Friday, April 27, 2007
Northup’s actions were juvenile, repugnant, and thuggish. She could have ignored the non-supporter. Instead, she threatened him. She treated him as a don would a target. The aforesaid illustrates that Northup is the wrong selection. Anne Northup is a career politician, a lousy campaign, and a reprehensible human being.
From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
An offhand comment by Anne Northup has caused a political squall within the Republican hierarchy, fueling speculation about just how neutral two of the Kentucky GOP's most prominent officials really are in this primary race for governor.
The names of state Senate President David Williams and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell -- both of whom have insisted they are not endorsing in the Republican primary for governor -- neverthelesshave been dragged into the strange saga that started Tuesday in Manchester while Northup was campaigning there.
Northup, that afternoon, spotted on the street state Sen. Robert Stivers, who is backing Gov. Ernie Fletcher's re-election bid instead of her candidacy. When she approached Stivers, Northup said she had heard some Republicans were considering challenging Stivers' re-election in 2008. "It was just a little joking matter, which Anne probably shouldn't have done," said Republican state Rep. Tim Couch of Hyden, who was escorting Northup around Clay and Leslie counties. "I wouldn't have done it. But it was a joke."
Once word reached Stivers' Senate colleagues, including Williams, it raised concerns about whether Northup was recruiting challengers to officials who weren't supporting her in this primary. Stivers didn't return calls for comment. Northup's campaign manager Michael Clingaman said the exchange was "lighthearted" and that Northup and Stivers had since talked. "He has assured her there's no ill will," said Clingaman, who declined to discuss the matter further.
But the remark, however, touched off a chain of calls through the GOP's ranks, culminating with a teleconference Wednesday among Republican state senators. On that call, Stivers described the encounter with Northup. And Williams, the Senate president from Burkesville, explained that he called McConnell's state office director, Larry Cox, in Louisville to ask him to tell Northup "not to threaten" senators, said Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, who was on the call. "In my personal opinion, that connects Anne Northup to Mitch McConnell," said Buford. "If you call Larry Cox to get to Anne Northup, that tells you where Mitch is. I believe 100 percent that McConnell got her into this (the race) and now he can't figure out how to get her out."
Cox did not return a call for comment. And Williams declined to discuss their conversation. But McConnell's chief of staff in Washington adamantly denied that the state's senior senator and Republican leader in the U.S. Senate is in any way involved in the governor's race. "People from every camp have tried to drag Sen. McConnell into this primary," said Billy Piper, McConnell's top aide. "Any insinuation that he's anything but neutral is 100 percent baseless. We're going to help whoever the nominee is in the fall."
Piper noted that McConnell organized Kentucky's GOP congressional delegation to host a unity rally at party headquarters in Frankfort the Saturday after the May 22 election. Cox did call Northup about the incident with Stivers, said Couch. But Northup's campaign declined to comment on that conversation.
Who's supporting whom?
In addition to the Manchester incident, the Republican senators' conference call also touched on general trends in the GOP primary race, which features Fletcher, Northup and Paducah businessman Billy Harper.
For instance, the senators discussed results of a poll, taken this week by the Tarrance Group for Fletcher's campaign, showing the governor leading, Buford said. Marty Ryall, Fletcher's campaign manager, confirmed a poll was taken Monday and Tuesday. A summary was dispatched in an e-mail to 25 key supporters, he said. Even though Williams convened the conference call and directed the conversation toward the primary, he stopped short of revealing whether he is supporting Fletcher, said Buford.
"I think that he had already decided that Fletcher was it," Buford added.
Williams' spokeswoman at the Senate, Lourdes Baez-Schrader, said she wasn't on the conference call because it was political, but added that "no one endorsed anyone."
Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, said he sensed from conversations with Williams toward the end of this spring's legislative session that Williams had picked a side --at least privately. But Jensen, who has endorsed Fletcher, said he would not reveal details of those talks. Williams has introduced Fletcher with positive remarks at recent public events in his southern Kentucky Senate district. "Sen. Williams has been quietly helpful and supportive," said Ryall, Fletcher's manager. "We consider him a friend, but publicly he's neutral."
Couch, the state representative and Northup supporter, said he received a phone call from Williams this week that he described as an attempt to "strong-arm" him and determine whether he was helping to recruit a challenger to Stivers. Couch denied talking with any prospective challengers, and he expressed "disappointment" that Stivers allowed Northup's comment to mushroom into a political soap opera. "It's very unfortunate that these guys are doing it," he said of Stivers and Williams.
Couch also said Williams has "flip-flopped" and is outwardly supporting Fletcher. "I guess he's jumped on the bandwagon," Couch said. "He and Fletcher are two peas in a pod. One's just taller than the other."
On his kypolitics.org site, former Fletcher spokesman Brett Hall is reporting a confrontation between Anne Northup and State Sen. Robert Stivers that took place earlier this week in Stivers' hometown of Manchester. (The Lexington Herald-Leader has a slightly different take penned by Ryan Alessi in Friday's edition.) Hall says that Northup threatened Stivers, a strong Ernie Fletcher supporter, with a recruited primary opponent.
He further reports that Stivers called Senate President David Williams, who in turn called a Mitch McConnell operative who's a strong Northup supporter, and that conversation was followed in short order by a mea culpa call from Northup to Stivers. If this really happened, and we have no reason to believe that it didn't go down as Hall described it, Northup may have just shot herself in the foot in a staunchly Republican area of the state. Stivers represents the counties of Knox, Clay, Owsley, Lee, Wolfe, Morgan and Magoffin.
The first four are part of the so-called "old 5th" that is the most heavily GOP region of Kentucky. Wolfe remains a Democrat stronghold, but Republicans are on the rise in Morgan and Magoffin. Incidentally, Ernie Fletcher's father spent his childhood in Magoffin County and the governor still has plenty of relatives there. Stivers is very highly thought of in his district and it would be very hard to recruit a challenger who could beat him. Stivers is active in community affairs in most all of his counties.
Northup is picking on the wrong person if she's trying to pick a fight with him. Fundraising numbers posted on Hall's site also show that this is Fletcher country. Northup has received contributions from only two of the counties in Stivers' district, $3,750 in Knox and $350 in Morgan. We have it on good authority that when Fletcher recently attended a public event in one of the smaller counties in Stivers' district, one in which no corresponding fund-raiser was planned, he went home with a similar amount for his campaign.
Fletcher is very popular in this region and many loyal Republicans view Northup with disdain and outright dislike for challenging the incumbent instead of throwing her full support behind him. This is the second really dumb thing Northup has done in the last month or so. Remember this report in which Northup explained her no-show at the Kentucky Press Association's candidate forum by saying she didn't want share the stage with the Democrat candidates and have to listen to what they had to say?
That wasn't exactly the brightest thing to say in a state where Democratic registration still outpaces GOP registration. Now she threatens to "primary" a very popular state senator who happens to support the incumbent governor? Not real bright. Of course it'll be hard for Northup to recruit an opponent for Stivers from her position as an ex-Member of Congress and failed gubernatorial candidate, which is what she'll be after May 22. And it's highly possible her threat to Stivers will be a key reason why she'll lose next month.
Stivers, an attorney and one of 15 state senators backing Governor Ernie Fletcher in the GOP primary, stopped to say hello. That was when things got ugly.
Northup reportedly told the veteran legislator and senate judiciary chair that she was going to contact people in his district to recruit a primary opponent to run against him in 2008, among other things.
None too happy about that news, Stivers contacted his good friend, Senate President David Williams to fill him in on Northup's threat to primary him.
Williams then called Larry Cox, who heads up U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell's state operations, informing him of his displeasure. Basically, it went something like this, "Tell your candidate, Mrs. Northup to kindly stop threatening members of my caucus."
Moments later, Northup was on the phone with Stivers offering a profuse apology for her remarks.
Wednesday afternoon, GOP state senators convened on a conference call to discuss the incident. The Senate President asked them to inform them immediately of any similar incident.
Governor Fletcher's former press secretary Brett Hall, claims on his blog that Anne Northup threatened to recruit an opponent for Sen. Robert Stivers because of Stivers' support for Fletcher. Keep in mind that Hall is still a big Fletcher supporter and his wife works for state government, but I'll pass this tidbit on because it's interesting. Here's Hall's website
From OSI Speaks:
Did Northup make a "veiled political threat" against Sen. Robert Stivers, regarding a possible opponent for him, or was her comment a "joke taken out of context"? Read the H-L piece, judge for yourself and please share your thoughts.
From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s campaign reversed course and now will voluntarily reimburse the state coffers for a portion of travel costs when the governor attends political events, such as fund-raisers, while on a trip for official business. The campaign issued a statement today saying that it’s working on creating on a "pro-rated reimbursement rate" based on the number of political stops on a trip compared to the number of official events, such as check presentations, ribbon cuttings and announcements. "This is new ground for Kentucky politics as it is the first time an incumbent governor has campaign extensively while in office," said campaign manager Marty Ryall.
The decision comes after the Herald-Leader reported that 11 of Fletcher’s 16 campaign fund-raising events since March 1 occurred in or near a Kentucky city in which the governor made a public appearance that same day. The cost of flying the state airplane to eight of those cities was $7,819.50, according to the Herald-Leader’s analysis. And initially, the campaign said it had no plans to reimburse any of that because state law — unlike other states and the federal guidelines for the U.S. president — doesn’t require it. "We’re following the law as it’s written in Kentucky," Ryall said at that time.
Ryall said today the campaign has reconsidered and is working with the governor’s office to calculate how much the campaign would owe dating back to Jan. 1. The forumla takes into account the number of political and official stops per trip. For instance, if the governor attended one campaign function and two meetings on state business, the campaign would cover one-third of the travel costs.
The campaign’s statement also points out that federal laws for members of Congress don’t require a U.S. representative’s re-election campaign to reimburse travel costs from Washington to the legislator’s home state as long as the trip includes at least one official event.
One of Fletcher’s rival in the Republican primary for governor is Anne Northup, a former congresswoman from Louisville, whose campaign for governor criticized Fletcher for not reimbursing the state. "That begs the question of how much she has reimbursed the federal government for travel to and from Louisville during her congressional campaigns," Ryall said.
Northup lost her bid for a sixth term last fall. The Northup campaign dispatched a statement dismissing that question, saying Fletcher "in typical fashion is making an excuse and playing the victim."
The statement did not include any data as to Northup's travel from Congress. "Ernie Fletcher campaigned on going to Frankfort to clean up the waste, fraud and abuse yet this is a perfect instance of how he has wasted taxpayer dollars and found every way possible to abuse the system for his own political gain," the statement from Northup's campaign manager, Michael Clingaman said.