Saturday, May 20, 2006

Primary Colors

Without a doubt, the 2006 Primary was one of the most exciting in recent years. “Runaway” Renay Davis won in her first political outing over Fairdale activist Sharon Woodring by one (that’s right, one) vote for the Republican nomination. She’ll challenge Democrat Vicki Welch for the Metro Council 13 seat this fall. Welch was appointed by the Democratic controlled Metro Council to replace Ron Weston, who won a special election for the 37th State House seat. Stay tuned. Dan Johnson had no trouble in winning the Democratic nomination for Metro Council District 21. Johnson has served as Alderman, and now a Metro Councilman for 14 years. Dan will face Republican Betty Drexler this fall. Dan has been a solid union supporter over the years. Given his popularity, and the fact this is a strong Southend Democratic base, Dan should easily win reelection.

Political newbie Marianne Butler beat out Kevin Triplett for the 15th Metro Council. Marianne, a Democrat, is the daughter of retiring 38th State Representative Denver Butler (you’ll recall I “convinced” Denver to hang it up with my 2004 race against him). With no challenger this fall, Marianne wins the seat by default. Kevin has been serving as the Legislative Aide for the retiring 15th Metro Councilman, George Melton (that will be two of the “good ole boys” gone). But for the folks in the 15th shouldn’t get too excited. Marianne will have a lot of work to do. The district has been long neglected and word on the street is that Marianne isn’t exactly known for being energetic. And by the way, neither candidate was endorsed by the Great Louisville Central Labor Council.

David Nicholson defeated fellow Democrat Russ Salzman in one of the nastiest Primary races. He’ll face Republican Shelly Knopf for Circuit Court Clerk in November. Hopefully Nicholson will have some of mud cleaned off by then. Tony Lindauer got the nod for PVA by beating political novice Aaron Tasman and long time political veteran and former head of the Louisville Democratic Party, Melvin Ratchford. Tony will face off against John May this fall. I’d like to say a little something about Melvin. I’ve known Melvin for some 15 years. I count him as one of my friends in and out of politics. This is a guy completely dedicated to public service. He is about as fair and honest as the day is long. It was truly heartbreaking to see him lose. I wish him all the best for the future.

Now, let’s look at the 3rd District Congressional Race. Democrat John Yarmuth beat out three challengers for a crack at long time incumbent, Republican Anne Northup. The “Sixty Million Question” now becomes, “can he really do it?” No other challenger has been able to seriously threaten Northup for her seat. Not radio personality Mike Ward or loveable former Circuit Court Clerk Tony Miller or even the empty hypester “Young” Jack Conway just to mention the top three (by the way, Conway just announced his engagement to Elizabeth Davenport. Ok, show of hands, who really cares?) And let’s not forget, this seat had long been held by Democrats in what is still a predominately Democratic county in a predominately Democratic state.

Yarmuth knows the issues better than anyone who’s faced Anne before. Possibly even better that Northup herself. He’s articulate. He does well in debates. He looks good on camera. Anne’s previous opponents were poor debaters, and they sometimes struggled with the issues. But John’s “Achilles heel” will be his long history of espousing some fairly liberal views. Let’s remember that while Jefferson County is by far the most “liberal” county in Kentucky, it isn’t a Boston or San Francisco! Like the rest of the state, Louisville is predominately Democrat and conservative, with small pockets of what one could consider liberal leanings, which just so happens to be John’s primary base of support. So, what we have here is a seat previously held for decades by Democrats, in a Congressional District heavily populated by Democrats, and yet the Democrat Party seems unable to find a Democrat that Democrats will vote for! And then there’s that pesky money issue. Anne will have several million in her war chest by the time the election rolls around while Yarmuth isn’t expected to raise more than 2 or 3 million. In terms of just the money, it’s a no contest. John will have to find a way of toning down his liberal views coming more to the center/center-right, especially if he’s to carry the much needed south and southwest parts of the county.

If the Democratic Party was serious about winning back the 3rd Congressional Seat, they're going to have to step outside their comfort zone. The formula to winning is actually pretty simple. Start by looking for a likeable conservative Democrat with good pre-existing name recognition, like someone from print, TV, or radio, and preferably someone with a military background. I suggest also looking outside the gang “usual suspects”. People are tired of recycled politicians. Make sure everyone knows this person is the party’s “chosen one” long prior to the Primary to discourage challengers and conserve money. This also gives the impression of party unity. Make sure they are well versed about and speak often on the issues early on. Start raising money locally, statewide, and nationally in anticipation of finding this individual. Don’t waste time searching and then trying to raise the bucks second. Anne already has a head start as the incumbent. Finally, start this process well in advance of the next election (I said the formula was simple, not easy). Of course, there is another side to this to consider. Maybe the Democrats keep electing Republican Northup because they actually like the job she’s doing.

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