Off The Record: Kentucky has its share of kooky pols, too

August 18, 2003|HERB BROCK

The second California gold rush has been going on the last couple of weeks. This time the miners hoping to strike it rich are the media.

The nuggets being panned in the political streams of the Golden State are the scores of clowns who have lined up to be gubernatorial candidates in case Mr. Personality (appropriately named Gray Davis) is recalled in the October election that is sponsored by Barnum and Bailey. They're not throwing away the dirt, though. They're saving that for their colleagues who are writing about Kobe Bryant and Ms. X in the equally over-covered rape case.

You'd think that most of the media sent to cover the political mess are restaurant critics. There are so many fruits and nuts on the menu from which California voters "get" to choose.

From Larry Flynt to Gary Coleman, the list is absolutely laughable. And even though he does actually have some redeeming qualities, such as his dedication to the cause of the care and education of kids, the fact that muscle-bound, swashbuckling actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is considered a front-runner is a testament to the wackiness of the current state of Left Coast politics.


But as bizarre as the situation is in California, you really don't have to leave the Commonwealth of Kentucky for uncommon candidates or politicians in general.

We may not have the Terminator, but in Gov. Paul Patton, we do have the Prevaricator. And you know the red-hot lover in Frankfort is a lot more exciting than the Gray bore occupying the governorship in Sacramento.

We also have other pretty colorful characters, including Peppy Martin, the Republican horse woman who ran for governor in 1999 and agriculture commissioner this year. Peppy lost both times but she gave hope to all other Kentuckians who have no business running for office that all you need to be a candidate is a pulse and the filing fee.

We also have our own perennial candidate - and perpetual loser - in Gatewood Galbraith. The Lexington attorney has run for governor, ag commissioner and Congress. He has just successfully completed a petition campaign to get his name on the November ballot in the race for attorney general. He's run as a Democrat and an Independent.

But while Gatewood has shared the same electoral fate as Peppy, he's a much more substantial candidate than the horse lady. If you peer through the rings of reefer smoke, you will see a guy who actually has taken some compelling positions on a variety of issues. His platform is basically a mix of populism and Libertarianism.

The best thing about Gatewood, though, is his speaking ability. He's the most attention-grabbing political speaker we have in Kentucky. He's funny, poignant and provocative. Let's hope he gets the signatures necessary to make the ballot so we can be treated to his speeches.

Gatewood might well be worth considering in the AG race for more than just his speaking ability. He would be running against two candidates who also would be considered California ballot material: the equally ethically challenged Democrat Greg Stumbo and Republican Jack Wood.

Boy, would we Kentuckians be proud if Stumbo or Wood is elected. In either case, we could expect the AG's office would spend the next four years conducting a massive investigation - of itself. And if we get Gatewood, we'd have numerous probes into pot cases - into the cops for busting smokers. Let's hope that if Gatewood gets on the ballot, he smokes rings around his shady opponents.

As a final example of a guy who could qualify for the California ballot, let me offer Lt. Gov. Steve Henry. He's not an evil guy. And we're thankful that a good thing has happened to a good guy in that his prostate cancer apparently has been caught in time. And he's shown he's got great taste in selection of partners with his marriage to the bright and beautiful former Miss America, Heather Henry.

But his good points not withstanding, he is a certified flake.

As lieutenant governor, he has very little power, but yet we are treated to one press conference after another where Henry babbles and blathers on about issues or events where his opinion hasn't been sought and hasn't been needed for the commonwealth to survive.

My favorite press conference was several months ago when he announced he wasn't running for governor this year. He choked up. He wept. But, through the full throat and teary eyes, he did promise us that he may run another time. Earth to Steve: There was no groundswell of support for your candidacy and the only tears shed were yours.

If we didn't know before that Henry was heavily into attention-grabbing, staged events, we knew it after his wedding. It was a televised affair whose organizers, including Henry, stage-managed it into a pretentious pomp-and-circumstance event that they apparently thought would make us forget about the Charles and Diana extravaganza. You had to know something was phony when the couple, neither of whom is a Catholic, rented the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville as the stage.

Kentucky may not have the famous wackos that have made California a political gold mine, but we do have our share of nutty nuggets.

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