Larry Dale Keeling: Election observation and his honor, David Williams

Herald-leader columnistOctober 21, 2012 

Larry Dale Keeling

FRANKFORT — This and that as we breathlessly run up to the latest MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN THE HISTORY OF THE CITY, COUNTY, STATE, NATION, CONTINENT, HEMISPHERE, PLANET, SOLAR SYSTEM, GALAXY, UNIVERSE AND, MOST OF ALL, THE HUMAN RACE AS WE KNOW IT AND SOMETIMES LOVE IT (gotta leave a little leeway there for the times we get in those Randy Newman "Let's drop the big one" now moods about everyone outside the United States and the half of the people inside our borders who disagree with us on which set of political liars should be telling us when we can go potty):

Did I leave any hyperbolic stone unturned? Hope not. Because that's the extent of the discussion of the upcoming election in today's column.

Almost anyway. There is this one exception having nothing to do with issues, positions, policies, qualifications, records or any other value judgment we should use in choosing who occupies the White House, congressional seats, state legislative seats and assorted other elective offices for the next few years.

I'm referring to Mitt Romney's eyes. Those deep- deep- deep- deep- deep-set eyes that, in certain lighting, appear to be surrounded by dark shadows. Eyes befitting a character in Dark Shadows, the ghoulish late 1960s-early '70s TV soap opera that inspired the recent movie of the same name.

Every time I see the guy on TV, my first thought is not "Mitt Romney" but rather "Mitt Zombie."

Oh, well, we've had presidents with worse features.

If Gov. Steve Beshear doesn't appoint Senate President David Williams circuit judge for Clinton, Cumberland and Monroe counties, I will be as shocked as the other 99.99 percent of state government observers who assume the only reason the deal hasn't gone down already is because the formalities of the nominating process must be observed.

But even though I fully expect the appointment to be made, if only because the chatter is so strong, I don't see it having much if any political benefit for Beshear.

Personal benefit, maybe. Not having to deal with Williams' abrasive personality would make life more pleasant for a lot of people who regularly spend time around the Capitol, including a good number of Senate Republicans.

But sending Williams on his way isn't going to change the numbers in the Senate. When Beshear appointed former Republican Sens. Charlie Borders to the Public Service Commission and Dan Kelly to fill a vacant judgeship, Democrats had a reasonable shot at winning special elections in those Senate districts. (They won one and lost one.) No such expectation exists in Williams' district.

If it doesn't change the numbers, there's no reason to expect this appointment to change outcomes on Beshear's legislative priorities.

Some chatter suggests the governor might think Williams' departure will improve the chances of getting expanded gambling approved. But Williams allowed a constitutional amendment to get a floor vote in the Senate in this year's session. It lost. Could a new president flip a few votes on the gambling issue? Possibly, but it's not a certainty.

Surely, Beshear knows a Democratic governor and a Republican Senate majority inevitably will have fundamental differences over policy. He must also know removing the face of what he considers the Senate's obstructionism won't end the opposition to his agenda arising from those policy differences.

A new Senate president might be more civil than Williams has been in saying "No," but the answer could still be "No."

If it doesn't change the Senate numbers and doesn't guarantee a change in outcomes, why reward Williams for spending the past five years obstructing Beshear's agenda and vilifying him personally? To lower the temperature in the Capitol?

As governor, Beshear also needs to think about the temperature in the courtrooms Williams will be presiding over if he is appointed circuit judge.

Do the people of Clinton, Cumberland and Monroe counties deserve to have justice dispensed by someone with Williams' record of temper tantrums, petty vindictiveness and misinterpreting the law in several high-profile cases he's been involved with as Senate president?

Everyone said all the right things and put up a good front at Wednesday's meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's Race Dates Committee. But I still couldn't shake the feeling the 2013 racing calendar the committee approved — a calendar switching September race days from Turfway Park to Churchill Downs and leaving a February gap in the state's year-round racing cycle — signaled the advent of a Darwinian "survival of the fittest" evolution in Kentucky's Thoroughbred racing industry.

Hope I'm wrong. But absent an influx of revenue from expanded gambling that goes beyond "instant racing," the less fit seem destined for extinction.

Instant racing has flourished so far at Kentucky Downs near the Tennessee border, but it cannot be expected to save struggling tracks facing competition from full casino operations just across the Ohio River.

Reach Larry Dale Keeling at lkeeling@herald-leader.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service