Let's face it, the Kentucky Democratic Party has long ago stopped trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, one of the House's most powerful lawmakers who is skilled in the art of bringing federal money and projects home.
So, the candidates running against him have limited political experience and insufficient funds to make a real run at the office. Neither Democrat running in this primary has reported raising any campaign funds.
The best Democratic voters in the 5th District can expect is to select someone who can articulate the party's values effectively if Rogers — and if the past is an indication, that's a big "if" — chooses to attend a forum or debate.
With that measure, Michael Ackerman, a Morehead attorney, is the better choice. Ackerman, who grew up in Ohio, is five years out of the University of Cincinnati law school, married to a Legal Aid attorney and a new father. While more time living in the district would be preferable for a congressional candidate, he speaks confidently about a range of important issues, stressing affordable health care as his first priority. He also expressed concern about the nation's slow response to global warming and the need to encourage alternate energy sources for the nation and Eastern Kentucky.
His opponent is Kenneth Stepp, a Manchester attorney who ran against Rogers in 2010, receiving about 34 percent of the vote. That was up from the 26 percent he received in 2006.
Stepp, who also made an insignificant showing in the 2008 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, is passionate about supporting the military and education.
There is little indication, however, that Stepp aims to be any more than a perennial candidate. He has not used his campaigns to raise his profile as a civic leader. Ackerman may be a better long-term investment, if voters want to nurture a generation of leaders who see politics as relevant to the future.