By Jacob Conway
The 2012 federal elections in Kentucky lack the excitement they had in the last few years.
There’s no U.S. Senate race, only two of the six congressional races have an actual contest, and unless something spectacular happens, Mitt Romney will carry our Commonwealth by a large margin.
That’s led many to speculate on the re-election campaign of Senator Mitch McConnell.
Saturday it was brought up at a rally for State Senator Perry Clark.
Sunday it was brought up at Wildwood Country Club over brunch with my family, and on Monday The Courier-Journal’s Joe Gerth wrote a column discussing the contenders.
Gerth did a fine job tipping his hat to the conventional wisdom candidates. He mentioned every statewide constitutional office holder (with the exception of State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach), Mayor Greg Fischer and former Auditor Crit Luallen. I would point out that the former auditor is every Democrat’s dream: Sadly she has her sights set on the governor’s office and has repeatedly said, “No.”
Attorney General Jack Conway, Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes and Auditor Adam Edelen also are acting like candidates, and personally I’d love to campaign for anyone of them.
However, a loss to McConnell would knock some of the shine off all of their stars. If I were advising them, I’d tell them all to stay put and focus on the offices to which they were all overwhelmingly elected and re-elected.
Gerth also speculated on a potential Tea Party challenge to the senior senator. Specifically from Phil Moffett or Thomas Massie – If I were advising them I’d tell them to think about it. If a long time, beloved senator susch as Dick Lugar can lose, why can’t McConnell?
Two years is a long time in politics and as Gerth pointed out, no one had even heard of Rand Paul at this time in 2008 … and that got me thinking about some people who I would encourage to look at the race.
The first and most formidable person that comes to mind is former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III. The young attorney and entrepreneur is the son of a former governor and the grandson of a former congressman all of the same name.
Brown has wide name recognition and high fundraising capabilities giving him the ability to mount a serious challenge to McConnell. His record as Secretary of State is one of accomplishment and would sharply contrast with McConnell’s record of petty politics.
Personally, he is handsome, friendly and has a great family who would be an asset on the trail including his former stepmother, Kentucky First Lady, Miss America, and Today Show host, Phyllis George.
People like my grandmother would consider voting for Brown simply because they like her. Brown is also a solid Democrat, and the loyal party activist base would be excited to help him. If I were advising Brown I’d tell him to seriously look at the race.
I’d also encourage State Representative(s) Joni Jenkins (D-44) and/or Kelly Flood (D-75) to evaluate the race. Both are friendly, attractive women with strong records to tout on the campaign trail making it harder for McConnell to paint them as the liberal banshees that he did Lois Combs Weinberg in 2002.
They both hail from Louisville and Lexington respectively, which are the Democratic Party’s power base(s) and Jenkins and Flood are very popular in their hometowns giving them access to an automatic support base.
The bad news for them is they’d have to raise a lot of money and give up their very safe seats in the House.
As much as I’d love to support either one of them, I’d hate to lose their important voices in Frankfort.
Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer could pose a threat to McConnell. Fischer holds what amounts to the same office McConnell held prior to his election to the Senate. He also has a statewide network left over from his 2008 Senate campaign.
The mayor is very popular here in Louisville, has a pretty strong record and has the ability to raise money. As with Jenkins and Flood, he’d have to give up his office to challenge McConnell.
Fisher also has a shaky relationship with some key Louisville Democratic Party leaders who supported him in the past, but thanks to a recent intraparty leadership struggle might not be there for him in 2014. However, rumor has it being mayor isn’t as agreeable with Fischer as he thought, so giving it up to run for an office he really wants might not be that hard of a choice.
The political idealist who lives deep inside me would love to see former State Senator(s) Lindy Casebier or Tim Shaughnessy throw their hats in the ring. Both are popular, have strong records, are fierce campaigners and neither really cares for McConnell.
Casebier, a former Republican lawmaker, is now a Democrat and has worked hard for candidates in his new party: He’s still young, and he has connections throughout the state. He could mount a serious challenge should he decide to campaign, plus he’s just about my favorite person in politics. Sadly, I am a realist, and I know that neither Shaughnessy nor Casebier would enter the race.
Two years is a lifetime in politics, and by the time 2014 rolls around John Y. Brown III will have had a seven year break from campaigning, making him well rested for a political resurrection.
About Jacob Conway: Jacob Conway has been actively involved in local and state politics since he was 16 years old. Conway has managed or consulted on a host of local, state and judicial campaigns since the 2002 election cycle. He currently is a partner at Website Mentors, a locally owned and operated digital marketing firm, and is a member of the Louisville- Jefferson County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee.