Down-home hate from a Kentucky Republican



Mike Pape is one Republican candidate who has evidently sworn off dog whistle politics.

The congressional hopeful from Kentucky has deep-sixed the coded words and is pandering, flat-out, to racism and xenophobia.

His inaugural TV ad shows three men, presumably “Mexicans,” in grimy t-shirts that say “Stop Trump,” “Stop Ted Cruz” and “Stop Pape.” The trio, speaking in English with phony accents, cuts through a “border fence” at night.

According to the commercial, they aim to prevent a President Donald Trump from building his border wall and keep a President Ted Cruz from abolishing “Obamacare.” The ad’s message: the “illegals” are sneaking into America to thwart Pape, too, because he backs Trump and Cruz’s plans.

At the end of the ad, the candidate comes on and says, “I’m Mike Pape and I approve this message because no one will stop me from standing up for you.”

The video ad.

Pape has been district director for First District Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, for several years. He tossed his hat in the ring when his boss decided to retire after 11 terms.

Sprawling over western and south central Kentucky, the First District is arguably the most conservative section of the Red State Bluegrass State.

Pape obviously figures his ad will play well with the faithful. The First District is overwhelmingly white and tea party territory.

The commercial has brewed a storm of controversy, albeit beyond the district.

The liberal Think Progress website described the commercial as “filled with ugly stereotypes about Latino immigrants, complete with huge Mario Bros.-like mustaches, fake accents, and subtitles for the actors, even though they’re speaking in English for the vast majority of the ad.”

Veteran Kentucky journalist Al Cross also condemned the commercial. “He’s just going to the bottom of the barrel, appealing to people’s worst instincts, using crass stereotypes and, really, appealing to the ignorance that begets fear and ultimately hate,” he told John Null, a reporter at WKMS, Murray State University’s National Public Radio affiliate.

Even, so Cross, director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, suggested the ad will probably work.

“He’s appealing to people’s basest instincts and he is trying to hook himself to the Trump bandwagon without abandoning Cruz, who is popular in the district,” Null quoted Cross.

In a like vein, the liberal Mother Jones magazine called the spot “the worst ad of the 2016 campaign.” For similar reasons, it might also be the best ad of the 2016 campaign.

“Pape’s prospective district gave a combined 75 percent of the vote to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz [in Kentucky’s March presidential caucus], and Pape seems to have taken that message to heart.”

No doubt Pape relishes the liberal criticism, figuring it will make him stand taller with GOP voters, more than a few of whom drive cars and trucks emblazoned with “I don’t believe the liberal media” bumper stickers.

Pape, from Hopkinsville, is one of four Republicans seeking to succeed Whitfield.

The GOP primary winner will face Democrat Sam Gaskins, also of Hopkinsville, in the fall. Gaskins has denounced the ad.

Sam Gaskins

Sam Gaskins

“I found the ad a slap in the face of the Latino men and women I served with in the military and also the migrant workers that have come here legally to work the fields for Kentucky farmers,” said the Marine and Army veteran.

“There are small business owners in Hopkinsville who are Mexican and also deserve someone to serve them as well. That ad is not who we are as a commonwealth. We all stand together when push comes to shove.”

On his Facebook page, Gaskins calls on Pape to withdraw the ad.

Gaskins also urged the other GOP candidates, James Comer of Tompkinsville, Jason Batts of Clinton and Miles Caughey, Jr., of Herndon to urge Pape to pull the ad.

I wouldn’t bet the farm they will. They’re uber-conservatives like Pape, Trump and Cruz.

“The racial divide in this country has been preyed upon long enough,” Gaskins’ Facebook posting also says. “We have to stand up together, or we will fall divided. This doesn’t show the country or the world who we are as Kentuckians. Kentucky’s motto is “United we stand, Divided we fall.”

In any event, the neo-Know Nothing Pape may win the nomination and even the election. But more than a few district dwellers are repelled by his in-your-face bigotry.

“Alas, this will help him win,” said Ken Wolf of Murray, a retired Murray State history professor. “We have met the enemy and he is us–or at least many of us!”

“Wake up America– the naysayers are preaching hate to keep your mind off stealing you blind,” said Jeff Wiggins of Reidland, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and United Steelworkers Local 9447 in Calvert City. “They play the hate shell game to keep us blinded from how they are destroying our freedoms and rights.”

“It’s hard to get past my choking on anger at this throwback of humanity,” said Holly Erwin, a retiree from Sedalia.

“And to think, in terms of our U.S. congressman, I thought we had nowhere to go but up,” said Tom Waldrop, who owns a real estate business in Mayfield. “Now I see it is truly possible to elect someone with even fewer western Kentucky sensibilities.”

“Typical Republican strategy playing to xenophobic fears,” said Jeannie Embry of Paducah, who works for a computer firm. “What’s important is what he is actually going to do for the people of the First District—which is absolutely nothing. Otherwise, he’d be advertising his ideas, rather than demonizing a group of people.”

“I thought the ad was a satire about Pape until I saw him approve the message,” said Daniel Hurt of Grand Rivers, a Murray State student and chair of the Livingston County Democratic party.

“I guess what surprises me the most about the ad is not the message, considering he is running in the modern Republican party, but the fact that he’s chosen this issue for his first TV spot.”

“As a Democrat, I certainly have different opinions on the issues with all four Republican candidates. But it always seems to work out better when candidates focus on the positives and not on spreading fear and hostility.”

Times are tough for the ‘right to work’ crowd


Greg Stumbo

Greg Stumbo

Wheels keep coming off the “right to work” bandwagon.

I can almost hear the union-busters crooning that old “Hee Haw” tune:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me-e!
Deep dark depression, excessive misery-y!
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!
Gloom, despair, and agony on me-e-e!

The other day, a Wisconsin judge stuck down the Badger State’s RTW law as unconstitutional.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of a federal appeals court which rejected a teacher’s claim that contributing a “fair share fee” to the California Teachers Association to help pay for collective bargaining abridged her right to free speech.

Also in March, anti-RTW Democrats won three of four Kentucky House seats in special elections, thereby maintaining the party’s anti-RTW majority.

In February, a federal district judge in Louisville overturned Hardin County’s RTW ordinance. The ruling, in effect, also voided similar measures in 11 other counties.

But the union-busters are far from giving up. They’ll doubtless appeal all three court decisions.

In Kentucky, the Republicans will spend a bundle this fall in their never-ending effort to flip the House. The whole House and half the Senate is up for election.

Even so, buoyed by the election of tea party, union-busting GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, the Republicans looked to sweep the special elections and pull to 50-50. The John Birch Society-schmoozing Bevin even campaigned for candidates.

He went one-for-four. Unions went three-for-four.

“I don’t think you can overstate just how important organized labor was in the special elections,” Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said after the votes were tallied.

Unions can ill-afford to rest on their laurels, however impressively won. “We are heading right back into a full blown effort by our opponents to ‘flip the house’ – a mantra they have been using for about the past six years,” warned Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president.

Stumbo echoed Londrigan.

“Labor’s support was crucial during March’s four special elections, but it will be even more important heading into November, when more than 90 House seats will be contested,” the speaker said.

“Republicans have made taking a majority in the chamber a top priority nationally, since it is the only legislative body in the South they have not controlled in modern times. I’m confident we’re going to keep their losing streak going.”

After the GOP’s romp in the 2014 mid-term elections, Republicans have more than 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 state legislative seats, wrote David Byler of Real Clear Politics.

The GOP hasn’t enjoyed such an advantage since 1920, added Byler, citing Tim Storey, an expert on state legislative elections.

“Democratic Party leaders will almost certainly put increased money and manpower into these elections in 2016, but funding, advertising and campaigning on the local level can only do so much,” Byler also wrote.

Hence, a strong union ground game on behalf of labor-friendly candidates will be critical again.

“The national political atmosphere will play an outsized role in determining the outcome of state legislative contests,” according to Byler. “Specifically, the outcome of the presidential race will likely shape the composition of state legislatures across the country.”

Maybe so, but the Republican tsunami of 2014 was barely a trickle in Kentucky House races. The Democrats held their 54-46 edge, again thanks to a big boost from unions.

After two defections to the GOP and the special elections, the Democratic majority is 53-47. Momentum seems to be with the Stumbo’s party. “With the support of our working men and women, we will not fail,” he said.


Sellus Wilder Wins WHAS-TV Dem Senate Primary Debate


Sellus Wilder

Sellus Wilder

WHAS-TV hosted a debate featuring six Democratic candidates running for the U.S. Senate tonight. Jim Gray, Rory Houlihan, Jeff Kender, Ron Leach, Tom Recktenwalk, and Sellus Wilder were the participants.

To be honest it seems clear to us that Jim Gray, Ron Leach and Sellus Wilder are the front runners in this race. We came to that conclusion after comparing Facebook Page likes, Facebook shares, Facebook video views, Twitter followers, Vimeo and Youtube views and Instagram followers.

Jim Gray has the money. Sellus Wilder and Ron Leach have the grassroots, but tonight Sellus Wilder was the clear debate winner.

Two-term Lexington millionaire Mayor Jim Gray, endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, came off as a typical establishment Democratic politician that knows how to dodge a question.

Ron Leach and Sellus Wilder stood by their Progressive beliefs and didn’t dodge the questions but it was, in our opinion, Sellus Wilder that answered the questions convincingly with knowledge and conviction.

Kudos to Tom Recktenwalk.

Ron Leach: Green Beret motto consistent with Democratic Values

I doubt Democratic senatorial hopeful Ron Leach will get much of a trade in for his 2015 Ford Focus.

The ex-Green Beret medic-turned-physician’s-assistant-on-civvy-street has logged more than 12,000 campaign miles in his little compact car since he tossed his hat in the ring on January 26.

The Brandenburg resident was back in westernmost Kentucky Saturday. He spoke to the newly-elected Graves County Democratic Executive Committee in Mayfield. Leach also dropped by the annual Earth Day celebration in Paducah.

“I have made three trips and spent a total of seven days in the Purchase region,” said Leach, a retired Army major who served 21 years on active duty and eight years in the National Guard.

He is also a veteran of four combat tours — two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.
Elsewhere in the Purchase, Leach has stumped for votes in Murray. He has courted groups ranging from the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and the Purchase Area for Bernie Sanders organization to the McCracken County Democratic Executive Committee and the West Kentucky Young Democrats.

Leach is one of seven Democrats seeking their party’s senate nomination in the May 17 primary.

Apparently, he and Sellus Wilder of Frankfort are the only ones who’ve crossed the Tennessee River to campaign in the Purchase, which consists of Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall and McCracken counties.

Two-term Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, a millionaire and chairman of Gray Construction, his family firm, is the best-known Democrat in the field.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has endorsed Gray, who is the favorite to win the Democratic nod.

Leach, in a statement, said he is “proud NOT to be endorsed by the DSCC, and a bit relieved considering the DSCC’s record of ZERO Wins and Seven Losses here in Kentucky over the past twenty years.

“The same can be said for the DCCC in congressional races. Kentucky’s one and only Democrat in the US House of Representatives, John Yarmuth, was not endorsed by the DCCC in his first race.”

Leach is trying to make up for a lack of money and name recognition by non-stop personal campaigning.

Leach’s populist, pro-labor campaign is winning him friends in deep western Kentucky, local Democratic leaders among them.

Holly Erwin, a member of the Graves County committee, invited him to speak to her group. Afterwards, Leach posed for a photograph with most of the committee.
“There are so many factors that he covers well,” said Erwin, who favors Hillary Clinton for president. “He is a former high school agriculture teacher and knows farming.

“He is a veteran and has the military covered. My husband, Charlie, is a disabled army veteran who served in Vietnam, and I was one of the last WACs. We know how important it is to support the troops.” (Leach’s wife Kelly is an army nurse and lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Knox. They have six children and two grandkids.)

Erwin added, “Ron is also a family man and a physician’s assistant. So he knows the ins and outs of the health care system.”

Leach told the Graves County Democratic officials that De Oppresso Liber is the motto of the Special Forces, popularly known as the Green Berets.

It “is translated from Latin as ‘To Free the Oppressed.’ or Liberator of the oppressed as I usually state,” he explained, adding that the motto is “consistent with Democratic values. I think the other side’s motto would be ‘Hail to the plutocrats and winner take all.’”

Here’s how unions endorse candidates


The union-haters would have John and Jane Q Citizen believe that “rich union bosses” shut rank-and-file union members out of the all-important candidate endorsement process.

aflcio200x200They paint a picture of a bunch of old, paunchy, bald-headed guys in expensive suits going behind closed doors, breaking out the booze and cigars and turning thumbs-up and thumbs-down on candidates.

That’s baloney, of course.

Every union official, from shop steward to international president, is elected. Unions are, in effect, representative democracies, much like our local, state and federal governments.

Anyway, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO just finished a round of candidate endorsements for the 2016 elections.
So maybe this is a good time to explain to John and Jane Q—and maybe a rank-and-filer or two—how it all works.

It starts at the local union meeting. Members talk up candidates and vote on who they want to back.

The next step comes at the central labor council, or area council. Such councils are umbrella organizations that represent AFL-CIO-affiliated unions in certain geographical areas.

Each union sends delegates to the councils. Delegates are elected by their locals or they are appointed by the local president, who is elected.

The number of delegates a local is allotted is based on its membership. The larger the local, the more the delegates it is entitled to.

Area councils can endorse candidates in races for city and county government posts. Endorsements for candidates running for the U.S. House and Senate, governor, state legislature and constitutional offices are made at the state level.

Meanwhile, back at the council, delegates vote at special Committee on Political Education—COPE, for short—meetings. Usually, they are held after a regular monthly meeting.

Councils have COPE chairs. But all delegates participate in a COPE meeting.

Delegates discuss candidates, many of whom have visited local union and council meetings. Often, too, locals and councils send out candidate questionnaires seeking candidates’ positions on important union issues such as “right to work” and the prevailing wage.

Delegates can vote one of three ways for local candidates: endorsement, no endorsement and no recommendation. Endorsement requires a two-thirds majority vote from the delegates present. “No endorsement” and “no recommendation” need only a simple majority.

Votes can be taken by head count or by per capita, the latter meaning by the number of members a local has. The method of voting is determined by the consent of the delegates, including by a vote if called for. A simple majority carries.

A vote of no recommendation means local unions are free to support whichever candidate they wish.

Delegates also have three options in considering federal and state candidates: recommend endorsement to the state AFL-CIO, no recommendation and no endorsement.

The process of endorsing state and federal candidates winds up at the state COPE Committee, all of whose members are elected.

The panel consists of the state AFL-CIO president, vice president, financial secretary-treasurer, recording secretary and members of the state executive board—all elected for two-year terms at biennial state conventions. Other members are elected labor council presidents, council COPE chairs, local union presidents and international union officials.

The state COPE Committee votes to endorse—by a two-thirds majority—not to endorse or not to recommend candidates, the latter two categories by simple majorities.

Union-haters also want John and Jane Q to believe that rank-and-filers are not just denied a say in who their union endorses but are also forced to contribute money to endorsed candidates. That’s also baloney.

By law, union members cannot be compelled to give money to candidates or to other union political activities. Political contributions are strictly voluntary and go into special funds that are kept separate from dues or fair share fees which cover the cost of union representation and collective bargaining.

Of course, union members are free to vote for whomever they please.

Here’s the bottom line: unions don’t tell members who to vote for. Elected union officials endorse candidates they—with input from rank-and-filers and from the candidates themselves—consider most likely to support the union position on issues vital to union members.

By no means is the process secretive. Nor is it carried out by “union bosses” in the proverbial smoke-filled room.
The process starts at the grassroots, in the local union hall. Here, it’s direct democracy: union members vote themselves.

At the council and state level, it becomes representative democracy: men and women elected by the rank-and-file vote.

The process works basically the same in the other 49 states, the District of Columbia and at the national AFL-CIO, which will endorse a presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, the next time you hear somebody gripe about “union bosses” steamrollering candidate endorsements and forcing rank and filers to pony up for candidates they don’t like, let them in on how the process really works.

Challenge them to name a private entity that’s more democratic than organized labor.