Mitch McConnell is being challenged for the Republican Party nomination by Matt Bevin, at least on paper. In reality this race and the one scheduled for November between what clearly looks like Mitch vs. Alison Lundergan Grimes have one thing in common. Both contests have a single issue, that it's time for Mitch to go. And a lot of people share that sentiment.
While Mitch McConnell is credited with being the architect of the Kentucky GOP, he really deserves a lot of credit for helping build the Kentucky TEA party. Those folks recite over and over any number of votes, statements, cave ins and deals Mitch has made which do not fit their narrow view of "principled politics". Their criticisms of Mitch are vigorous, vociferous and sometimes downright vicious. It is Mitch who represents in their eyes all that is wrong with Washington, and politics in general and opposition to Mitch is the single biggest rallying point for many republicans who now call the TEA party home.
Agreeing with them that it is time for Mitch to go are a number of steadfast Jim Bunning supporters in Northern Kentucky who will never forgive Mitch for what he did to get Jim to step down. Nor will they ever get over the disrespect they got when many close Mitch supporters claimed that it was he who saved Bunning's butt in one close race after another giving little if any credit to the hardworking Bunning folks who toiled in the sun while Mitch stole the credit.
And around the Commonwealth plenty of people who don't know the whole story, still can't get over what Mitch did to Ernie Fletcher and Ann Northup both at the same time. The word "traitor" comes easily to many as their seething dislike for Mitch fills the air.
And how many candidates out there can count the number of times Mitch has thrown one of them under the bus, including good solid republicans who gave their life to the party, gave money to Mitch, stood up and spoke for him time and time again only to be treated like lepers when they needed his help and hoped their support would have earned his in return?
Yes, the number of people who would dance and sing and cheer the day Mitch got his comeuppance is not an insignificant number. And so both Bevin and Grimes have tried to capture that momentum and use it to oust McConnell in what they hope would be tar and feathers. But that isn't what an election is really all about.
Elections are about choices. And if you happen to be one of the people who can't stand Mitch McConnell, the question you should be asking yourself isn't whether you can play a part in seeing him lose, but rather what do you get if the other guy wins?
For all the criticism against McConnell from both republicans with hurt feelings and democrats who hope to help Barack Obama by removing the biggest obstacle to the success of his progressive agenda and replace it instead with a firmly reliable vote in his column, take time to remember history.
Today conservatives want something very different from Washington than what they wanted just a few years ago. Today they want a leaner budget, not long ago we wanted our Senators to bring home the bacon. We wanted prosperity to be fueled by government grants, special tax treatment and celebrated with ribbon cuttings, not budget cuts.
Today conservatives are impatient and demanding and insist upon symbolic sacrifice for principles most of them really don't even understand. Not long ago we seemed to have a more tolerant approach, understood how laws were made and how majorities controlled and how winners made policy while losers go home.
Conservatives today rail against bailouts and the national debt, spurred on by self proclaimed rodeo clowns like Glenn Beck and well reasoned loud mouths like Mark Levin who make plenty of money feeding the masses what they want to hear. But it all reminds me of a skit on the late night show of Jimmy Kimmel.
Kimmel went out on the street and asked people if they were in favor of food that was gluten free. Of course it is very popular to say yes to that question. Then he asked them "what is gluten". The dumb looks, dumb answers and dumb people illustrated how easy it is to get people on board with pop culture even if they don't know what they are doing.
How many people who buy into Glenn Beck's doomsday predictions over the national debt even know what it is? Who owes what to whom? How many people know what the bailouts were, what they did and who got what? Not long ago we were less gullible, less inclined to be led like lemmings into a mindset without thinking, and more inclined to trust our elected officials than today.
And who can really look back over McConnell's record and say that in context, at the time he was performing, that he wasn't really doing what the people of Kentucky asked him to do, expected him to do and rewarded him for doing?
So if you are critical of McConnell for being a political brute, fine. But if your reasons are based upon pop culture and current trends and somebody has convinced you that his record of performance in the Senate didn't really represent what the majority of Kentuckians wanted, you are delusional. They returned him to office over and over and will do so again this year.
And since elections are not about punishing people for your hurt feelings but doing what is best for the Commonwealth (no, my TEA party friends, it's not about "the nation" it's about Kentucky) then ask yourself who has been proven better able to get things done in Washington DC, oppose the march of Obama's agenda, lend prestige to Kentucky and will become the majority leader in January? And who is an afterthought candidate who had to be pulled and pushed into running just so Mitch would have opposition, who if he could survive May and win in November (not a chance on either count) would end up a back bencher at best or more likely just another voice in the dwindling crowd of malcontents vying for fame and claiming principles but getting nothing done?
And considering the race in November who is better able to raise the money, fight the fight, stand up and make the case why a vote for Obama would be a mistake for Kentucky?
Hold your nose if you have to, look for the opportunity for this to be a teachable moment for Mitch, see the chance to tell him this is your last term buddy, do any of those things you want, but when it comes to seeing this race for what it really is, a choice between two candidates, that choice is clear. The choice, YOUR choice must be Mitch McConnell.
When it comes to picking judges I have an admittedly dogmatic approach. Unlike most other political races a judicial race shouldn't be about popularity, political connections, how big your family is, or the phony made up phrase "judicial experience". I can assure you, most of the time Circuit Court judges are engaged in mundane, repetitive recitations of constitutional rights to criminal defendants and the busy work of scheduling hearings and trials that everybody knows will never take place. But every so often an issue arises which touches upon the God given rights we all have to life and liberty and property. Every so often in the midst of an otherwise mundane day on the bench an insightful judge will discern that what he/she is about to do will have a great impact. In my way of thinking this requires a special kind of person.
Courts are the last refuge for liberty. Courts are a sanctuary for freedom. Our founders were brilliant. They determined and memorialized in our Constitution that no law can ever be enforced, no life ever taken, no liberty deprived no property redistributed unless a jury of people from the very community where the controversy is being debated says so. There is really no power in our nation greater than that held in the hands of jurors on any given day, and presiding over those proceedings, providing adequate protection for those jurors to exercise that power and giving them a clear path to do it, is a trial judge.
So, when I talk about the importance of selecting judges, I hope you understand where I am coming from.
Judge Marty Sheehan is retiring. His seat will be filled by either Bob Winter, Kathy Lape, Kate Molloy, Jason Hiltz or Jim Redwine. While you can only vote for one of them, the top two vote getters will run again in November.
All judicial candidates must be lawyers. All must have at least 5 years experience. All must take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. That's all the law requires other than residency.
But for me the choice requires a closer examination. It's not about electing prosecutors, which is where Redwine and Hiltz get their experience.
It's not about electing people solely because of party affiliation or their name or their political philosophy, things that might to most observers be what the others seem to have going for them.
It's about electing judges who know how and what they do will affect real people, in their real lives. It's about life experience, not judicial experience, prosecutorial experience or trial experience. Judges need to be fair and that requires a special kindness, a special combination of temperament, empathy and most importantly of all, a dedication to not let cynicism or court house politics seduce you away from keeping your eye on the Constitution.
I know each of the candidate. Some I've known longer than others, some on different levels than others and yet I think I have looked into their hearts to see what kind of judge they will be. And after all of this there is one clear choice. Kathy Lape.
She is not a court house crony. She isn't jaded by years in the trenches advocating one side of the debate. She hasn't developed the jaded views that regulars in many legal circles have that causes them to treat other people's most serious matters in a cavalier manner. She is a real person, her husband a caring physician and her family upbringing instilled in her a sense of community that she has never left behind.
It would be an honor, to call her "your honor" and a great leap forward for the people of Kenton County to replace on very good judge with one destined to be even better. Kathy Lape should be your choice.
Tony Frohlic is retiring and Rick Brueggemann, Marcia Thomas, Ed Drennan and Howard Tankersley are on the ballot. One stands out heads and shoulders above the rest. Rick Brueggemann.
Rick is such a great choice that I am hard pressed to say enough good things about him. In few other races have I ever seen a candidate who I would trust with the Constitution as much as I would Rick. I doubt there will be a single day in his entire service on the bench where upholding his oath will not be the most important goal he strives for.
I have no doubt that his love of and dedication to his family, and his faith, will inspire each and every one of his decisions.
I am uplifted by the chance to have a judge on the bench who truly pulled himself up from a disadvantaged beginning to attend law school, become a lawyer and to have stood firm in defense of the Constitution time and time again. His ability to have empathy for the real people over whose lives and liberties his job will call upon him to adjudicate is the kind of special quality which must be advanced.
I will admit that Rick and I have not always seen eye to eye on all issues. I will also admit that on a political scorecard some would suggest that I shouldn't do anything to help a guy who helped my opponents. But once again, these choices are too important for petty political paybacks. The choice of the next judge in Boone County is too important to too many people for me to refuse to stand up and say that Rick Brueggemann is a man of character, poise, grace, faith, intellect, compassion and principle who is clearly the best choice in this field.
If you haven't heard State Senator Katie Stine is retiring. Three people are vying for her seat. Brandon Voelker, Deb Sheldon and Wil Schroder.
Katie leaves some very big shoes to fill. She was no doubt a force in Frankfort where she serves as President Pro-Tem of the Kentucky Senate. Who ever wins this primary better spend as much time as possible at her feet if they hope to come close to having the kind of impact she had.
Each of the candidates is a virtual newbie. Wil Schroder is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice and a fine young man. He earned his political stripes in the TEA party movement and helped with the Thomas Massie campaign. He is very popular with his generation and has a nice following due to his family's influence.
Brandon Voelker is a lawyer with plenty of political experience in and around politics. He has served as city attorney and been involved in party matters for years.
Deb Sheldon is an unkown. Her husband is Troy Sheldon the current Fourth District GOP chairman, hand picked by Thomas Massie with, I'm sure, the help of Dick Knock. Knock and her husband formed a PAC for Massie to help with his election.
On balance this is a Maiden Race. It's pretty hard to handicap it. Each has his/her own strengths. But, given the job of representing Katie's district it would be my opinion that Voelker is the better one to take up the mantle. Both Schroder and Sheldon are too connected with a small part of the Campbell county citizenry to carry a broad enough focus. In addition, Voelker has the experience of working with real life political situations from the perspective of city government. This was enough to put Jim Bunning in the state Senate years ago and in my opinon his career was of great service to the people of Kentucky. Voelker comes closer to having the same starting point. He should get your vote.
Let's make no mistake, current Judge Executive Steve Arlinghaus was a disaster waiting to happen when he won the seat four years ago. His bogus use of the court system in a political race, his bald faced lies about his opponent, his history of distrust in his personal life, his party switching, his failed record of public service all combined to suggest that a big name, from a big family with a big campaign war chest was about to win and take the county down with him. It all played out just like that.
Arlinghaus has embarrassed the county with the airport shenanigans. A parody website Steve Arlinghaus Airlines chronicles the failures, embarrassments and boonedoggles of his first and hopefully only term as Judge Executive.
On the other hand Kris Knochelmann represents not only a breath of fresh air after the stench left by Arlinghaus, but his experience on fiscal court, his business experience in the community and the quality associated with him and his family's name make him the clear choice for a brighter future for Kenton County.
Gary Moore has presided over the greatest period of growth and prosperity in Boone County history. And while no one in their right mind would suggest that he alone deserves credit for this, the fact remains, an elected executive who would no doubt get the blame if things went wrong, deserves to enjoy the credit when things go right. Moore deserves to enjoy the benefits of Boone County's success. But that's not the question. Does he deserve another term in office?
Again, if old political battles set the course of my opinions I could find a few reasons to oppose Gary. And if a perfect record of making all the right decisions was the litmus test for election to office, I would have to say he wouldn't qualify. But then again, who would under those circumstances?
The question here is given the choice between Gary Moore and Matt Dedden, who will be the better choice as the CEO of Boone County Kentucky? That was the question Dedden had to answer, and he didn't.
Given the opportunity to outline his plans and vision for the future, Dedden ducked. He avoided debates, avoided answering direct questions about his plans and his campaign fizzled.
Could Dedden have made the case that Moore needs to go? Who knows? He didn't and since elections are about choices and Dedden didn't give anybody any reason to choose him, it has to be Moore.
Is this a weak endorsement? It's not intended to be. Moore has the institutional experience, the political savvy and the know how to continue overseeing Boones growing prosperity and with a newly re-formed, more TEA party oriented fiscal court watching his every move, his moment to shine may really be just a few months away. The choice has to be Gary Moore.
Steve Pendery has ticked off republicans. Steve Pendery has ticked off democrats. Steve Pendery has ticked off Kevin Sell and from a distance this appears to be all of what this race is about.
Pendery enjoyed the celebration of the GOP at a time when Campbell was thought to be too democrat for republicans to do well. With the help of county resident Jim Bunning that turned around and Pendery was the beneficiary of some historic recognition.
Kevin Sell served with distinction as Geoff Davis' choice as Fourth District Chairman of the Republican Party. He has worked tirelessly for the GOP and earned many friends along the way. Quite frankly his experience in government relations means he has a good working knowledge of how things get done and who it takes to do them.
This is a bit of a close call. Both men have been friends for a long time. In fact this one is too close for me to call as a prediction except to say the people of Campbell County are fortunate to have two such fine choices.
Let's make this simple. Experience counts when it comes to running the business of a county government. There are a lot of moving parts and standing on the outside picking at feathers isn't the same thing as owning up to decisions. For these reasons the business of Kenton county deserves the experienced hands of Beth Sewell, Jon Draud and Joe Koester.
Cathy Flaig tops a list of many who seek a spot on the Boone Fiscal Court. But few people know the political wranglings and budgetary concerns of Boone County better than Cathy. She has been a "no" vote on the side of the people when that was not the way to earn points with her fellow fiscal court members. She dared to challenge incumbent Judge Executive Gary Moore and has helped to put together a group of TEA party folks in Boone that displaced the mainstream republican party apparatus. Her history with the county, her service to its citizens and her independent spirit are all exactly what Boone needs. It's simple, Cathy Flaig should be back on the court.
Charlie Walton has a long history of public service both with the school systems and in county government. But lately his approach to politics has become a bit less inspired than it once was. He is being challenged by former Florence Police chief Tom Szurlinski.
Szurlinski is a go getter. He completed law school and now is working with the highly skilled firm of Phil Taliaferro. To complete law school alone is no small feat. To do it as a second career is a daunting task. To become associated with such a stellar lawyer speaks volumes to Tom's abilities.
Charlie has had a good run but the time has come for new blood. Tom Szurlinski will be a valuable addition to the Boone Fiscal Court and deserves to be elected.
Charlie Kenner likewise has had a good run in politics. Additionally his professional services in the community and with our military deserve great respect. But the winds of change have blown through Boone County government and Kenner's time has passed.
Phyllis Sparks might seem an unlikely endorsement here. She didn't miss an opportunity to strike at me when she was helping run Thomas Massie's campaign and in the world of politics the rule has always been to reward your friends and punish your opposition. But that is not how I operate. Sparks is a fireball. She has very definite opinions and isn't afraid to express them, defend them or fight when challenged. I think a little time in the barrel might temper her toward a more diplomatic approach to the fact that not everybody thinks the same way, but when it comes to developing leaders one thing you can't teach is determination. Sparks is a very determined and vocal activist when it comes to political issues. Her quick mind and intensity will serve the people of Boone County very well. She deserves a seat on the fiscal court.
Chuck Korzenborn has brought a level of dignity to the Kenton County Sheriff's office that has raised the bar for law enforcement and public service. His opponent, Seymour Fisk, though a long standing friend of mine, and quite deserving of a great deal of respect, has not demonstrated why Korzenborn should be fired. That is the test of removing a public servant once selected by the voters. Korzenborn has earned another term.
Knowing both Sheriff Jeff Kidwell and former Ft. Thomas police officer Mike Jansen I can honestly say that this race is not about whether Kidwell has done the job he was elected to, but has distilled down to a rivalry like that which at one time pitted the Boone County Police Department against the Boone County Sheriff's Department. In the end the merger of the two there has resulted in what is perhaps the finest, most professional, well trained, well disciplined and public service oriented law enforcement agency in Kentucky. Right now, Kidwell's move toward what the Constitution grants to his office, that being county wide law enforcement authority, has rankled the other police departments in Campbell County.
Despite the protests of police Kidwell's term in office is filled with notable accomplishments.
He came in $335,000 under budget for 2013.
He reduced the percentage of tax on schools from 2.5% to 1.5% resulting in the Sheriff's Office returning $225,000 back to the school systems the office collect taxes for annually.
He reduced the premiums the Sheriff's office is paying for it's employees health insurance coverage by $55,000 per year.
He opened the first ever satellite Sheriff's Office in the south Campbell County.
He had a new application for Ipad/Iphone and Android developed to better inform Campbell County citizens.
He shut down a puppy mill in Campbell County.
He is the first Republican Sheriff Campbell County has had in 40 years.
Since he took office, he has mandated that all sworn personnel are trained and armed.
He also mandated that all deputies qualify with their weapons 3 times a year (one in low light). When he took office the Deputies had not qualified in 5 years.
When Kidwell took office he was elected to fill out the remaining two years of the retiring sheriff's term. His accomplishments alone justify his re-election. Kidwell deserves another term.
Josh Neal is opposed by one of his own deputies. Despite that fact, Sheriff Neal did not fire him. This is a testament to his character.
Working in the court system and around Gallatin County I have come to know Josh to be a true public servant. His opponent is all about law enforcement and might make a good police detective, but has none of the qualities possessed by Sheriff Neal to handle the entire administrative operations and public relations issues a Sheriff's office faces.
When I started this publication the blogosphere in Kentucky had been kick started by a kick in the mouth. A foul mouthed, mean spirited, rankly partisan website took the Commonwealth by storm. I wanted to offer a more honest and respectful forum for debate.
Since then I have found that most people have tuned out of the mainstream media. People now rush to their comfort zones for information.
Studies have shown that the explosion of interest in Facebook has devolved into people gravitating to groups, friends and sources that reaffirm their own beliefs. People either love or hate CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC and the other TV channels. Each has an agenda and people tend to watch the channel that tells them what they want to hear and already believe.
My experience in politics has led me to a similar conclusion. Despite how "revolutionary" some newbies to the political process feel about their patriotism it is my observation that they tend to follow and support only those candidates who tell them what they want to hear. It's a sick game. People lusting for power, fame and maybe even riches, play the public these days by preaching that they are driven by altruistic principles. I've been around long enough to have sniffed out their dissimulation.
And I've also come to believe that because people have become so distrustful of news, facts and opinions, that it is far harder to earn their trust. So many people are addicted to the gotcha game, or the relentless pursuit of finding fault or have ended up among the seemingly growing corps of the weak minded that their approach to life has seduced them into a state of belligerence toward anything that doesn't match their preconceived notions. And for those who have been beguiled into supporting the "new politics" over time they begin to exhibit cognitive dissonance when confronted with the truth that their favorites are really no different that the ones they oppose.
I believe we are in a very dangerous state of mind right now. National pride and national identity have been effectively destroyed. We are a nation of special interests without a strong common bond. Everybody distrusts everybody else and this makes us weak both in the perception of the world and in the reality of where we stand in the world.
Rush Limbaugh jokes that he is right 99 point something or other percent of the time. I have tried over the past 7 years to seek to be right all of the time, but I am human and sometimes despite my best efforts at observation, study and reasoning the unexpected causes a different result.
I sincerely appreciate the support I have gotten from this effort. I sincerely appreciate the folks who are regular readers and who share my posts. I also appreciate the debates I've had with those who disagree, some of them at least. I prefer to debate in a fair and polite forum rather than in the mud of name calling and hatred.
But I have concluded that this voice has become one of many where in the beginning I was one of a very few. I have proposed to some folks who I think know alot about human nature that a larger more effective conservative project is needed in order to penetrate the noise. I still believe this is true but I no longer believe that this format is of much use in making any significant difference in the world.
Just before a recent trial a wonderfully talented consultant sat me down and told me that I was trying to solve too many social and legal issues in one case. She said I needed to dial myself back, focus on how to win this one case for this one client and let the other cases with other clients and other lawyers in other courtrooms combine to make the difference I sought. She was right then and it applies now.
So, I will be focusing on my law practice, on my farm, on my family on my aging body and leave the crazy world of public interest in the game of politics to others.
I might post from time to time and if you are interested in seeing what I do without having to find me everyday, consider using the subscribe button in the upper right of this blog to get notified if and when I post. I can tell you that this week I will be posting some endorsements with reasons behind them. But after that, I'm just going to kind of fade away.
I will continue to keep paying to keep this blog up and all of my archives alive as well. As time goes by perhaps you might find something I said to have come true. Or you may want to revisit the political history chronicled here as it developed. But the job of reporting and commenting on political things appears to me now to be more of a distraction than a contribution.
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