Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Republicans win only one race, but look hopefully to future

By Rachel Bryant
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

James Comer was elected Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture Tuesday night, the Republican Party’s lone star in statewide elections that saw Democrats taking the other five offices. But Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams was all smiles, noting that he keeps his seat as state Senate president.

Larry Forgy, the 1995 Republican nominee for governor, said at the party's election-night gathering that the results were not any indication of the strength of the party in Kentucky.

“We haven’t won but two governor’s races since World War II so we don’t measure our strength in this state by governor races,” said Forgy. “We will still have control of the state Senate, which is very powerful, and Mr. Williams will be sitting there.”

Forgy also noted that Republicans hold both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seats and four of its House seats, and predicted that they would win the Bluegrass-area seat next year.

Phil Moffett, who lost to Williams in the Republican primary, said Williams’s biggest difficulty was having to overcome dislike for him in both parties. Moffett said Williams lost a lot of time and money trying to convince people he was a different person than they perceived him to be. He said being state Senate president both helped Williams with the election and hurt him.

“[It] helped him with name recognition, which is something I sorely lacked, but hurt him because the media has been demonizing him and he’s been Senate president for almost 12 years now and has been demonized the whole time,” said Moffett, who is president and chief executive officer of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a conservative think tank.

Two Kentucky Education Association members were at the Republican Party’s election night event, which some Republicans did not like because of KEA’s endorsement of Gov. Steve Beshear. Charles Main and John Warren were at the event to support Comer, the one Republican KEA endorsed and the one Republican who won.

Main, KEA’s communication director, said Williams’s words hurt his chances of getting KEA support. “He’s been plain spoken to the point of offense on subjects related to public education and public school employees,” he said.  “He’s been careless in some of the things he has said and I think our members and our colleagues who aren’t members take that to heart.”

Bill Johnson was the first Republican to concede. He lost the secretary of state race to Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. In a short speech, he credited one of Lundergan’s commercials with helping her win the race: “I’ll have to say her grandmothers are very effective campaigners,” he said. “It’s time for me to go find work and I guess I’ll be counting the dollars instead of counting the votes.”

John Kemper lost the auditor race to Democrat Adam Edelen, gaining only 44 percent of the votes. “My only regret is we didn’t bring home a win for conservatives in the state of Kentucky because the future is not bright,” said Kemper. “We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and make this thing work despite our government.”

The treasurer race was the closest of the night. Democratic incumbent Todd Hollenbach just barely defeated Republican K.C. Crosbie, 49 percent to 46 percent. Libertarian Kenneth Moellman got 5 percent. Many speculated that Moellman stole votes from Crosbie, leading to her loss. “For the people of Kentucky, I feel honored despite the ultimate outcome tonight,” said Crosbie.

Todd P’Pool, Republican hopeful for attorney general, lost to Democratic incumbent Jack Conway. His campaign focused on tying Conway to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky. Last night’s concession speech was no different. An energetic P’Pool tried to rally the crowd about the future. “I know the excitement of the dawn hour and I’m ready for the countdown to begin,” he said. “Tomorrow the countdown begins to replace President Barack Obama.”

Some in the crowd bet on whether or not Williams would give a concession speech and if he did, the attitude he would take. To the surprise of many, he was in the mood to celebrate: “Before I go back home to Burkesville I’m reporting for duty tomorrow in Frankfort, Kentucky, as president of the Kentucky Senate,” he said. Williams gave his speech with apparent conviction, saying it’s time to get to work to build a better Kentucky.

“If you’ve been reading the newspapers lately, and I have been, you see that Kentucky has dire circumstances for our financial situation. We still have 9.7 percent unemployment and real unemployment even harder than that,” he said. “We all have to work together because I am not going to be satisfied, and the members of this Senate here on this stage are not going to be satisfied, until every Kentuckian that wants a job has an opportunity. I want to work with all the folks that will work with us to make sure we have a better Kentucky.”

Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, Williams’s running mate for lieutenant governor, said it’s time to put aside partisanship. “It’s time to try to work together and make Kentucky a better place for us all to live and work and for our kids to grow up in and have opportunities,” he said.

Farmer's successor, Comer, was the last to speak at the Republican event, concluding it on a high note. Comer beat Democrat Bob Farmer 64 to 36 percent. “This victory tonight has broken all the rules of conventional wisdom,” Comer said. “We proved you can get elected in Kentucky with a good message and a good organization.” He added, “It is my pledge to the people of Kentucky that tonight you have elected an active, informed, and accessible commissioner of agriculture who will work tirelessly to expand markets for Kentucky farmers and enhance rural economic development.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Voters give Kentucky Democrats something to celebrate

By Sara Burton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Music was playing, signs were waving, and the feeling of success engulfed the room as Gov. Steve Beshear and running mate Jerry Abramsom brought home a win for the Democrats Tuesday night at the Frankfort Convention Center.   

Paving the way for the newly elected officials were the early sweeps by Auditor-elect Adam Edelen, Attorney General Jack Conway, Secretary of State-elect Alison Lundergan Grimes and Treasurer Todd Hollenbach.   

Supporters who attended the rally were in high spirits throughout the night.  Kentucky Education Association President and high-school math teacher Sharron Oxendine said she expects Beshear’s second term to be beneficial to the education system.

Other supporters said Beshear’s promises about jobs were what concerned them. Government worker Stacy Peyton, 72, said she believes Beshear will follow through with his jobs plan and expects great things from the governor in the next four years.

In his victory speech, Beshear said, "I will fight for a world-class education for every child, for every child! My top priority is to create a job for every Kentuckian. . . . As your governor, I will reach out to elected officials of every party and put party labels aside." Earlier, the crowd booed when Republican nominee David Williams appeared on TV to concede.

Conway told the crowd, "We won this race solely because we focused together on what it means to be attorney general in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. And we have those on the other side who wanted to make it about Washington stunts and Washington political games." Conway's opponent, Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool, tried to tie him to President Obama.

Grimes, the only woman elected tonight, said, "This victory is for you girls." Referring to her support of voter registration for the homeless, opposed by Republican nominee Bill Johnson, she said "I will make sure all Kentuckians' voices are heard, whether they live in Park Plaza or on a park bench."

Hollenbach said, "Government's not just about cutting. The government can still make a difference in people's lives."

Lexington Republicans seemed to turn on Williams, to Galbraith

For a 5-minute audio report from Christie Craig, on a similar phenomenon in other precincts, click here.

By Lauren Forsythe
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Gov. Steve Beshear has been the leading candidate throughout the race for governor, but the least likely winner of the election made his voice known on the south side of Lexington. 

Independent Gatewood Galbraith seemed to steal some votes away from the Republican nominee, state Sen. David Williams, based on interviews at two South Lexington precincts, Merrick at the Tates Creek Christian Church and Southview at the First Assembly Church of God. 

There was one clear pattern among Republicans — Gatewood Galbraith.

“I voted for Mr. Galbraith because I was not satisfied with David Williams and I am certainly not satisfied with Beshear,” said Melissa Thompson, 30, who identified herself as a very conservative Republican attorney.

Galbraith has put many blunt views out on the table, from legalizing marijuana to raising the average salary paid by companies that get state incentives, and that’s why Mike Hassloch, 57, voted for Galbraith.

“He’s the most honest guy in the race, in my view,” Hassloch said. He said he is a moderate Republican, but “I haven’t voted for a Republican in almost 25 years.”

Other voters like David Hollingsworth, 60, a retiree and conservative Republican, said that he didn’t necessarily want Galbraith to win, he just wants Republicans to put a better candidate on the ballot. He said he voted Galbraith “out of pure protest.”

Ron Wedding, the judge for precinct 71, calls himself a conservative Republican, but he said his party didn’t put up a very strong candidate.

Wedding said he voted for Galbraith “because I didn’t think we had a strong enough Republican candidate. … Plus, he’s a local celebrity.” Galbraith, a Lexington lawyer, has run in most elections for statewide constitutional office since 1983.

Out of seven Republicans interviewed, four said they voted for Galbraith, and the three who voted for Williams weren’t necessarily happy about it.

“I just don’t think that Beshear has done that much progress; especially with the way the public expenditures have been going. I don’t necessarily believe that David Williams was that great of a choice either,” said attorney Perry Greer, 28. “I don’t think that many people were happy with the choices and you just make your selection with the choices that you have.”

Two other Republican voters said it was time for a change. Jan Slay, 55, is a retail consignment shop manager who calls herself a very conservative Republican.  She said she voted a straight GOP ticket.

“I looked at some key issues I like in each candidate,” she said. “Pro-life was one, smaller government was one.” Harry Stratton was the most outspoken.

“I don’t like the direction of our country, and I think that our state politics is imbedded with the way our country is going,” Stratton said. “We are in debt, education is last in the damn 50 states, bankrupt, we got such nepotism in Frankfort it’s ridiculous, you got a puppet governor that’s led by his cronies, you’ve had two Republican governors in the last 50 years in Kentucky.”

Of the current state of the Kentucky economy, Stratton said, “It’s nothing against Beshear, it’s nothing against anybody, but if you continue to do things the same way, you’ll get the same results.”

Before Ernie Fletcher took office in 2003 the previous seven governors were Democrats.  Stratton hopes for change soon, but he said there was no doubt in his mind as he went to vote today that Beshear would win, calling state government “a damn dictatorship.”

All six Democrats interviewed at the polls voted for the incumbent governor. They cited his adequacy and experience.

“I kind of like the way the direction of the state is going, said retired sportswriter Dickie Baldwin, “and to be perfectly honest I just don’t care for David Williams.”