Monday, May 21, 2007

KY Progress: A Generation With Harper

A Washington D.C. pollster called my home via robo-dial Friday night. But guess what? I wasn't there so I missed the call. Like more and more people, the best way to reach me is on my cell phone.

Meanwhile, fewer people are tuning in to broadcast television every day. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the internet playing a greater role in this gubernatorial election. And between Ernie Fletcher, Anne Northup, and Billy Harper, only Harper has really used new technology to his advantage. In a 10-15% turnout election, the opportunity for this to create a surprising result can't be ignored.

Kentucky Post: Fletcher Can’t Win

Gov. Ernie Fletcher will survive a political scandal to win Tuesday's Republican gubernatorial primary election, but will be soundly defeated in November's general election by Democrat Steve Beshear, figures Northern Kentucky University political science professor Michael Baranowski.

Beshear, because of a crowded six-person Democratic primary field, won't get the necessary 40 percent of primary votes Tuesday to be the party's candidate, and will be forced into a runoff election against Bruce Lunsford, Baranowski forecasts. Beshear will win the June 26 runoff, Baranowski said, and then have an easy time of it in November against Fletcher. "Fletcher is going to get slaughtered," he said.

No matter what the outcome happens to be, it's a fascinating election year in Kentucky, said Baranowski, with a good old-fashioned scandal prompting two Republicans to challenge a sitting GOP governor and a half-dozen Democrats anxious to oust a politically wounded incumbent. "Kentucky politics is a full employment act for political reporters and political scientists," said Baranowski. "There's nothing like Kentucky politics, especially this year."

Fletcher, stung by a patronage scandal, is being challenged by fellow Republicans Anne Northup of Louisville, who formerly served in Congress and the state legislature, and by Paducah businessman Billy Harper. "I think the fact that Fletcher is facing such a strong challenge in the first place is an indication of general dissatisfaction in the Republican Party," said Baranowski. "That is something that has been said by the media, but also most clearly by (Republican U.S.) Sen. Jim Bunning and, to a lesser extent, by (Republican U.S.) Sen. Mitch McConnell."

As for how voters will react to the scandal Tuesday, Baranowski figures that depends in large part on where they live. "In Northern Kentucky, Fletcher is going to rack up some pretty good margins," he said. "There's a sense that Fletcher has been very good for Northern Kentucky."

Baranowski expects Fletcher to be weakest in Northup's hometown of Louisville. But, he doesn't see Northup pushing Fletcher aside. "I expect Fletcher to win, and I don't think a runoff will be necessary on the Republican side," he said. "I think Northup ran sort of a disappointing campaign.

"She ran a very anti-Fletcher campaign, and I think that's how most people identify her. She framed herself as the alternative and that's not a very strong platform. Some negative campaigning can certainly work, but if a campaign is fundamentally negative, voters ask why they should vote 'for' that candidate."

Northup isn't helped by the presence of another alternative candidate - Harper - - in the race, Baranowski said. "Harper is going to pull more votes away from Northup than from Fletcher," he said. "I think Harper is going to hurt Northup."

While Fletcher has been tainted by the patronage scandal, he's been able to partially offset it, at least in his own party, said Baranowski. "Fletcher has a natural advantage in that it's good to be the governor, especially in Kentucky," he said. "The governor is a powerful guy. He is the person handing out the big checks."

While Fletcher's incumbency may be enough to help him survive in his party's primary, it won't be enough to offset the scandal in the November general election, when Democratic voters will eagerly capitalize on it, figures Baranowski.

But, he doesn't expect a clear-cut Democratic candidate in Tuesday's primary. "Beshear is the leading candidate, but I don't think he's anywhere close to getting 40 percent. If there were only two or three candidates, I could see him getting over 40 percent, but not in a six-person field. My guess is that Beshear's runoff opponent will be Lunsford. His polling numbers have held up pretty well for a while."

Beshear, a former lieutenant governor, should beat Lunsford in a runoff because of Beshear's positive image in Democratic circles and because of Lunsford's support of Fletcher in the 2003 election, said Baranowski.

Conservative Edge Praises Kentucky Bloggers

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”- Theodore Roosevelt

As the dust settles on the first truly divided Republican primary for Governor in quite some time, we have time to reflect on the burgeoning new conservative media. From the conservative writers who strongly supported former Congresswoman Anne Northup to others like myself who strongly supported Governor Fletcher, to the Harper supporters and even the agnostics, an interesting questions arises. Did we count or were we merely critics? An argument could be made that we were merely critics in this great political spectacle. None of Kentucky’s conservative writers actually ran for office. All of us were on the sidelines, so to speak.

But I think the stronger argument is that we were in the arena. All three sides fought for their candidate. All who took positions have come through marred by dust and sweat and blood. All strove valiantly, and all erred and came up short from time to time. But each spent him or herself in a worthy cause. And tomorrow, some will have failed daring greatness. But our place will not be with those cold timid souls, who never knew victory nor defeat.

I want to commend each of the conservative writers who fought for their worthy cause. I have the utmost respect for those who stand up to be counted. My prayer is that you will continue to fight the good fight, and to never give up. We were worthy of the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt.

OSI Speaks Analyzes Through History

The Republican gubernatorial election has resembling less and less like a "slugfest" or family "squabble" and more and more like a disintegrating political "blitzkrieg". Blitzkrieg, the German war tactic, was used to carpet bomb London during world war 11. The "lightning war" or "flash war" (which is what the word "blitzkrieg" means) attacks by the German Luftwaffe killed over 43,000 civilians and more than a million houses were destroyed or damaged in a span of a couple of months.

In this the Republican primary "blitzkrieg", the opposing political camps have let loose their Luftwaffe, prompting one of them, Billy Harper, to take to the air waves to poke fun at the "squabbling candidates." The end result, I suspect, will be the loss of political lives and fortunes (maybe not homes or property damage as in world war 11), but the aftermath will leave similar results.

Whether the political "blitzkrieg" is warranted or not -- I believe both camps will say it is -- is beside the point, for the Republicans will need the services of Dr. Lee, of the O. J. Simpson trial fame, for a political post postmortem.

Yes, I know. There'll be talk of an anticipated reconciliation come Wednesday, but I suspect any illusions of a Republican Unity Rally on Saturday may prompt a response like thus: Forget about it already! This one will hurt for a while.

Bill Bryant Discusses Voter Participation

The gubernatorial campaigns are trying to get a handle on how much and who will turn out Tuesday. It isn’t easy to figure… but it can make all the difference. On the Republican side…. Governor Fletcher’s forces are hoping for better than expected turnout in Southeastern Kentucky … in the so-called old 5th Congressional district. It’s an area where several top administration officials are from. And it’s an area where former candidate and Fletcher supporter Larry Forgy still has influence. As you move slightly west, you come to Anne Northup’s running mate’s home area. Jeff Hoover is playing to home card in the Somerset, Albany, Russell Springs area.

Obviously, Northup hopes for a strong GOP turnout in her home area of Louisville. She’s represented the area in Frankfort or Washington for twenty years and expects to do well in the state’s largest city.

Neither campaign knows what to make of Northern Kentucky. The region is rich with Republicans… but turnout there is often very weak. Secretary of State Trey Grayson says many in the area haven’t seen the TV ads that have run in the race. Many in Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties get their primary TV from Cincinnati which is out of reach financially for most of the campaigns.

Billy Harper is trying to get to as many places as possible to potray himself as the “conservative businessman” while the politicians squabble. Harper is hoping that some turned off voters will, in the end, choose him as alternative.

On the Democratic side… It’s an aggressive ground and on-air war right now. Percieved frontrunner Steve Beshear is criss-crossing the state and trying to make decisions about “going for broke” with money in the primary or holding back some resources for a potential runoff election. As if to underscore that, Beshear spent some time in his Frankfort offices doing business (translation: fundraising?) on Monday and was visiting lunch crowds and making some other stops.

Bruce Lunsford’s mixing backslapping with an aggressive air schedule. Volunteers and paid staffers have been walking neighborhoods dropping off copies of his “blueprint for change.” Running mate Greg Stumbo is in his native Eastern Kentucky, making calls and personal visits.

Steve Henry, who’s always a strong closer in elections is on the move with several stops. Henry hopes to get particular strength out of Jefferson County which is his current home and Daviess County where he grew up. His wife, Heather, is from the Maysville area and his running mate is an elected official in Fayette County.

Jody Richards hopes for a stronger than expected turnout and a strong showing in Western Kentucky. He has represented Bowling Green in Frankfort since 1976 and is appealing to others that no governor has come from the region since Julian Carroll in the 70s. His running mate, John Y. Brown III worked Eastern Kentucky over the weekend. Gatewood Galbraith is making calls and contacting supporters… as is Otis “Bullman” Hensley.

Alessi Fixes Primary… the 2011 Primary

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

At times this spring, the primary races for governor have seemed less like exercises in democracy and more like a science experiment. It took an unusually long time to find all the ingredients to get it started. Once all the candidates were in the race, it fizzed and bubbled over. And at times, it seemed to smell funny.

On Tuesday, Kentucky will know the results of that experiment -- whether Republicans decide to give Gov. Ernie Fletcher a shot at a second term and whether the Democrats will have a nominee or have to pick between the top two finishers in a runoff.

As with any good scientific trial, Kentucky is likely to get more out of this spring's primary campaigns than just the candidates who will face off in the fall's general election. State officials have learned some broader lessons about the election system and changes that need to be made. Here's a rundown of the "to-do" list before the next governor's race in 2011:

• Eliminate the runoff. Lawmakers in both chambers and of both parties all agreed that the provision wasn't supposed to be left in the law.

Many legislators erroneously thought they had tossed out the runoff -- which kicks in if no candidate in a primary gets at least 40 percent of the vote -- when they eliminated many of the election reforms of 1992 that created public financing of the governor's race.

And by the time many realized it still existed at the start of the 2007 session, they argued about whether it was fair to this year's candidates to get rid of it. So, in the end, it remained. But most legislators say they'll kill the runoff next year.

• Increase campaign fund disclosure.

Because of another oversight in the way lawmakers undid the 1992 public financing of elections, candidates had to report what they'd raised and spent only twice in 2007 before the election: April 20 and May 7.

Six of the 10 candidates for governor (Democrat Jonathan Miller, who dropped out, remains on the ballot) didn't enter the race until after Jan. 1. That means the first time voters got a glimpse of their fund-raising levels and supporters was the month before the election. State Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican who chairs the chamber's state government committee, has said he favors more frequent disclosure.

Thayer, Secretary of State Trey Grayson and House state government committee chairman Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, also have called for mandatory electronic filing of those reports to the Registry of Election Finance. That would allow for the public to have almost instant access to the candidates' reports. This time, however, four Democratic candidates for governor, who collected several million dollars from donors, did not file electronically.

• Set guidelines for incumbents to reimburse taxpayers for political trips.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher -- Kentucky's first incumbent who has faced a strong re-election challenge -- attended political fund-raisers and events while on official trips funded by tax money. After the Herald-Leader reported that, Fletcher's campaign agreed to voluntarily repay some of the costs. Several lawmakers, including Cherry, said the legislature should look at requiring incumbents to do so.

• Address whether potential candidates can explore running for governor.

Democrat Steve Henry, for instance, started talking about running for governor last summer. But he wasn't able to pick a running mate in order to officially file to run for governor and start collecting and spending donations until January.

Now, he's under investigation for using an off-the-books federal account last year to lay the groundwork for a run for governor, which isn't allowed by current law. Grayson noted that a task force studying election reforms in 2005 recommended allowing prospective candidates to raise and spend money to test a possible run. "Maybe we should have exploratory committees," he said, adding that candidates could jump in the race sooner and would have more time to campaign.

• Debate disclosure of other funds benefiting an incumbent, such as a legal defense account.

Fletcher and his supporters set up a fund in January in which donors could give unlimited amounts of money to help the governor pay his legal bills related to the investigation into the administration's hiring policies. A grand jury indicted Fletcher as part of that inquiry.

Donors to the legal defense fund won't be revealed to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission until next year. Government watchdogs and Fletcher's critics have questioned whether donors to that fund, which was revealed in February by newspapers, have received special treatment, such as snaring contracts or tax breaks. "If there are people contributing, then everyone ought to be able to see it," Billy Harper, one of two GOP challengers to Fletcher, said during a debate.

"We need to be totally open for the public," he said.

Dying For Attention

Obviously, addicts warrant treatment. However, this is disturbing. Methadone overdoses accounting for forty-one percent? The aforesaid must be reversed. Kentucky could assume the forefront. We could pioneer new therapies. However, we have Governor Fletcher. These facts scream investigation. Minamally, they crave sympathy. However, Ernie Fletcher notices only votes.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Methadone is the top cause of deadly overdoses reviewed by the state, prompting health officials to warn of the drug's dangers and to encourage medical workers to look out for abuse symptoms, according to information released Monday by the Office of Drug Control Policy.

The prescription drug was detected in 41 percent of the 484 overdose deaths in Kentucky in 2006, the latest statistics available, according to a written statement from the drug police office. The statistics are cited in the state medical examiner's annual report, which noted 197 deaths attributed to methadone in cases autopsied by the state medical examiner's office. Methadone overdose deaths are increasing. In 2005, the drug was detected in 39 percent of overdose deaths reviewed by the state medical examiner’s office. The total number of cases – 484 – was the same as in 2006.

"Prescription drug overdoses in general, and methadone overdoses in particular, claim a large number of lives each year in the commonwealth. These tragic deaths of Kentuckians are unnecessary and preventable," Dr. Tracey Corey, the chief medical examiner, said in the written news release. "Regional and local medical societies and health departments may help reduce this tragic loss of life by making patients and physicians aware of the possibility of accidental fatal overdose associated with the use of prescription narcotics, especially when used in concert with other prescription drugs."

The deaths are occurring even though the number of methadone prescriptions or typical doses did not greatly change from 2003 to 2006. Nationally, methadone-related deaths climbed from about 780 in 1999 to more than 3,800 in 2004, according to a national study cited by Kentucky authorities.

Drug policy office executive director Laurie Dudgeon warned about the misuse of methadone and urged emergency workers and hospital workers to educate themselves on the symptoms and effects of methadone misuse. The office plans to hold seminars to educate the public and health-care workers. "The seriousness of methadone overdose and its possible consequences cannot be overemphasized," Dudgeon said in the written statement.

Methadone is used to treat pain and addiction to narcotics or opiates.
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