Friday, April 13, 2007

82. Candidates and Clubs - and a Look Forward to 2008

Okay, I will admit it. I've been seriously slacking. I apologize. While I've been taking it easy, the Kentucky Governor's race seems to have seriously gotten underway. Debates are being held, commercials are running, and no one has any true idea who might be the Democratic Party's nominee when the dust settles. On the Republican side, it seems Governor Fletcher will have an easier-than-expected time getting his Party's nomination.

As you can tell from the pictures in the side panel, I am supporting Kentucky's two-term State Treasurer Jonathan Miller and his running mate, long-time Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze. Their campaign is beginning to take off as they have now launched their third television spot, the first one being generally panned, the second one considerably better. I've not yet seen the third, but I understand it began airing today. And I may as well add here I am also supporting some folks in the down-ballot races. I've included a picture of MaDonna White, the Daymar College professor who is seeking the office of Secretary of State. I hope you will go to her website and learn more about her. I stated early on that I was for Crit Luallen, who is unopposed in her campaign for re-election as Kentucky State Auditor. My long-time friend Jack Conway is running for Attorney General, after having given some thought to some other offices. Jack's campaign is staffed by several friends (Will Carle and Morgan McGarvey come to mind) who I know will work to make sure he is elected to that post; I also know (and know that Will and Morgan also know) that in politics nothing should be taken for granted. Four years ago, the Republicans took Tim Feeley - a good man - for granted, assuming he would be nominated as their candidate for Attorney General. He wasn't; Jack Wood of Valley Station was. This time Wood is running as a Democrat. Democratic primary voters should look toward Todd Hollenbach or Mike Weaver in this race. Todd is a friend of long standing, back to when we were teenagers and his election as State Treasurer would be a plus for Kentucky. As to the Commissioner of Agriculture race, I know as much about that as, say, Richie Farmer does. Not a whole lot. I do know the Neville guy from Pleasureville has been making appearances around the state, and listening to him, using "agriculture-type words," I am pretty sure I'll be filling in the little oval next to his name when I go to vote a month and a nine days from now.

I found out today that when I do go vote, it will not be where I expected it to be. As some of you know, I moved back at the turn of the year and duly re-registered at my new address. I received a card from the Jefferson County Clerk's Office stating my poll was at the Cabel Baptist Church on S. Wenzel Street. I found out today that it has been moved and I will now be voting at the Phoenix Place Apartments Clubhouse, which is far more convenient for me. I called the County Clerk's office to ask if they were going to notify the voters in the precinct of this change and was told that yes, we would be notifed by mail at some point soon. I hope they do it before May 22nd. Having said that, I will say that while our Jefferson County Clerk is a Republican, I know her to be a very nice person and it is my belief that elections in Jefferson County are efficiently ran and the votes are counted in a most honest manner. Both political parties are represented by true public servants in that office and we are very fortunate for the job they do.

But, back to the governor's race - sort of. Last night I hosted, along with Patrick Mulvihill and Lisa Tanner, a small (and very successful, according to those in the know) fundraiser for the Miller-Maze ticket. The event was held at the All Wool and A Yard Wide Democratic Club in Schnitzelburg on Hickory Street. I've been a member of that particular club for many years. If you want a flavor of how old-style city Democratic Clubs were, you can get no better picture than the All Wool Club. To my knowledge, it is the only club in Louisville with its own building, a two-story property it has owned for several generations. The club also owns the residence next door and uses the rent income for its political and charitable purposes. Many years ago, the Mose Green Democratic Club (another interesting name) had its own hall in the Crescent Hill area at the corner of Lindsay and Hite avenues. I can remember back in the mid 1980s when I ran for a seat on the Jefferson County Fiscal Court campaigning at the old Mose Green. The Mose Green was most well known for its annual Saint Patrick's Day Ball, which attracted hundreds of people. The ball fizzled out in the early 1980s.

As a little kid, my grandmother would take me to the Grassroots Democratic Club, which in the 1960s and 1970s met at the Silver Palms Club on Third Street Road, just a little north of where the Outer Loop ends. The club was some sort of private operation, an inexpensive country club of sorts, housed in a big Bedford stone house if my memory recalls it correctly. In the back yard was a huge swimming pool which I can remember playing in as a kid. The only other pool I ever played in was at the Nelson Hornbeck Park on Fairdale Road in Fairdale. It was there I took swimming lessons and learned how to do a cannonball, but that is another story. The leaders of the Grassroots back then were Eugene Drago and Al Bennett. Others from the area were Archie Romines, Lloyd somebody (who lived on Mason Lane in Fairdale), and some other women from Fairdale, Auburndale, and other parts of southwestern Jefferson County. The Silver Palms Club is no longer in existence, while the Grassroots Club lives on, now meeting at the Dixie Bowl in Valley Station. Messrs. Drago and Bennett are still active, still working hard to elect Democrats and their presence in the Valley Station/Stonestreet Road area was helpful last year in John Yarmuth's race for Congress. Both provided insights and, importantly, yard sign locations in the southwestern part of the county, locations which showed some of the more timid of voters from that part of the county that it was okay to be for Yarmuth.

The next Democratic club in my history was the old 45th Democratic Club, later renamed the Heart of Okolona club, and later still the Heart of Jefferson Club. Control of the club was wrested back and forth between the two factions which long controlled Okolona, with Bill "Fibber" McGee, Ed Louden, and Mitch from the Thomas Rock Quarry on one side, and Dottie Priddy, Carolyn Beauchamp, Mildred Shumate, and my grandmother Tommie Hockensmith, on the other. That was back before the Republicans had made any inroads in the area, inroads I might add which have in the last three or four years become less travelled as Okolona's working class voting population has moved back toward the center, and some even a little left. The Club met at the old Okolona Women's Club, then located on the old Neblett property, behind the old Okolona Fire House, on Blue Lick Road. The old firehouse now serves as the Wilderness Road Senior Citizens Center; the old Women's Club building, along with the old Okolona Little League surrounding it, were all town down to make way for the new Home Depot, on Preston Highway, just past Blue Lick Road. I served as Recording Secretary of the club when I was 19. It was the same year I ran and won a seat on the Louisville-Jefferson Democratic Party Executive Committee.

I mentioned that race in my introductory speech of Irv Maze last night at the All Wool Club. Irv also won a seat that year on the County Executive Committee, his race being won by 6/1000ths of a vote, back when LD races were hotly contested. I have a feeling they will be again in 2008, but in that, I digress. My speech was preceded by one from Pat Mulvihill, one of the assistant County Attorneys with whom I work. I've known Patrick since he was 11 or 12 years old and a little league ballplayer at the Germantown Little League, which plays down in the bottomland south of and owned by the Xaverian Brothers and their institute of secondary education, Saint Xavier High School on Poplar Level Road. In one of the first political races in which I took a leadership role, Patrick was then the son of our opponent, former Alderwoman Mary Margaret Mulvihill, who served in that capacity for six years before being defeated by Cyril Allgeier by 37 votes in the 1981 Democratic Primary, in Allgeier's third try against her for the office. I learned a lot in that race from leaders in both campaigns, although I didn't always admit to it. Over the years, Mary Margaret and I weren't close politically, although her views ideologically were much closer to mine than were Allgeier's, who I helped to elect to ten consecutive terms as alderman and one on the new so-called Merged government of Louisville and Jefferson County, the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro. Ironically, in his last run for office, Mary Margaret was again his opponent. She and I had to a degree made up in those later years, and in 2000, she and Patrick, and their supporters and mine, helped elect me as Chair of the 35th LD and Mary Margaret as Vice Chair. Patrick now serves as 35th LD Chair.

In another instance of supporters of previous year's opponents working together, the third host of this party last night at the All Wool and A Yard Wide Democratic Club was Lisa Tanner. Lisa is a relative newcomer to Louisville politics. She emerged from the 2004 presidential race and in 2006 played a prominent role in the Primary effort of Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Horne in his race against John Yarmuth, who I supported, and for whom I later worked. Lisa went from Horne's campaign to the broader role of being one of the leaders of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party's efforts last fall of identifying voters and their issues and the subsequent follow-up of getting those supportive of our Party to the polls on Election Day. If you've attended any Party events in Louisville in the last year, you may have also heard her strong rendention of the Star Spangled Banner. She currently serves as president of the Louisville Young Democrats and is getting active in the 35th LD structure, where, again, I once served as Chair and Patrick currently serves in that same role.

I write all this about old opponents being new friends to make the point that in politics, especially Party politics, one must be concerned about which bridges one chooses to burn during a campaign cycle and which ones one chooses to maintain. At the end of my work in the Yarmuth campaign, my ablest worker, Ben Basil, asked me what political secret I might impart to him as he begins what promises to be a long career in political work. My answer was simple. Don't burn bridges, don't hold grudges. Always move on to the next cycle. There will be folks against you this year who you will need next year. Be happy about it. It isn't advice I always followed myself and I now honestly wish I had of. But it is advice. Other than the quadrennial layoff of elections in the year following a presidential race, Kentucky's calendar promises an election every six months. Some years there are more than that. In 2006, not only did we have a Primary and a General, but we also had Special Elections in Louisville's South End to fill vacancies in a House seat and a Senate seat. Those Special Elections were precursors to our successes in the fall.

Once we get through this Primary, and it's nearly inevitable runoff in late June, it is imperative that Democrats stand together by our duly chosen nominees as we move toward November. Winning in November 2007 is the best avenue we can take to insert and assert Kentucky's role in strengthening the Democratic Party's control of the United States House and Senate, and the ultimate prize of winning the White House.

Winning this November will make it a little more possible to do what some think is the impossible - defeating Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader of the United States Senate in next November's election. There has been discussion about who might seek such an office. Names are mentioned here and there, prominent among them the current 6th District member of Congress, A. B. "Ben" Chandler, III. But I think Ben's abdicacy of the House seat is unlikely. Some people look to the current crop of candidates seeking either the #1 or #2 spot this year. Let's look at that briefly.

One of the reasons I've felt Attorney General Greg Stumbo signed on with Bruce Lunsford was the opportunity it afforded him to campaign for either U. S. Senator Jim Bunning's seat or Congressman Harold Rogers House seat - and to do all that electioneering, especially in the 5th CD, on Bruce Lunsford's dime - or dollar, as it is. It isn't such a bad strategy. Congressman Rogers can not be nearly as happy in a House (thankfully) controlled by Democrats, especially with Congressman Yarmuth nudging Congressman Chandler a little more to the left than he has previously been - Rogers may be thinking the time has come to call it a game, especially if the Democrats follow their 2006 successes with a 2007 gubernatorial seat in Kentucky. I think Stumbo would be a shoe-in for the 5th CD, whether he is a sitting lieutenant governor or not. As such, Greg isn't likely to be a candidate against Senator McConnell. As to when, if ever, Senator Bunning determines to call it a game is up in the air. The junior senator seems determined to continue his ever-decreasing role in America's legislative affairs, but hopefully he will give it up sooner rather than later, and hopefully before 2010, when his term is next up.

But on McConnell. It goes without saying that defeating Senator McConnell will be neither easy nor cheap. As Senate Minority Leader he is so completely tied to the president and his policies, that he must be considered vulnerable, even in Kentucky where Bush still has pockets of support. Whoever the Democrats run has to start with enough money to get the DSCC's attention. I can not think of too many Democrats with the personally-deep pockets to do that, other than Charlie Owen, or maybe Bruce Lunsford, or to a lesser extent Steve Henry. I don't think the aforementioned Lieutenant Colonel Horne, whose name has been mentioned as a potential McConnell opponent, has this sort of cache of cash available, but I could be wrong. Excluding Horne then, of the three, the possibility exists that one of them might be governor, while one or two of them might have just lost a Primary and/or the General Election, or both. That leaves the very affable and quite wealthy Mr. Owen.

I am hopeful that Charlie decides to make this race and decides soon. But, if he does, he will have to commit early to his campaign some huge amount of his personal wealth if he is to down-the-line be in the position to raise additionally huge sums of money both within and beyond the Commonwealth's borders. No one likes to have people tell them how to spend their money, but if Owen wants to run, that has to happen.

I am not aware if Owen is a liberal, a progressive, a libertarian, a conservative, or a strictly law and order ideologue. I do know this. The bottom line is he is a Democrat and Mitch McConnell isn't, and at this point that is enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your list of candidates, I am lining up with very much the same group. I didn't know about Mr. Wood so I guess that seals my decision on Todd who I have been leaning toward. Mike Weaver seems a "good ole boy" politician looking for an office and salary the other two are both attorneys which should serve the position well. Mr. Neville is a very nice guy who seems to want to bring a nice marriage of agriculture and marketing to promote Kentucky's crops and the needs of the farmers. Of course, Crit is enjoying her tenure as the one unopposed candidate. I love to journey with you and discuss the many memories. Have a great weekend.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.