I bet ya'll didn't know there was an Old Kentucky woodshed just behind the Old Kentucky Home. Well, if you had any doubts, just ask Kentucky Senate President David Williams (R). Williams and all but one of the Republican ticket each took a turn for an old fashion Southern "butt whuppin'" Tuesday night.
Williams, who was running to unseat the incumbent, but largely mediocre current governor Steve Beshear, lost handily 56% to 35% with perennial independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith bringing up the rear with an impressive 9%. Williams, known for his combative and often arrogant style, trailed throughout the campaign. Many conservatives throughout the state were largely disappointed when Williams defeated Phil Moffett in the GOP Primary. Most felt that given his prickly personality, Williams was the worse possible candidate for the statewide run.
Historically, Kentucky's Republican Party has rarely won the Governor's Mansion. The last successful candidate was Ernie Fletcher (2003-2007), who left office under a cloud of incompetence (deservedly or not, is a matter for frequent debates). Prior to Fletcher, it had been 30 years since there had been a Republican Governor, and that was the popular Louie Nunn. Absent from much of the race was any mentioned of Beshear's running mate, former Mayor-for-life, Jerry Abramson. Rumors circulated among conservative Democrats and Republicans alike that the reason for the nearly invisible Abramson was to downplay his scandal ridden latter terms and poor showing among several unions, community groups, and conservatives. William's running mate and former basketball superstar, Rich Farmer, made a few appearances on TV, but because of a pending divorce (announced shortly after the campaign began), kept it low key. A poor decision in my opinion given the popularity of Farmer in a state crazy about college basketball and its players.
The Republican down ticket took its "thumpin'" along with Williams. Todd P'Pool lost to the incumbent Jack Conway for Attorney General by a only 10% (55% to 45%). Many saw this as Conway's last chance to have any political relevance given a history of defeats for higher office. Conway managed to hang on against a powerful P'Pool. campaign. This is guy to watch for future races. As for Conway, he's been given another respite. Let's hope he uses it well.
In the race for race for Secretary of State, Republican Bill Johnson lost to Alison Lundergan Grimes. Johnson was often criticized for having a "bad temper" and being "combative". The truth, however, may be that Johnson was just getting a bit tired of having his positions misrepresented. Regardless, Alison Grimes, the daughter of former Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan, ran a great (and occasionally humorous) campaign. I expect good things from Alison. The final count was 61% to 39%.
Kentucky State Treasurer went to incumbent Todd Hollenbach, son of the locally infamous County Judge of forced busing days back in the mid-1970s. In his defense, Todd is nice guy; intelligent and committed to doing a good job. Hollenbach beat KC Crosbie, the Republican, by 49% to 47% with the Libertarian, Ken Moellman picking up the spread. Let me tell you something about KC Crosbie. She is smart as a whip. With the right campaign manager, this gal can win and win big. If the GOP powers-that-be had any common sense, they would get behind and stay behind KC. She has the potential to be the first Republican female governor (and only the second female governor behind Martha Lane Collins).
Adam Edelen won as Kentucky Auditor over John Kemper 56% to 44%. While Edelen ran a good campaign, this was more about how not to run a campaign by the Republican. Rule #1: Do a background check for baggage. You can bet your opponent will. If you have any, maybe you should bow out.
The only Republican to escape a trip to the woodshed was James Comer, who ran on something rare in politics today...the truth. Comer didn't try to pretend to be anything other than what he is, a farmer who wanted to be Kentucky's next Agriculture Commissioner. Kentuckians rewarded Comer with a 64% to 35% win over part time comedian Bob Farmer (only in Kentucky folks).
The Kentucky Republican Party needs to decide whether it wants to win elections at the state and local levels or remain a "also ran" party. With my 35+ years of experience as a candidate, campaign manager and strategist, the GOP needs to apologize to the every conservative in the state for its lackluster performance, as well as its lack of aggression, imagination, and organization.
Now, Democratic Party, this was not a mandate of Steve Beshear. He just got lucky that he ran against the one candidate disliked more than he is. For that, he needs to drive by Republican Headquarters in Frankfort, honk his horn and wave. However, this is an opportunity for Kentucky Democrats to steer this state through a middle course. We need (and we demand by the way) a common sense approach to government and that means no wild eye handouts of public money; it means cracking down on illegal immigration; it means thinking out of the economic box to create not only new jobs, but new types of jobs. We must reform education in this state. We spend more money per pupil than states with twice our population yet we always end up dead last year after year, decade after decade. That is not acceptable. We must finally end poverty in Appalachia.
No more promises folks. Get it done.