Saturday, November 11, 2006

Election Analysis

Well, the November elections are over…finally. That means no more annoying recorded phone calls, junk mail, or spite filled TV commercials, at least for awhile. First, congratulations to all the winners. Good work…now go do your jobs! And for Pete’s sakes, please try to avoid all that partisan bickering nonsense. You’re not school children. You’re there to represent the people…all of them, not just Democrats or Republicans, and certainly not just the ones you like. For those that didn’t win, take a hard look at your race. Evaluate what went well, and what didn’t go so well. Then start planning your next race accordingly. In this issue, we take a look back at some of the various races, and try to guess where we go from here.

In the 3rd US House District, we witnessed history. We saw the GOP try to frame challenger John Yarmuth as “too liberal” for Louisville. We saw repeated attempts to hang him with words he wrote years, sometimes decades ago, as editor of LEO Magazine. We saw a worried incumbent go on the attack with negative campaigns. A sure sign of trouble. I predicted a close race, with incumbent Anne Northup (R) winning with 51% in her usual fashion. I was wrong.

It turns out Yarmuth won by the 51%, in what some media pundits were billing as an “all nighter”. In fact, the race was over rather early. Many things contributed to Anne’s loss; including her lock step voting record with the GOP (oddly, she tried to distance herself from her own record by claiming she was actually “independent”). Her commercials of just two years ago advertising her “close” working relationship with “Dubya” also helped to seal her political doom. With Bush’s numbers in the tank, any tie to him was like a bull’s eye. In fact, Bush can be credited with giving the Democrats control of both the House and Senate. Every Democrat should send Bush, Rumsfeld, Chaney, Abramoff, and Rove a “thank you” card for their early Christmas presents. We shouldn’t forget other factors of course such as immigration, the wars, or the environment. Finally, it seems that Yarmuth wasn’t too liberal for Louisville after all. Perhaps Anne was too conservative, and out of touch with her constituents.

38th State Senator Dan Seum won over newbie and former priest, Robert Valenza by 57.2% of the vote. Given Dan’s challenger was an unknown, under funded, and a political rookie, it’s interesting he was still able to garner 16,603 votes.

Republican Elizabeth Tori beat Dave Goodman in 10th State Senate District, as did David Williams (R) in his race to keep his seat in the 16th State Senate District. Williams defeated Shelton 70% to 30%.

The 38th House seat was no big surprise. Former Jefferson County Democrat Chairman Tim Firkins beat Dana Seum Stephenson with 56% of the vote. The 38th is approximately 2 1/2:1 Democrat. Dana received only 4626 votes to Tim’s 5844 votes. It’s of interest to note that when I ran two years ago, I lost with as many votes as Tim won by. In fact, voter turnout for the 38th was rather low, which tells me the voters weren’t thrilled with their choices this go around (maybe I should have run again ). Once strategic mistake Tim made was linking himself to outgoing 38th Representative, Denver Butler. Some of you may recall that we exposed Denver’s poor district voting record, and apparently the voters still remembered. Whenever you link yourself with a politician, you may pick up some of their friends, but usually all their enemies.

In the 37th House, newly elected Ron Weston went unopposed in his first outing. Weston won a special election earlier in the year to fill Perry Clark’s term while Perry ran for the 38th State Senate seat, declared vacant after Dana Seum Stephenson was disqualified. Why the local GOP leadership would allow a seat like this to go unchallenged is beyond me. Weston will never be as vulnerable again as he was this past Election Day. A lucky break for the Democrats, and another blunder for the local Republican leadership. Speaking of Weston, who some people are jokingly referring to as the “four year wonder boy” because of his recent affiliation with the Democratic Party just prior to running for Metro Council and remarkable rise in local politics is being rumored as a possible candidate for 38th State Senate when Dan Seum retires. Allegedly Weston is being groomed for the seat since no candidate has yet to appear on the Republican horizon and because of the anticipated redistricting expected in 2010.

Charlie Miller (D) gave a baptismal of fire to minister and political newbie John Brewer in his bid for the 28th House in Southwest Louisville. No surprise there. Miller captured 64% of the vote to Brewer’s 36%.

Other House races went pretty much as expected. Tom Burch (D-30) handily beat David Newmann, while Tom Riner (D-41) defeated Corley Everett with 78% of the vote. Larry Belcher (D-49) beat Mary Harper with 53%. Mike Czerwonka lost his third race for the 43rd House seat to Darryl Owens 72% to 28%. Republican Bob DeWeese kept his seat in the 48th District by defeating Amy Shir with 57%. Lastly, Brad Montell (R-58) won over Bill Young with 55%.

There were no real surprises in the Louisville’s mayoral race. “King” Jerry Abramson (D) trounced his former friend 67% to Kelly Downard’s 31%. Only two things struck me as a little unusual. First was how quickly the race for mayor was over. Virtually no contest. Secondly, I thought Independent Ed Springston would break the 5% mark. Instead, Ed received 1% of the vote. I guess the voters aren’t quite ready to pitch in yet and help break up deadlock partisan politics they so often complain about. Wouldn’t the Founding Fathers be amazed since most were opposed to political parties to begin with?

The PVA race was a shocker. Governor Fletcher appointee, John May, lost to Tony Lindauer (D). May, who came into the office and proceeded to “clean house” lost with only 45% of the vote. In case no one has noticed, just about everything Fletcher has touched has crumbled. I hope those on the GOP side do whatever they can to convince Fletcher not to run again in ’08 in order to have any chance whatsoever of keeping the governorship. There was one bright spot on the Republican side though. Bobbie Holsclaw retained her seat as County Clerk.

The Metro Council races proved to be rather interesting. In Metro Council District 13, Vicki Welch (D) overcame a strong challenge from Renay Davis in what some consider a “dirty” race. Welch claims her victory was the result of bipartisan support, while Davis points to the wave of disasters affecting most of the Republican races as having the most impact. Welch has promised to represent the entire district, which was something her predecessor failed to do.

Republican Glen Stuckel kept his seat in District 17, defeating Bill Cohen. Dan Johnson (D) easily took out Betty Drexler in District 21. In District 25, Doug Hawkins (R), the Courier Journal’s whipping boy, barely beat politically rookie, Erin Ryan with 53%. Hawkins should have easily mopped up Ryan. Maybe Doug didn’t take Erin quite as serious as he should have. No doubt he won’t make that same mistake next time, and because the race wasn’t decisive, I look for Ryan to be back in four years.

Lastly, a little history was made with Judge William McAulty become the first black Kentuckian to win a seat on the Kentucky Supreme Court. McAulty defeated Ann O’Malley Shake.

Predictions of 2008 and Some Friendly Suggestions

As things now stand, look for the Democrats to take the White House in 2008. Democrats are already lining up for a run; including Kerry, Edwards, Obama, and Hillary Clinton just to name a few. On the Republican side, only John McCain looks to have a realistic shot.

This election wasn’t just a shot in the arm for the beleaguered Democrats. It was a shot of B-12 for Moderate and Centre Right Republicans too. The election was a rejection of the ultra conservatives’ agenda. The Religious Right, which has long dominated the GOP, has also started questioning their relationship with the Republican Party, which is interesting since the Moderates and Centre Right has been asking the same questions!

This election was a disaster for the Republicans, especially here in Jefferson County. The Republican Part continues to lose election cycle after election cycle due to bad campaign planning. While many factors can and should be included, the responsibility ultimately lies at the top. For the Democrats, it was a decisive victory that depended more on the mood of the country than on organized planning. The trick will be to do it again in two years.

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