I appreciate Lexington’s non-partisan government, and never more than now. That is why I am disappointed in mayoral candidate Ronnie Bastin.
With state and national governments mired in partisanship, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government is an island of competence in a bitter sea of dysfunction.
So why did Bastin’s campaign send out a mailer touting that “Bastin is the ONLY DEMOCRAT running for mayor.” It goes on to say (with this wording, emphasis, capitalization and punctuation):
- “Gorton says she an Independent but in fact she is a lifelong REGISTERED REPUBLICAN.
- Gorton has consistently voted in GOP Primaries that included Donald Trump, Andy Barr, Rand Paul & Mitch McConnell. Who’d she vote for?
- How will Gorton’s GOP Roots Affect Progressive Lexington?
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I don’t know who all received this mailer, but I’m guessing it wasn’t widely distributed in the city’s heavily Republican neighborhoods. Otherwise, Bastin might have even more explaining to do. Large Bastin campaign signs are posted alongside large signs for Barr, the 6th District Republican incumbent, on Realtors’ and developers’ commercial property all over town.
Truth is, both mayoral candidates have moderately progressive platforms and histories. Neither fits a narrow party or ideological stereotype.
Party registration is a funny thing, especially in Kentucky. It often reflects family history, home county or occupation. And it doesn’t necessarily reflect how people actually vote.
Kentucky has 269,000 more Democrats than Republicans but has elected mostly Republicans in recent decades. Republicans now control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the General Assembly. President Donald Trump got 62.5 percent of the state vote in 2016, compared with 32.7 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Gorton is a career nurse. Her party registration may have something to do with being married to a retired Army major general. The military isn’t known as a haven for wild-eyed liberals, despite how Barr’s campaign keeps trying to portray his Democratic opponent, retired Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath.
Bastin is a career Lexington police officer, police chief and public safety commissioner. Police forces aren’t usually havens for wild-eyed liberals, either.
Both political parties have become less ideologically diverse since the 1980s, and that is unfortunate. I know many older conservative and moderate Democrats and liberal and moderate Republicans who complain that their party “has left them.”
That is the beauty of Lexington’s non-partisan government. When the city and county governments merged in 1974, voters chose a non-partisan system. Since then, Democrats, Republicans, conservatives and liberals have felt free to work together for common-sense good government without the stigma of labels.
The result: Lexington is one of the most highly rated American cities in many economic and quality-of-life surveys.
Lexington is fortunate to have a choice between Gorton and Bastin, both of whom are qualified mayoral candidates and good people. Gorton won the seven-person primary in May with 42 percent of the vote. Bastin finished second with 26 percent.
But Bastin’s decision to inject partisanship into the campaign concerns me. I also am concerned that, despite echoing Gorton’s opposition to expanding the Urban Services Boundary, Bastin is the overwhelming choice of builders, bankers and Realtors who would like nothing more than a boundary expansion.
The National Association of Realtors Fund in Chicago recently sent out a Bastin campaign mailer, marking the first time anyone could remember a national political action committee getting involved in a Lexington mayor’s race. That this group would get involved on Bastin’s behalf makes me wonder.
This Bastin campaign mailer makes me wonder, too. Every political candidate wants to win. But a candidate’s character is often revealed in what they are willing to do to win.