Saturday, November 02, 2019

The 2019 Kentucky Election Special: The Undercard---State Treasurer, State Auditor & Secretary of State

It's election time in the Bluegrass State once again. I know that may not mean much to our national and international readers, but the election could prove to be a good indicator of how President Trump will do next year. After, almost all of the Republican candidates are, in one fashion or another, tying their political coattails to the president. President Trump did well in Kentucky in 2016, carrying the state with 62% of the vote (losing only two of the state's 120 counties).

However, his approval rating has dropped the steepest of all Southern states; currently standing at about 34%. Another key Kentucky politician that some of the candidates have links to is Senator Mitch McConnell (R), the Senate's Majority Leader. Senator McConnell is perhaps the most powerful individual on Capitol Hill, however, his popularity in his home state of Kentucky is a bit lackluster. The latest poll I've seen shows the Senator with an approval rating only just 18% (that's as bad as Congress itself, which also has a current approval rating of 18%).

How then does Senator McConnell remain in office? Simple. He's got a war chest which would make King Midas turn green with envy, which current stands at around $10 million dollars (yes, you read that right---ten MILLION dollars) out of the gate. Second, he's smart. Very smart. He's been around the block more times than you can count. Lastly, there's simply no one with the experience, name recognition, or financial wherewithal to challenge him. Now with that out of the way, let's start with some of the down ticket races first, and we'll finish up with the governor's race.

We'll start off with the State Treasurer. the candidates are the incumbent, Allison Ball (R) and the challenger, Michael Bowman (D). Many "pols" have referred to this as a stepping stone office to more lucrative and influential offices (I can't argue the point). There's really not that much to the office itself. Therefore, those holding the office have tended to be more on the mediocre side.

I've met both individuals over the years. Michael is a relatively young man who seems to be up and coming within the Democrat Party; having served as an officer in various party clubs and in a few support positions politically. Michael is a high school graduate with some college credits (in Fine Arts) under his belt. He emphasizes that he comes from a union oriented family, which doesn't carry as much weight as it once did. Michael has always been quite friendly when we've interacted.

As for Allison, she has a BA in Psychology from Liberty University and a law degree from the University of Kentucky. Before becoming State Treasurer, Allison was a practicing attorney in her hometown of Prestonsburg. Like all of the Republican candidates, she emphases her Christian faith as key to her grounding. Allison has proven to be the exception rather than rule when it comes to this office. She has shown herself to be highly responsive to the needs of both the office and to the citizens of Kentucky.

Allison is highly personable and intelligent. Typically a stepping stone office, which it may or may not be for Allison, but if it is, we would do well to have her move up the political ladder at some point in the future. Michael, on the other hand, would perhaps be better suited for a position of Metro Council given his strong local community interest.

The next office is State Auditor. Like any institution, it has to have someone who understands the accounting. Here we have three candidates. The incumbent, Mike Harmon (R), Sherri Donahue (D), and Kyle Hugenberg (L). Let's start with Kyle. I was not able to find out much about Kyle. He's a certified Internal Auditor with a Master's Degree in Accounting from the University of Louisville. While he has no political experience, he has considerable professional experience as a internal auditor, risk management, and financial analyst.

Sherri Donahue (D) has a BS Degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. Sherri has considerable government related experience from a outside business perspective, mostly in the area of cyber security. However, I found nothing to indicate any direct financial or accounting experience. Much of her outside interests appears to be national, although she is involved with such programs as the American Heart Association and the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk.
The incumbent, Mike Harmon (R) graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a triple major---Math, Statistics...and Theater (I'm not sure how that last one fits in there). Mike served previously a State Representative (District 54) for 13 years and was a candidate for Lt Governor in 2011. Mike seems to have a pretty good reputation, both in Frankfort and around the state. He's known to get tough and dedicated by both sides of the aisle. I've met Mike a few times, and I can say that he comes off as friendly and knowledgeable.

While I like Kyle's education and experience, he needs to find a way to build some political capital before running for a statewide office. If he can do that, he might prove to be a good choice for State Auditor down the road. While I personally like Sherri's experience (it's similar in some respects to my own), it's simply not a good fit for Auditor. She would do well to find a way to get appointed to a position within one of Kentucky's myriad of agencies where she could apply her cyber security experience. Lastly, but by no means least, is Mike Harmon. Mike has done a yeoman's job as State Auditor and his efforts have served Kentuckians well.

Although the Governor's office is up, the office I'm most interested in is Secretary of State. Kentucky is years, if not decades behind most states when it comes to having current voter rolls and the technology to keep pace with the state's changing needs. I've been a big advocate of same day registering and voting, allowing for easier voting (especially for seniors), moving election day to Saturday, and removing barriers to independents and third party candidates (a legislative issue), and creating a third election officer for Indies and third parties.

This election is an open seat. First up is Heather French Henry (D), a former Miss America and Second Lady of Kentucky (her husband, Steve Henry, previously served as Lt. Governor) and veterans advocate. Her opponent is Michael G. Adams (R), an election laws attorney. Let's start with Michael. He has a law degree from Harvard University. Mike supports extending voting hours, use of a picture ID to vote, purging voter rolls of deceased and non-resident voters (told you we were antiquated), and improved cyber security. Mike also says he supports keeping the office strictly non-partisan (something prior office holders have struggled with) and "zero based budgeting" to ensure total financial accountability of the office.

Heather French Henry (D) is someone I've known for many years. I count her husband, Steve Henry, as a friend of mine. I've been very active in the disabled veteran's community for many decades and both Steve and Heather have been top notch when it comes to their support of veterans. So, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk credentials. Heather has a Master's Degree from the University of Cincinnati in Design, Architecture, and Art. She has served as a State Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Veteran Affairs. She also supports expanding early voting and "no-excuses" absentee voting, along with restoring voting rights to felons who've completed their sentences.

In addition, Heather supports voter education and a "candidate boot camp" for new candidates (something that myself and some highly knowledgeable friends did for years until the GOP threatened candidates into not attending---ours was free). She also believes the office needs to get current with technology and cyber security. Lastly, Heather cites being an experienced manager; having managed 900 employees and overseeing a $100 million dollar budget.

I've met Mike on a couple of occasions. I found him to be cordial more so than friendly and a bit arrogant. However, there was no denying his intelligence. Heather, as I said, I've known for many years. She's always very friendly and outgoing (what you would expect from Miss America). However, this isn't about who I would rather have lunch with. I want someone who can take charge and get the office back in shape from the get-go. Mike Adams seems to have the ability. He's got the academic and professional experience to do just that.

We'll follow with the second half of our election special with the Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidates with our next edition which will follow tomorrow.

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