Blue America in the Bluegrass State
There probably aren't that many people who know there's an election in 3 days, let alone a really important election. In fact, I wasn't terribly shocked when I read that the turn-out could be as low as 15%. I'm talking about the gubernatorial primary in Kentucky and it's this Tuesday. The backstory is that the incumbent, Republican Ernie Fletcher was indicted last May on 3 misdemeanor charges stemming from out-of-control corruption in his administration which includes him issuing blanket pardons to many of his closest political cronies. Even after indictment he refused to resign and was arraigned on June 7, 2006. He weaseled out of a prison sentence when a judge ruled that he was protected by executive immunity until after he leaves office. Fletcher has had some of the lowest approval ratings of any governor anywhere for the last few years. The latest SUSA Survey (May 17) shows him with a 38% approval rating, overall.
Among Kentucky Republicans, however, his approval rating is 53%. And therein lies an incredible opportunity for Democrats. The least popular governor in America is almost certain to lose the general election, but is probably going to win the Republican primary. His opponent is Anne Northup, a pathetic GOP rubber stamp who was ousted from her congressional seat in November by John Yarmuth. She is so incompetent that her bungling is actually making Fletcher look ok– at least to wingnuts. The latest polls show Fletcher beating her convincingly, 41-26%.
And that brings us to the golden opportunity for Democrats… almost. One of the two front runners, Bruce Lunsford, is as much a Democrat as Joe Lieberman or Zell Miller. Sounds strong? It's meant to. In Kentucky, Lunsford is the quintessential representative of the rotten, reactionary and corrupt old Democratic Establishment that still hasn't quite decided to go over to the GOP. He is a DLC Democrat who is always endorsing and donating money to Republicans– from George Bush to Ernie Fletcher to Anne Northup. He's a corrupt businessman and scam-artist who is absolutely loaded. He's outspent his rival, former Lt. Governor and Attorney General Steve Beshear, 3 to 1.
We'll talk about Steve Beshear with our guest today, Cliff Schecter, but I want to say something else about why this race is so important. Even above and beyond the kind of corrupt practices and arch-reactionary policies Lunsford is promising to bring to Kentucky– such as teaching creationism in the public schools– this is a hack who is as damaging to the Democratic brand as any of the DLC players who have only the most tangential relationship with Democratic Party values and principles.
And there's another factor to consider every bit as important. There is no one in the Congress who has been more of an obstructionist, especially in terms of ending the occupation of Iraq, than Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader. McConnell is a close friend and political ally of Lunsford. If Lunsford is elected, the chances of defeating McConnell in 2008 will become considerably slimmer. Steve Beshear already opposed McConnell for Senate– while Lunsford was out campaigning for him (and appointing his equally corrupt "wife" to the Board of Directors of his crooked corporation– fined for cheating Medicare of over a BILLION dollars).
Earlier I mentioned that turnout Tuesday could be as low as 15%. Lunsford has dumped a small fortune into a GOTV operation which will feature plenty of free-flowing cash. Even though the most recent polls show that Beshear has pulled ahead (27-21%), this will come down to the wire. It is unlikely that whoever gets the most votes Tuesday will avoid a June runoff. If you know anyone in Kentucky– relatives, old school friends, former colleagues…– please consider getting in touch with them in the next couple of days and talking to them about this race. And to help us understand it, we've got our old pal Cliff Schecter, a man who once worked for the odious Lunsford, here to answer questions about Kentucky politics in general and about Lunsford and Beshear in particular.