By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360
Sam Youngman, the Lexington Herald-Leader’s political scribe, posed a quintet of questions about the election in the paper.
They are all worth pondering.
“1. Is boring brilliant?”
Attorney Gen. Jack Conway, the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, has concentrated more on fund-raising than on old-fashioned political rallies, Youngman pointed out.
Lately, the labor-endorsed Conway has been more visible to John and Jane Q. Citizen, even in the Jackson Purchase, as far west as Kentucky goes. I saw him in Murray last week.
Today, he’s supposed to be flying all over the state. He plans to be back in the Purchase, where I live, visiting a local barbecue eatery in Paducah.
“It’s hard to imagine that Conway’s voters are ‘fired up and ready to go,’ but they might be chomping at the bit to vote against Bevin,” Youngman suggested.
There is ample evidence that most Kentuckians who pack union cards are “fired up and ready to go” for Conway. They’re also “chomping at the bit to vote against Bevin.”
“We’ve got to all pull together and do away with this right to work — keep it off our shoulders,” said Stuart Rendleman, business manager of Paducah Irownworkers Local 782.
Rendleman and two other Ironworkers were in a crowd of about 70 people who showed up to cheer Conway and his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, at a Paducah barbecue restaurant.
“Jack Conway will keep us in our union work and keep our prevailing wage, which helps union and no union workers,” said Philip Orr, Local 782 business agent.
“Jack Conway is the only way to go,” said Jim Morphew, a retired Ironworkers international representative. “We can’t afford right to work.”
Diana Yancey, a former AFSCME District 62 staffer agreed about Conway. “He will prevent a ‘right to work’ law and protect union workers’ rights. He’s our man.”
Conway could turn out to be the most pro-union governor in Bluegrass State history.
It’s for sure that Bevin would be among the most anti-union governors ever.
Ardently pro-“right to work,” Bevin despises the very idea of workers organizing and bargaining collectively. Think Wisconsin under Scott Walker, the Dairy State’s bare-knuckles, union-busting governor. That’s Bevin’s vision for Kentucky.
“2. Which Matt Bevin do voters see?”
That’s maybe Youngman’s most interesting question. Will most voters reject him as a serial flip-flopper on issues, a tea party-tilting, John Birch Society-cozying, far-right wing extremist and a candidate with a hair-trigger temper who is about as warm and cuddly as a riled-up badger?
Or will his social issues sucker play work in the Bible Belt Bluegrass State? All along, Bevin has pandered on what one of my union buddies calls “the Three Gs – God, guns and gays.” I’d add an “A” for abortion. He has wound up the campaign hitting harder on the social issues, as Youngman noted under question 4.
“If voters share the opinions of people who are involved in politics on a daily basis, then Tuesday night will be a long one for Bevin,” Youngman proposed. “If there’s a significant disconnect between the chattering class and the people who vote Tuesday, then get ready for four years of fireworks.”
“3. A Nader or a nonfactor?”
Will Drew Curtis be to Conway what Ralph Nader was to Al Gore in 2000?
I’d bet the farm that Curtis doesn’t have the same lure for liberals that Nader had.
Oh, he sounds liberal on some issues. He never impressed me, though he intrigued some of my local liberal friends at first. But none of them said he had their vote.
Curtis seemed pretty conservative in his debate with Conway and Bevin. I suspect he sunk himself with nearly every liberal statewide when he said he’d vote for Donald Trump. Afterwards, Curtis pulled a Bevin and tried to backtrack, to no avail.
“But if Curtis continues to pull supporters from both sides of the political spectrum, as the polls have shown, his presence in the race might be a wash,” Youngman predicted. “If liberal Democrats defect en masse, then he’s a spoiler for Conway. If he’s the landing spot for the protest votes of establishment and moderate Republicans, then he could be Conway’s savior.”
John David Dyche, Louisville WDRB radio’s conservative Republican pundit is for Curtis. I suspect he’s not alone among like-minded GOP establishment types.
At the same time, I’d bet the farm that precious few liberals will vote Curtis over Conway and risk helping hand Bevin the election.
“If Conway loses by a couple of points, Democrats will spend their darkest hours between now and 2019 cussing the name of the independent candidate,” Youngman suggested.
I still take the narcissistic Nader’s name in vain.
“Regardless, his place on the ballot could deny the winner 50 percent of the vote, leaving that person without any kind of real mandate when they get to Frankfort,” Youngman wrote. Maybe so, but a win’s a win. Abe Lincoln (a Republican I could enthusiastically vote for) won the presidency in 1860 with a tad less than 40 percent of the vote in a four-way race. He turned out to be one of our greatest presidents.
4. Who wins the cliché contest?
“It’s all going to come down to turnout. It depends on who shows up to vote. It was a dark and stormy night.”
Youngman is right. But I’d also wager that turnout will be heavy at least among Kentuckians who pack union cards.
“Bevin has run hard to the right in the closing days of the race, making appearances at religious liberty rallies and mixing up his usual closing message about the evils of apathy with a focus on social issues,” Youngman wrote.
“Will a coalition of Tea Party and evangelical voters who might not have voted in the past (and thus not shown up in opinion polls) come together to put Bevin over the top, or will traditional Democratic groups, disaffected Republicans and uneasy undecided voters make Conway’s polling leads a reality?
Dyche is by no means the only Republican unhappy with Bevin, the guy Team Mitch dubbed an “East Coast con man” and a “pathological liar.” There’s a conspicuous Republicans for Conway group which includes Tommy Willett, the judge-executive of Monroe County, stomping grounds for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, one of the guys Bevin beat in the May GOP primary.
If there’s a Democrats for Bevin organization I haven’t heard about it.
“5. Issues or ideology?”
At its heart, this is an election about issues, though it’s not easy to tell given the personalities of the candidates, the modern style of politics and the general disinterest (disdain?) displayed by the electorate,” Youngman observed.
“In a state where Democrats often sound like Republicans, the choice voters often face is between night and later that night.” Amen — the Bluegrass State is home to a lot of none-too-union friendly “DINOs” — “Democrats in Name Only” and “DILEOs” — “Democrats in Local Elections Only.”
“But in this race, Conway and Bevin are night and day — even weeks — apart on major issues of enormous importance to the future of the commonwealth.” Amen again.
“Not on coal or guns or some of the commonwealth’s traditional battlefields, but on health care, labor union laws, education and many other topics. The two major-party candidates are offering two very different visions of the future.” Amen, amen.
Conway believes that future should include strong unions. Bevin’s idea of “free enterprise” is union free.
Time and again, Conway has stuck up for unions. He is anti-“right to work.” He supports the prevailing wage.
Bevin is pro-RTW and anti-prevailing wage. He is a Social Darwinist of the if-you’re-poor it’s your problem, not Frankfort’s or Washington’s persuasion.
Bevin is itching to turn the clock back to the late 19th-century era of the Robber Barons who made millions by impoverishing their workers and busting unions with impunity.
I’m not one for sloganeering. But brothers and sisters, vote tomorrow for our whole union-endorsed slate like your union, your job and your livelihood are at stake – because they are.