Op-Ed

Keeling: Some guffaws, little suspense in primary

This and that, the Run-up to the Run for the Roses Edition:

If readers take away just one thought from today's column, let it be this: Mint juleps blaspheme the nectar of the gods.

Now that we've dealt with the most pressing issue of this or any other Kentucky Derby week, we can move on to trivialities.

A "Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way" campaign tour featuring the Great Obstructionist of 21st century Kentucky politics? Sounds a bit oxymoronic.

But hey, when you've taken as many hits as the Republican gubernatorial slate of Senate President David Williams and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has taken lately, you apply liberal doses of positive spin to everything, even if it produces a few guffaws in the process.

Most of last week's spinning involved Farmer's habit of billing taxpayers for hotel stays while attending such events as the Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament in Lexington (mere minutes from his Frankfort home) and the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville (a bit more than mere minutes from Frankfort, but still an easy commute).

Bottom line on the spin: The hotel stays were necessary because Farmer was constantly taking care of the people's business during these events.

Before hopping on the tour bus Thursday, Williams said, "Just a few weeks ago, some of them were complaining about (Farmer) not being around enough and now they're complaining about him doing his job too well."

Uh, far be it from me to question someone with Williams' widely acknowledged political genius. But reminding the world of a time when people were wondering whether Farmer was adequately attentive to his job doesn't strike me as the best possible lead-in for pitching him as working 24/7 during high school basketball tournaments and state fairs.

Haven't seen a primary season this boring since 1999, when the GOP failed to field any candidates for down-ticket statewide offices and the two Republicans vying to oppose former Gov. Paul Patton's re-election, Peppy Martin and David L. Williams, were relatively unknown. Democrats had just one primary race of their own in '99 — for treasurer.

By comparison, we're up to our tushes in primary contests this year. There's at least one for every statewide constitutional office except attorney general, where Democratic incumbent Jack Conway and Republican Todd P'Pool get free passes to the fall campaign. But most of this year's primary contests lack a compelling story line.

Despite the daily hits it's been taking, a primary stumble by the Williams-Farmer gubernatorial slate would be a jaw-dropping event.

And most other races in both parties, including the cavalry charge in pursuit of the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner, remain fairly ho-hum affairs.

The exception is the Democratic primary for secretary of state. Even there, the interest isn't generated by the candidates themselves, but rather by the name Democrats backing each of them.

Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Elaine Walker, former Bowling Green mayor, to the job earlier this year and supports her election for a full term.

But this leaves Beshear in a lonely place since a Who's Who list of other prominent Democrats is backing Alison Lundergan Grimes, daughter of former state party chairman Jerry Lundergan. Even Conway and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, rivals in last year's U.S. Senate primary, are united in backing Grimes.

Something tells me the power of the governor's office might not be enough for Beshear to win this one.

By riding three winners in four years, Calvin Borel, excuse me, Calvin Bo-rail convinced me he's always worth a $2 backup bet.

Remember: Thou shalt not blaspheme the nectar of the gods.

  Comments