Op-Ed

GOP still lacks star power to beat Beshear

Phil Moffett and Mike Harmon (pictured) announced their campaign for governor and lt. governor on Leland Conway's radio program at the WLAP studio in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday, July 29, 2010. The pair are running for the Republican nomination with Moffett at the top of the ticket. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Phil Moffett and Mike Harmon (pictured) announced their campaign for governor and lt. governor on Leland Conway's radio program at the WLAP studio in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday, July 29, 2010. The pair are running for the Republican nomination with Moffett at the top of the ticket. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff HERALD-LEADER

"And politics — the damnedest

In Kentucky."

Yep, Judge James Hilary Mulligan got it right with In Kentucky, the poem he introduced at a 1902 banquet in the old Phoenix Hotel.

We've got a competitive U.S. Senate race that should keep Kentucky's political climate at peak summer temperatures even after August and September slide into October and early November.

We've got a 6th District U.S. House race that Republicans keep trying to wish into competitiveness even though an independent cn|2 Poll shows their candidate trailing by 14 percentage points. (I guess you could use "competitive" to describe the races in the other five congressional districts, but only if you put "non-" in front of it.)

We have mayoral contests in the state's two largest cities, and the Lexington Jimkhana shows signs of being a bit of a nasty squabble.

We've got other local elections throughout the state, along with judicial contests and more legislative races than Carter's has little non-liver pills. (Forgive an old KyKurmudgeon a dated reference.)

We have a few of these matches — most notably the U.S. Senate dustup — set to take center stage at Saturday's 130th Annual Fancy Farm Picnic — where we most definitely can expect peak summer temperatures.

And all of these elections culminating Nov. 2. That's Nov. 2, 2010.

But a drive-by observer of the Kentucky political scene wouldn't have known that last week, when the chatter and media attention turned from the full buffet of the moment to the still rather empty table of the 2011 gubernatorial election.

And the "damnedest" part was that most of it was strictly speculative in nature. The "Will he?," "I'm thinking about it," "Discussions are underway," "If the moon is in the seventh house and the woolly worm's stripes are just so" variety.

Sure a couple of Republicans made it official that they hope to brew up some of the Tea Party movement support Rand Paul used to become the Republican U.S. Senate candidate.

But Paul started out with inherited name recognition and access to his dad's nationwide fund-raising network. Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and state Rep. Mike Harmon of Junction City have neither. So, they're looking at a steep uphill climb.

As for last week's gubernatorial speculators, if state Reps. Bill Farmer of Lexington and Adam Koenig of Erlanger weren't pulling everyone's leg by suggesting they might form a slate, they should have been.

They're good guys, and they can discuss the issues seriously and knowledgeably. But they hardly qualify as Republican rock stars. And right now, it appears the party may need something approaching a rock star to oust a well-financed, scandal-free Democratic incumbent.

Which brings us to Senate President David Williams, whose high negatives may keep him from qualifying as a true rock star but who's close enough in the eyes of some Republicans to be considered the party's best bet in 2011. Of course, he would be a better bet if his slate included a real rock star like Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer — a prospect that appeared dead a few weeks ago but may be back in play now.

Last week, Williams went public with his wooing of the University of Kentucky basketball "Unforgettable," perhaps in hopes of ginning up enough pressure from party faithful to force Farmer into a shotgun political wedding. What benefit the popular Farmer would get from walking down the aisle with Williams escapes me.

But hey, a Williams-Farmer ticket or a Williams-anyone ticket remains speculative at the moment. So, until the GOP puts a killer ticket in the 2011 gubernatorial field, I'll just sit back and enjoy the 2010 entertainment. There's sure to be plenty of it, starting with Saturday's Fancy Farm Picnic.

See you there, or on the streets of downtown Paducah.

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