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Obama vs. Williams in Ky House races

Obama vs. Williams in Ky House races

by Joe Arnold


Posted on June 25, 2012 at 12:06 AM

(WHAS11 Political Blog) -- Coming soon to a polling place near you, Barack Obama vs. David Williams.

Judging by the outcomes of the two most recent Kentucky elections, neither is well-regarded by the Kentucky electorate.

Both will be bogeymen in state House races this fall.  Leaders from both parties - to some extent - have distanced themselves from their respective standard-bearer.

Williams, castigated for an abrasive style (the Bully from Burkesville) and labeled as an obstructionist as Senate President, lost in a landslide to the Democratic incumbent Governor Steve Beshear in November.

Obama, the coal-hating, gay marriage-supporting (and African-American) steward of the flagging economy lost a majority of Kentucky's counties to "uncommitted" in the May Democrat primary, and that's among the party faithful.

Democrats hold a 59-41 advantage in the Kentucky House, but the Kentucky House Republican caucus has set an ambitious "12 in 12" goal of flipping 12 House seats and gain the majority.  73 Republicans are running for House seats, including challengers in 32 of the 59 House Districts now represented by incumbent Democrats.

A top Republican House strategist says the GOP has a "very good" chance of winning the majority.

Republican strategists believe that Obama's unpopularity in Kentucky will serve as reverse coattails for Democrats in Kentucky House races.

The Kentucky Democratic Party says it is ready for the looming attacks, launching a "coordinated campaign aimed at defending Democratic members" and targeting open seats in 2012. 

Party leaders say they are working “hand in glove” with Democratic House leadership on the effort, and will embed five party staffers in regions across the commonwealth.

“The Kentucky Democratic Party is ready to out-organize, out-raise and out-work the competition to make sure that Kentucky’s House of Representatives doesn’t become the disaster that David Williams’ State Senate has become,” said Dan Logsdon, Chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party. “Last November Kentuckians reaffirmed their desire to see continued commonsense Democratic leadership in Frankfort and we haven’t taken a day off in continuing the fight.”

That kind of ground effort is not cheap and Democrats have a significant head start, a million dollar war chest and leftover campaign funds from Beshear.

Republicans started the election season with a few thousand dollars but Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover has said that the state GOP will get to $750,000.  Several June fundraisers have apparently swelled the coffers.

The Republican House Committee has hired Louisville strategist Joe Burgan to oversee their statewide effort, a bid to win control of the House for the first time in nearly 90 years.  Burgan will work out of a party office beginning July 1.

Burgan said that while Democratic candidates will be saddled with Obama, "we are really going to talk about House members at the county level."  Burgan managed Republican Hal Heiner's Louisville mayoral campaign in 2010, a narrow 51% to 49% loss to Democrat Greg Fischer in 2010.

Logsdon is using the threat of Republican control of the House to rally Democrats.

“If you want to see what happens when you lose commonsense Democratic leadership in the Kentucky House, look no further than David Williams’ State Senate,” Logsdon said.

“Make no mistake about it, if David Williams’ party gains a majority in the House, we’ll have front row seats to the Bully from Burkesville’s unchecked assaults on working families, women, students, teachers and organized labor," Logsdon said.  "The Kentucky Democratic Party and Democrats in the House will be working everyday between now and November to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

"If the only thing the Democrats have to run on is the leadership of David Williams, its going to be a long year for them," Burgan countered, "People think that Frankfort is broken and Democrats have been in charge in the House for 90 years."

Hoover, however, has already distanced himself from Williams.

In a recent op-ed to push for a Republican House majority, Hoover lashed out at the legislature's leaders, not specifying Democrats in the House.

"The leadership of the legislative branch has failed," Hoover wrote. "They have failed to serve as the statesmen we need."

"It seems time and again as though we get bogged down by the political gamesmanship of a few who evidently cannot set aside their political and personal differences for the good of the commonwealth," Hoover wrote.  "Simply put, this has to stop."

Hoover would include House Speaker Greg Stumbo in that diatribe, but Democrats will stress Williams.

With Democrat office holders in several other states boycotting the Democratic National Convention, Kentucky's top Democrats say while they are opposed to President Obama on coal policies, they will still support the incumbent Democrat at the convention.