Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton in Columbus in 2015.
The end of a historic electoral career will come to an end in 2019 with few fireworks and it looks like very few protests. The election of the first African American woman to the highest office ever held by an African American woman should have been a earth shaking event. It should have been. But it was not.
Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, a resident of Bowling Green and an ardent supporter of the Tea Party movement, was plucked from relative obscurity by long shot candidate Matt Bevin back in 2015. Her inspiration was fellow Bowling Green transplant, Dr. now Senator Rand Paul.
Hampton, an engineer and Air Force veteran, grew up in Detroit during the very bad old days as that city sank lower into poverty. Hampton was mentored in the auto industry served in the Gulf War. She met her husband in the military.
In August 2015, during an interview she told me that with an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering and a masters degree in marketing, she has some idea of what she wants to focus on as lieutenant governor. She wants more entrepreneurial training in the schools from pre-K through college. She wants to promote education at all levels. She also wants to promote a better connection between private business and education. Finally, she wants to be a role model for all ages. Getting her higher degree in her forties, she wants to show there is no certain age to stop learning. Political Novice keynotes Columbus Park picnic
I was hopeful that this candidate who grew up only blocks from where my family lived in the 1960s would champion programs for the poor and disadvantaged. She did not. During her term, she focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for young people - especially young women. She was seldom seen around the halls of Frankfort and has been a low key member of the Bevin administration.
When Governor Bevin's chose a running mate who looks like him, thinks like him and is an extrovert like him, Hampton's response was as a good soldier. She agreed with the commanding officer's choice of another companion in the coming bumpy campaign.
Only when the Governor dismissed her chief of staff did Hampton show a spark of rebellion. Steven Knipper, who filed to run for secretary of state ran afoul of an edictt that senior officials could not run for office. Hampton announced almost immediately she was reappointing him to his position. It is not clear if she was successful.
I didn't always agree with Jenean Hampton. Our political philosophies are light years apart.
But it saddens me that the historic election of a woman of color, the first black woman to speak at the Fancy Farm Picnic, will come and go with only a footnote in Kentucky history.
I wish she had been louder. I wish she had been pushier. I wish she had made headlines for something. Hell, I wish she'd been a Democrat.
During this Black History Month, do not let the history making election of Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton go unremarked.