Thursday, February 7, 2008

Beshear Is Special Election's Real Loser

Lost amidst the chaos of Super Tuesday was a Republican victory in a special election for the Kentucky Senate's 30th district, vacated by Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo. Republican Brandon Smith beat Democrat Scott Alexander 52.3 to 47.7 percent.

That increases GOP control of the Senate -- notwithstanding Gov. Steve Beshear's and Mongiardo's continual campaigning for Alexander. Look to this race as bellweather for this November and beyond. The implications of this victory, in both the short and long term, cannot be overstated.

How the Beshear machine ran the race in the 30th reveals that at a critical juncture at the very start of his administration, Beshear took the wrong road. And it wasn't the high road.

The Demo-blogs, to their credit, did not try to spin the results, and were very pointed in their assessment of where the blame lies.

From Page One:

Eastern Kentucky is pissed. Way to go, KDP. Let’s tout the merits of Democrats in a press release now that we’ve had our rears handed to us on a silver gubernatorial airplane platter.

That's an allusion to the scandal that Beshear caused by campaigning for the special election in the state plane.

Blue Grass Roots blamed Beshear and KDP:

Well, the KDP officially choked in the 30th Dist. special election for state senate. What should have been a win instead turned into an embarrassing loss.

And what brought about this loss? Well, it was Steve Beshear and the KDP butting in to install their favored candidate, all the while pissing off Democrats in the 30th to the point that they were divided enough to give the race to Republicans.

Mongiardo's assertion that the loss was not a setback for the Beshear administration is belied by the facts, as Elendil's Journal noted:

Remember this is a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. Even with party registration and the full power of the sitting governor, Beshear's hand picked candidate lost the race. I would have to think the results of such a race is a big deal. The consequences of which will probably derail his casino plans. The pressure on senators to vote against gaming has been relieved.

And as for Beshear's skill at hand-picking a candidate like an old-time party boss, turns out he's not so good at that either. (Take note, Bruce Lunsford.)

Mark Hebert and Elendil are clearly correct that casinos are a dead-letter, at least for now. But more important are the implications for this November. In a year that's supposed to usher in a tsunami of Democrats, they lost a district where they outregistered Republicans two to one -- notwithstanding high turnout.

Beshear's endorsement meant nothing; all his campaigning bore no fruit, and in fact, may have hurt his candidate, particularly given the controversy about the use of the state plane. Mongiardo stumped his old district every day for two weeks leading up to the election, but to no avail. By making the special election about their new administration, Beshear and Mongiardo are the real losers. The inescapable implication is that Beshear's election last November was solely a repudiation of Ernie Fletcher, and in no way an endorsement of or mandate for Beshear and Mongiardo.

The win also assures that Williams will have a Republican majority in the State Senate for the next three years. That, in turn, gives Williams a platform to raise funds for districts that Republicans would have written off but a week ago before the special election.

This election reveals a major strategic misstep by Beshear. He had a choice to make, and he chose badly. Having ran an upbeat campaign to represent all Kentuckians, he refused to meet with David Williams -- who was more than happy to work with the Governor-elect -- until people started discussing the snub.

Instead of working with Williams to actually get things done, Beshear and his minions ran a negative ad about Williams in the 30th district. As an election strategy, it didn't even make any sense. The 30th district residents don't know Williams from Adam. And as a way to develop good will and bipartisan cooperation, it was meanspirited and unproductive.

The Beshear administration really looks no different than the Fletcher administration. For all his talk about being a candidate of change, Beshear reverted to the old-style way of running Frankfort; botched hirings and firings; threats of cancelled contracts; appointments of recycled pols; freezing out the media; and lots of bravado. Voters repudiated this style of governance when they ousted Fletcher, and by replicating it, Beshear has set himself on the path to replicate Fletcher's defeat, as well.

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