Oh. Yeah. There was an election last week, wasn’t there?
We have been reminded by several of our readers that we have neglected to report on the election results.
My excuse is that I worked the polls on Election Day and after working a 15 hour day, came home and went to bed. I did watch some of the coverage on KET.
Anyway, I digress. Here’s the Monday (a week later) morning quarterback’s view from the far end of the state:
Governor/Lt. Governor slate
The election last Tuesday was a walk in the park for the top of the ticket. Governor Beshear blew his two opponents out of the water by capturing almost 56% of the total vote to Sen. Williams’ 35% and Galbraith’s 9%.
In several counties in the Purchase, Governor Beshear did even better than the statewide average. Ballard, Calloway, Fulton and Hickman Counties all returned percentages higher than the state average. McCracken, Carlisle, Graves and Marshall County vote totals were above 50% for the Governor, but fell short of the statewide average.
It is hard to believe that only a few months before, the conventional wisdom was that the governor’s race would be a toss up. Governor Beshear, according to the experts, would need the down ticket races more than they would need him. That turned out to not be the case.
Beshear’s campaign took him to every corner of the state – over and over and over. Beshear raised a zillion dollars which helped get his ads out everywhere. He also attended ribbon cuttings for factory openings, expansions, highway and road construction in a crisscross pattern around the Commonwealth. When he cut a ribbon for a factory in Somerset in the heart of Williams’ country, the handwriting was on the wall.
Senate President David Williams worked long and hard to earn his reputation as the tough guy of the Kentucky Senate. Unfortunately, in Kentucky politics, tough guys finish second. Even the addition of the personable, but inarticulate, Richie Farmer didn’t help.
After Williams’ defeat and the defeat of all but James Comer on the GOP ticket, the sharpening of legislative knives can be heard all the way to the Mississippi River. John David Dyche, the mouth of Sauron a/k/a Mitch McConnell, has called for Williams to step down from his role as president of the Senate. Williams may see his power in the chamber he has ruled for years melt away after the devastating defeat at the polls.
Anyone who counts David Williams out will be the same person who approaches a wounded grizzly bear, thinking it is helpless. He may be hurt, but the Burkesville Republican may just decide to punish those he believes engineered his defeat. One thing’s for sure, his father in law has shown his loyalty to the Williams/Farmer cause. He put in millions of his own money to run attack ads against the governor.
Secretary of State
The only candidate on the Democratic ticket to outdo the Governor was candidate for secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Grimes pulled over 60% of the vote statewide in her victory over former US Senate candidate Bill Johnson. Grimes benefited from a primary victory over Elaine Walker, the governor’s choice to be interim secretary of state when Trey Grayson toddled off to Harvard after he was beaten by now Senator Rand Paul. At the time, insiders shook their heads over the governor’s choice of Walker. The former mayor of Bowling Green is also a former Republican. The appointment pulled her out of her role as chair of the Kentucky League of Cities. That left a space for Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton to take over. Paxton, a dyed in the wool Republican, endorsed the gubernatorial slate.
The daughter of political old timer, Jerry Lundergan, her campaign ads charmed viewers in the last two weeks. She too crisscrossed the state outworking her opponent. Grimes also held jobs fairs across the state and demonstrated her mastery of the twin duties of the office: business records and managing elections.
Grimes, an attorney, just won her first statewide race. We suspect it will be far from her last.
Democrat Jack Conway beat his opponent Todd P’Pool by almost 82,000 votes. That’s an 11% margin of victory. The Democrat did very well in Central Kentucky, but less well as vote totals came in from the west. Conway lost McCracken, Calloway, Graves, Marshall, and Carlisle Counties by small margins. He won Ballard, Fulton and Hickman by small vote totals. (Conway prevailed in Hickman County by three votes.)
It may be puzzling why Conway didn’t do better in West Kentucky until P’Pool’s television campaign, run in the waning days of the race are reviewed. P’Pool’s charges that the Attorney General supports President Obama and is pro-choice probably made inroads into Conway’s support in the area. Further, Conway comes across as a big city politician. His cursing at Fancy Farm and the clumsy aquabudda attack on tea party favorite Rand Paul, which looked to the casual observer like an attack on Paul’s religion, have not been forgotten.
Auditor of Public Accounts
Democrat Adam Edelen prevailed over GOP candidate John Kemper III by almost 91,000 votes. Edelen benefited from the endorsement of Crit Luallen, the current auditor. He also benefited from his opponent’s bankruptcy brought on by a business deal gone bad and the fact that Kemper had very little money to spend on the campaign.
Todd Hollenbach, running for his second term as state treasurer, came the closest to the edge of the Democratic candidates. The margin of victory statewide was a thin 17,497 votes. His opponent, Lexington councilwoman K. C. Crosbie, ran few ads in West Kentucky. She is well known in the Bluegrass and received the endorsement of Democratic Fayette County Mayor Jim Gray.
Democratic strategist Jennifer Moore opined on Tuesday evening that Crosbie might have been successful if she had used her name instead of her initials. Maybe. Maybe not. Hollenbach’s treasure finders program that uses local volunteers to call names they recognize to alert them of unclaimed property has taken him all over the state.
In the Purchase, Hollenbach won Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton, Hickman, Marshall and Graves County (by the tiniest of margins). He lost Calloway by 225 votes and McCracken County by 757 votes.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Jamie Comer was the only bright spot for Republicans on election night. Comer, a legislator from Monroe County easily defeated Robert “Bob” Farmer. Comer’s argument that it takes a farmer to run Agriculture rang true with voters. Farmer got in trouble with voters because of jokes he made about eastern Kentuckians years before. He was never able to explain away the humor which offended many in the Commonwealth when Comer ran some of the remarks as television ads.
Democrats with legislative contacts described Comer as a “nice guy” and said that Farmer’s ignorance of farm programs turned them off.
Comer won every county in the Purchase by an almost two to one margin. Farmer’s defeat may be an indication that voters did not confuse him with Richie Farmer (though that Farmer didn’t win either). It also indicates that there are few straight ticket voters anymore. Voters want to mark every box and choose their candidate, office by office.
The election of 2011 was poorly attended. Voter turnout hovered around 30%. We don’t know whether that indicates satisfaction with the current state leadership (oh, he’ll win without my vote), apathy (it doesn’t make any difference who’s in office) or disgust with the offerings (staying home because all of the candidates are bad).
What we do know is that election 2011 spells trouble for Democrats in the relatively large voter strongholds of McCracken and Calloway Counties. Republicans did better in those counties than in the other counties of the Purchase. The two counties have higher employment rates and a higher per capita income. Both have been sites of tea party rallies in the past. Both are served by conservative media outlets.
Election 2011 had very good news for Democrats. It also heralded a newer, younger generation of politicians coming onstage. The Gen X generation is moving into elective office and bringing new energy and a new perspective.
That’s very good news for all Kentucky.