Off The Record: It's 'business as usual' in Frankfort

January 12, 2004|HERB BROCK

The following are observations, evaluations and illuminations about politics, written on the back of an old Gatewood Galbraith for Fill-in-the-Blank poster:

NO MORE "BUSINESS AS USUAL"? RIGHT... Ernie Fletcher's new title is governor. But apparently an older title - brother-in-law - means more to him.

As I'm sure you all know by now, the wife of Fletcher's brother recently was hired as an executive secretary in the state environmental protection cabinet. Rachel Fletcher's post pays only $25,000 a year but it's worth a million to those many Kentuckians who are cynical about politics and politicians, particularly ones who, as Fletcher did during the fall gubernatorial campaign, blasted Democratic administrations for corruption and promised no more "business as usual" in Frankfort.

Unless Fletcher issues an executive order removing nepotism from the list of things that constitute usual business in the capital city, then a governor allowing a relative to be hired for a state post still could be seen as par for a course established when Kentucky became a state.


Fletcher's defenders will say it's just a $25,000-a-year job. Hey, they might even spin it to say that their man was advocating the rights of victims of age-ism because Rachel Fletcher reportedly said she was having a hard time getting a comparable job in the private sector.

But what will Fletcher say when there is some environmental disaster that could have been averted if the environmental protection agency had more $25,000-a-year inspectors to monitor the situation? What will Fletcher say when there is a prison riot that could have been averted if there had been more $25,000-a-year prisons guards to have kept the situation under control? What will Fletcher say when there is some child abuse case that could have been averted if there had been enough $25,000-a-year social workers to keep a check on the situation?

Based on his record so far, he'd probably check to see if any brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces or nephews would like to be hired as environmental inspectors, prison guards and social workers.

CHANDLER FOR PRESIDENT?... Democrat Ben Chandler, after losing in a near-rout to Fletcher in this past fall's gubernatorial election, now is eyeing the congressional seat once held by Fletcher. Next month Chandler will compete in a special election against Republican Alice Forgy Kerr to be the next U.S. 6th District representative.

This race for central Kentucky's congressional seat can be seen from at least two different perspectives.

First, it is a battle of representatives of two prominent political families. Chandler, who has held two state offices, is the grandson of the late A.B. "Happy" Chandler," a maverick Democrat who served twice as the state's governor. Kerr, who has served in the state legislature, is the daughter of Larry Forgy, a Republican who barely lost to Paul Patton in the 1995 governor's race and has been a big name in state GOP politics for years.

Second, the contest could be seen as an attempt by Chandler to follow the pattern of his political career to date. Chandler apparently is one of those who believes you work your way up the political ladder. He first was elected to serve as state auditor. Then, he was elected to serve as state attorney general. Then, he tried but failed to be elected as governor. But that setback apparently did not keep Chandler from running for the next highest available political office, a race that graduates him to the next level, moving him from state to federal politics.

If Chandler fails to win the congressional election, his pattern suggests he would then wait a couple of years and run for U.S. Senate. But perhaps Chandler wouldn't want to wait that long. Maybe he would consider breaking his pattern and skipping the next step and shooting for the next highest office - the presidency.

With the current field of Democrat presidential hopefuls in the 2004 race are chewing each other up, there may not be much left of them by the national convention in August. That would give Chandler an opening. Imagine a Ben vs. Hillary battle to "save" the Democratic Party.

FORMER DJ HOPES TO MAKE HAY IN ANOTHER CONGRESSIONAL RACE... Another prominent Kentucky family - its prominence coming in show business rather than politics - will also be represented on a congressional ballot this year. Nick Clooney, father of Hollywood hunk George Clooney and brother of the late world class singer Rosemary Clooney and a show biz celebrity in his own right, at least on the local level, is running as a Democrat to replace Ken Lucas as the U.S. 4th District representative in northern Kentucky. Lucas will not be seeking re-election.

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