Op-Ed

Lexington deserves more from its Jims

This and that, the We're Having a Heat Wave Edition:

In July, more than three months before November's general election, potential voters' minds focus on many things other than politics.

Summer vacations (but not on Gulf of Mexico beaches), staying cool and hydrated, baseball's All-Star Game, staying cool and hydrated, the British Open (or as they call it across the pond, The Open Championship), staying cool and hydrated and, of course, sunburn remedies for folks who may have stayed hydrated but didn't stay cool.

Still, political junkies and opinionated old fogies with column space at their disposal (when the reduced ranks of their colleagues are not further thinned by vacations, furloughs or other absences) don't let the dog days of summer dry up their interest in the latest news/analysis/rumors/gossip/speculation/tall tales/total bull from the world of Kentucky politics.

Political junkies and an opinionated old fogy look at Lexington's mayoral Jimkhana and wonder when one or both of the two Jims from Barren County who are vying for the right to spend the next four years catching hell from Fayette County voters will get around to making a decent case for himself instead of just sniping at the other guy.

Of course, Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray don't have to worry about impressing me, a Franklin County resident. But if someone on the outside looking in finds the tenor of this campaign somewhat depressing, Fayette County residents must find it even more so.

So far, the conversation seems limited to Gray saying Newberry has screwed up so many times he couldn't organize a one-car funeral procession (OK, that's a bit of poetic license), and Newberry responding by accusing Gray of being a wannabe who's just playing politics.

Wow! "Politics" in a mayoral race? I'm shocked. Shocked, I say. To quote Rand Paul, it's un-American.

Jims, if I may be so bold as to address you two personally, I know pointing out an opponent's flaws is a standard, and often justified, aspect of political campaigns.

But at some point, sooner rather than later, you really need to leave the schoolyard behind and elevate the level of this conversation into a meaningful discussion of your respective visions for the future of Fayette County. Its voters deserve no less.

Speaking of Rand Paul, political junkies and an opinionated old fogy remember he recently said, in reference to U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, "I aspire to be that kind of legislator."

Presumably, then, he aspires to be the kind of legislator who is insensitive enough to salute the intelligence of people who die in 2010 and thereby avoid any federal estate tax, the way Bunning praised the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo's post-primary meltdown (there's no better way to describe it) fascinates political junkies and an opinionated old fogy. The latter also considers it sadly unfortunate.

Sure, at least $70,000 worth of promises were made (by someone). And promises should be kept. But when they weren't kept in time to satisfy Mongiardo, the worst course of action he could have taken was to air his grievances publicly — which is exactly what he did.

In doing so, he looked like a sore loser wallowing in a pity party. But that was the least damaging of the perceptions he created by going public.

His own words now have painted a picture of someone whose support must be bought.

Those same words have made it more politically difficult for Attorney General Jack Conway to fulfill the promise of helping Mongiardo pay off his campaign debts because doing so under these circumstances would create the perception that the Democratic Senate nominee is so weak he has to buy support from prominent members of his own party.

What's unfortunate is that a second loss in a statewide race didn't necessarily close the book on Mongiardo's political career (see Gov. Steve Beshear as Exhibit A), but his subsequent behavior may have done so.

Mongiardo is relatively young, and his two narrow losses proved he has strong voter appeal, particularly in his native Eastern Kentucky. So, even if statewide office was not in his future, he would have been considered an attractive Democratic candidate for the 5th District congressional seat when Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers calls it quits.

Now, though, his image has suffered some serious self-inflicted damage. And he has set himself up to be blamed by fellow Democrats for undermining his party's candidate if Conway loses.

All because he went public with a disagreement that could have and should have been settled in private.

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