Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Down Ticket Candidates Continue to Impress

The Republican Party of Kentucky held a fundraiser last night for all the state-wide candidates below Matt Bevin.  Bevin,  Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman Brett Guthrie were guests of honor.

The event raised $250,000.  Not too shabby.  Donors had the choice of giving to the party or to the candidate.

I've written before about my friend Allison Ball, who is running for Treasurer, as well as Whitney Westerfield, who is running for Attorney General. Both are outstanding candidates.

Last night, I had the opportunity to meet the rest of the slate. Wow.  As McConnell pointed out, not that long ago the party had to dragoon people to run for these down-ticket races.  Now we have these stellar candidates; it bodes well for the future of the party.  Any of these people, down the road, would be well-suited to run for Congress, U.S. Senate or a governor.

Specifically, I am referring to Ryan Quarles (running for Commissioner of Agriculture); Mike Harmon (running for State Auditor); and Steve Knipper (running for Secretary of State).  They had my vote already. Now they will get some of my money. Each of these candidates impressed me as sharp, conservative, and real -- just genuinely nice people.

Quarles appears to be winning against a candidate who doesn't seem very bright. My son commented after he heard her Fancy Farm speech that it was the first time that he had heard someone (Quarles) criticized for being too well-educated. It struck him as ignorant. I've heard similar comments since.

Mike Harmon is running against Adam Edelen. I am going to try to watch that debate. Harmon has a great sense of humor and I expect he will do very well against Edelen.  Edelen, meanwhile, is telling people (even elected Republicans) that he plans to run against Sen. Rand Paul.  So he is using the position of Kentucky Auditor in the interim.  Lots of politicians use lots of offices for spring boards.  But to run for reelection when you know that you are already seeking the next office the following year seems slimey and opportunistic.

I was also impressed with Steve Knipper, who is running against Alison Lundergan Grimes. Grimes should be worried about this race coming off her 16 point loss to McConnell. Apparently she is.  Knipper noted that after Grimes learned he had worked in China for many years and had adopted five children from that country, Grimes decided it was necessary to take her first trip there to prove her bona fides on international trade.  Grimes recently took an introductory IT class; Knipper's background, coincidentally, is in IT. Kipper said he would welcome a debate with her on IT issues. Knipper's central point is that the Secretary of State, which is in charge of elections, registration of corporations and other areas requiring efficient and effective computer technology and software, is very similar to a chief technology officer or chief business officer of a company.  It is not a way station for the politician daughter of a politician who longs for higher political office.  How fun would it be to finish off the bad Alison once and for all and end the Lundergan dynasty?  That, in and of itself, warrants a contribution to Knipper.

The fate of these down-ticket candidates is to a large extent tied to that of Matt Bevin. Each is strong enough, however, that if (God forbid) Jack Conway wins, they could still win -- but only if properly funded. These candidates have disrupted their lives and put themselves out there to advance conservatism and the Republican Party of Kentucky.  Let's all do what we can to support them. Not everyone can write a big check, or any check. But we can all post a yard sign or walk a precinct and make some calls.

Friday, August 28, 2015

I Like Whitney Westerfield's Odds

Everyone knew the Kentucky Attorney General's race would be tough for Republicans. Gov. Steve Beshear's been shaking down people to give to his son Andy for long time and to great success. However, money is not everything, even in an election.

I have finally met Whitney Westerfield and was very impressed. He struck me as quite bright. And like the best lawyers, he is creative. He has an excellent grasp of the issues and a good political instinct. He's personable.

This is the only competitive AG race in the country this year, so the Republican Attorney General's Association is poised to spend several millions here. For that to happen, Whitney needs to raise his share.

Once RAGA gets involved, Beshear's fundraising advantage will be cancelled out. With a level playing field, this is a winnable race for Republicans; Kentucky is now a red state.

It's time for Republicans to dig deep and support him.  Andy Beshear does not have to be inevitable any more than Hillary Clinton needs to be inevitable. But the election is fast approaching. Whitney needs money yesterday.

For those Republicans who have not been energized by this election, you need to meet and then donate to Whitney. Likewise for my friend Allison Ball, who is running for Treasurer. It really encourages me about the future of the Republican Party of Kentucky with such strong candidates in the down-ticket races.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Donald Channels Henry VIII

In case you missed my Courier-Journal column yesterday, here it is:

he narrative for this presidential election was supposed to be about which competing political dynasty would get to crown its heir.
This “inevitability” narrative is belied by the thousands who flock to hear Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Apparently Trump and Sanders did not get the memo about Bush and Clinton having a lock on the nomination.
Meanwhile, Bush and Clinton, like King Louis XVI or Tsar Nicholas II, are in denial. The excitement for Trump and Sanders reflects lack of enthusiasm for both heirs apparent. Both are waiting for their respective nemesis to self-destruct and for the peasants to wake up. It’s hard to see how that is a winning strategy, but we are nonetheless assured that Clinton and Bush remain as certain as death and taxes.
During the recent Republican debate, Jeb looked like he was having about as much fun as King George III reading the Declaration of Independence. Nor does Hillary seem to enjoy campaigning, evading reporters and questions about servers (and not the kind who pass canap├ęs for Jerry Lundergan).
Jeb and Hillary give the impression that they are running due to a sense of duty sprung from a sense of entitlement. They convey no passion for the position they seek or pleasure in the process to obtain it. As candidates, they are joyless. Voters should do them the favor of sparing them the burden of governing.
Watching Clinton and Bush campaign harkens back to Sen. Teddy Kennedy’s failed candidacy and his interview with Roger Mudd in 1979. When asked why he wanted to be president, Kennedy stuttered and flailed as his chances evaporated. His famous last name was an insufficient justification for a presidential campaign. Nostalgia for Camelot and kinship in a political royal family was not enough.
Neither Jeb nor Hillary has self-destructed the way Kennedy did; there has been no dramatic moment when it all went wrong. There have been no dramatic moments whatsoever. Maybe that’s why the prospect of a Bush-Clinton election feels so stale. Regardless of how one views Bill Clinton, or Bush 41, or George W. Bush, America need not and should not recycle our leaders from the same few families. It’s the electoral equivalent of inbreeding.
Jeb enthusiasts argue that the presence of another Clinton on the ballot negates the dynasty issue for him. No doubt Hillary’s supporters give her the same assurance about Jeb. But two dynasties running against each other doesn’t take away the issue, it just robs the American voters of fresh blood.
It starts looking like the War of the Roses, with the Yorks fighting the Lancasters for the British throne. The War of the Roses ended with the establishment of the House of Tudor, which drew from the competing dynasties to start a new one. Maybe that’s why Trump, who has donated to both parties, is so optimistic about his prospects.
Donald Trump does resemble Henry (Tudor) VIII, starting with the strawberry blonde hair. There is a similar swagger, a similar propensity to flaunt wealth with glamorous excess, a refusal to be bound by rules, tradition or courtesy. Though he never used the term, Henry VIII attacked political correctness centuries before Trump took up that mantle.
Both Trump and Henry VIII appreciated beautiful women, which led to complicated marital histories. To be sure, Trump hasn’t decapitated any of his ex-wives. But he decrees “You’re fired!” with an executioner’s gusto.
And like you know who, Trump has even started taking on the Pope – says he needs to scare the Pope for his own good. As Hillary channels Eleanor Roosevelt, maybe Trump is channeling Henry VIII.
Perhaps that’s why Trump has seized upon illegal immigration as his signature issue: Henry VIII had no tolerance for those Scots who slipped in over the border.
As with Henry VIII, we never know what Trump will do or say from one day to the next. That unpredictability is exhilarating, and terrifying. It’s exactly the opposite of what we get from Jeb or Hillary. It keeps us mesmerized. The notion that Trump will make Jeb and Hillary look like grown-ups is not working. He just makes them look boring.
Trump’s rivals should emulate what he does well. He speaks bluntly about America’s challenges. He believes in American exceptionalism. He does not appease anyone. He has panache. He enjoys campaigning.
But we need a Man (or Woman) For All Seasons with wisdom and gravitas to stand up to him when he goes too far.
The Framers would not want us to pass the presidency between dynasties. Nor would they want to see us elect a president who styles himself as an autocrat. As the Israelites learned in the time of Samuel, think twice before you seek a king.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why Won't Bevin Endorse Rand?

I have tried to respect Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment by not criticizing Matt Bevin.  He won the primary, and I will vote for him as our party's nominee.  The fact that I will vote straight ticket will make it easier.

Bevin's recent refusal to endorse Sen. Rand Paul's presidential bid bothers me enough that I will break the 11th Commandment.

Rand is our native son and Republicans here should back him, including Bevin.  It's a matter of loyalty to our own.

I was particularly disturbed that Bevin sought the opportunity to appear with Rand and then, when asked, declined to endorse Rand. It struck me as ungrateful and discourteous.

If Bevin is going to take the position that he will not endorse anyone, including Rand, then don't appear with Rand.  Indeed, I would be surprised if Rand invites him to appear with him again any time soon.

Is Bevin going to turn down endorsements, since he won't give any?

Bevin doesn't want to be beholden to anyone, and to some reasonable extent, that's laudable.  But independence, taken to an extreme, seems prideful.

That's fine that Bevin doesn't need our money; it frees us up to donate to our outstanding down-ticket candidates. However, Bevin refuses to take advice from longstanding Republicans who sincerely would like to help him win.

 Bevin's a smart guy, but he gives the impression that he thinks he is too smart to listen to anyone. That lack of humility may haunt him.  How will he ever get good people to work in a Bevin administration?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rand Gets His Caucus!

The Central Committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky voted 114 to 37 to hold a caucus in 2016.  It took 98 votes to pass.

That removes the obstacle of Rand Paul's name appearing on the ballot twice, in violation of a Kentucky statute.  At least it removes that obstacle during the primary phase.

RPK Central Committee Requests Secret Ballot

Those members of the Republican Party of Kentucky Central Committee who oppose the caucus should be forced to go on the record. The request for a secret ballot was cowardly.

Leaders don't hid.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Give Rand His Caucus Already

Tomorrow the Central  Committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky will vote again on whether to adopt a caucus format for 2016.  This is necessary to allow Sen. Rand Paul to simultaneously run for president and senator.

Members of the Committee and are muttering about cost. They say they don't want the party to be stuck with the cost of the caucus. (In contrast to a caucus, the party does not have to pay to participate in a primary election.)

The notion that Rand is not good for the money is complete garbage. This is a small state and Kentuckians know Rand.  He is a man of integrity. If he says that he will pay for it and that the party won't get stuck with any costs, his word is his bond. I am appalled that anyone in the party would doubt him on this.

Yes, there was a snafu on the timing of the first round of money being transferred. Nonetheless, he is still good for the money. The party doesn't need the money yet. So why the fuss?

It's true that Rand's fundraising for his presidential campaign has been disappointing recently. That is not true in Kentucky. I went to a fundraiser for him a few months ago that raised $100,000 without the organizers even having to hunt down donors.

As a matter of integrity, Rand will honor his promise to the party. As a matter of political ability, he will be able to raise the money -- whatever the amount. Indeed, some members of the Committee appear intent on exaggerating the potential costs.

I find it very odd that party members want the money up front. When you build a house, you make payments based on the progress of the house; you don't pay the entire cost up front. Similarly, Rand is entitled to make payments as the party demonstrates that it is actually committed to going through with this thing.

It makes no difference whom one is supporting in the presidential primary. Rand Paul is a Kentuckian. Members of his own party should have his back at least to the extent that he can explore his viability as a presidential candidate.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Checking in on Bevin v. Conway

Louisvillians who attended Friday's GLI lunch are still talking about Matt Bevin's stellar performance. Some have said that Bevin is the best extemporaneous speaker they have ever seen.

Bevin contends that if elected, he will be the first Kentucky governor in a generation who is not beholden to anyone. That seems to imply that Bevin is willing to write a significant check to self-fund his campaign.  (He is said to be worth $38 million, $30 million of which is said to be liquid). This explains the curious lack of direct mail solicitations and invitations to Bevin fundraisers.

In addition, the Republican Governors' Association has the opportunity to play a big role in this race given the dearth of off-cycle elections.

That opens up fund-raising possibilites for the down-ticket candidates, who have been quick to seize that opportunity.

At this point, it feels like the race is essentially a toss-up. Bevin could not have asked for a more ideal opponent than Jack Conway. For some reason, the longer that Conway is in the public eye, the more detestable he becomes. He just doesn't wear well.  It's like his expiration date is almost up. Perhaps Conway really hasn't liked being Attorney General or really doesn't like to campaign.

Given the political environment at this point, I'd give the edge to Bevin.