup's, having been one in her trail of victims for the 3rd District congressional seat. He'll have a score to settle, for sure. The probability approaches 100 percent that Luallen, and especially Conway, will launch investigations of Northup in much the same way that Greg Stumbo did of Ernie Fletcher.

So our question to the Northupians is this: When the investigations begin, will you stand behind your governor, or will you bail at the first sign of rough waters like you did with Fletcher?

Better To Remain Silent…

Obviously, Amber Jordan has never voted.

From The News-Enterprise:

This year will be the first time I have been old enough to cast a ballot in a gubernatorial primary. When I began to examine the Republican candidates for governor to determine the recipient of my vote, the choice was crystal clear. Former Congresswoman Anne Northup of Louisville — with her platform of honesty, integrity and openness in government — is by far the best candidate.

Northup has an aggressive agenda for Kentucky. She has taken a strong stand against the alternative minimum tax imposed on small businesses and championed by our current governor. She has a plan to bring jobs to Kentucky and lower the unemployment rate that has risen steadily under the current administration. She has a plan for health care that includes health savings accounts and ways for people to receive care without losing everything they own.

Finally, Anne Northup’s personal story is one that should inspire all. She comes from a large family of 11 children where hard work and sacrifice was the norm. Northup is the mother of six children, including two adopted children, whom she managed to raise while serving the community she loved as an elected official.

Anne Northup understands average Kentuckians and she embodies the deep conservative principles associated with family, faith and compassion for fellow citizens. Anne Northup is indeed a woman of vision and character and we need her more than ever as governor of our state. Fellow Republicans, please join me in voting Anne Northup for governor in the May 22 primary.

Amber Jordan
Elizabethtown

Another Attempted Vote Purchase

From Lexington Herald-Leader:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher authorized $25 million in grant money on Friday, making it available to communities in south-central Kentucky affected by the lower water level at Lake Cumberland. Federal officials have lowered the lake's water level to ease pressure on the leaking Wolf Creek Dam while repairs are made. The funding will help pay for public safety concerns and other issues associated with dam repairs. "This order is about preparedness, not panic," Fletcher said in a press release. "We must make sure Kentuckians in these counties are safe and have reliable, clean drinking water and utility services."

The Wolf Creek Dam in Russell County confines Lake Cumberland, which is the largest manmade lake east of the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has embarked on a seven-year, $309 million repair project to control seeping under the dam. Officials are concerned that a failure at the dam would cause flooding in Kentucky and Tennessee cities along the Cumberland River. Fletcher asked the General Assembly to authorize the $25 million in spending, however the legislature adjourned without passing it.

Under the executive order, communities can apply to the state for financial assistance, according to a press release. Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he appreciated the move by Fletcher. "Gov. Fletcher appropriately recognized the Wolf Creek Dam structural issues as a true natural disaster," Williams said in a statement.

Separately, Fletcher directed the state Transportation Cabinet to look at ways of helping communities in the area get access to Lake Cumberland. Fletcher recently used an executive order to free up about $16.4 million to fund three law enforcement-related agencies - the Kentucky State Police, Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice.

State Treasurer Jonathan Miller's office was reviewing the constitutionality of that move. Kenneth Mansfield, a Miller spokesman, said the treasurer's office would also review Fletcher's latest move with Lake Cumberland. Fletcher's administration maintains it has the power to spend state money not appropriated by the General Assembly in such instances.

Assumed Leadership

Governor Fletcher has not protected our children. His inaction has burdened our schools. Thankfully, they are acting responsibly.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Bulky guest books soon will be a thing of the past at South Oldham High School. Administrators recently purchased a machine that allows visitors to log into a database by simply scanning their driver's license. The machine, called a "School Check In," logs the guest's name, destination, arrival and departure time. A separate machine prints out an ID badge with the visitor's driver's license photo on it.

The "School Check In," which was purchased early last month for about $195, already has produced results, administrators say. "It makes the school seem more secure," principal Barbara Fendley said. "We're more aware of who's in the building."

Before purchasing the machine, the high school had visitors sign into a guest logbook. Then they were issued visitor badges. The problem was that not everyone signed into the book and the badges were inconsistent, Fendley said. Students and parents said the presence of the machine makes them feel a lot better about school safety. "I think it's overall better for the school," said Billy Steinbach, a 17-year-old junior. "It helps us know who's in the building and what time they left. It makes me feel a lot safer."

Vice principal Thomas Aberli said he saw the machine at an educator's conference and thought that it might improve tracking of its visitors. The machine requires a computer with Internet access. Along with scanning driver's licenses, it also runs the name of the visitor through a sexual predator Internet database. Aberli said the school will handle those situations on a case-by-case basis. The school gets about a dozen guests a day, many of whom meet with teachers, attend PTA meetings or volunteer.

At the end of each school day, administrators can print out a sheet showing who has entered the school. Administrators are still using the guest book until they determine if a digital sign-in complies with district policy. Many policies say schools must have a traditional guest book. They also want to make sure the sign-in machine works efficiently.
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