A campaign that began with an ironic bang climaxed with a day dominated by women in the Republican-controlled state Senate last week. Last Wednesday, Democrat James E. Keller, who beat Larry Forgy in a 2000 non-partisan Kentucky Supreme Court race, filed to unseat Forgyâ€™s sister, State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R-Lexington). With Kellerâ€™s entry fresh in Thursdayâ€™s press, Kerr harnessed some horsepower from the House â€” and premium publicity.
The fastest car traveling through the Capitol was House Bill 283, driven by Rep. Darryl Owens of Jefferson County. Owens was steering his measure â€” to infuse the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program with $5 million â€” through the Senate Budget Committee when Kerr offered an amendment. Stunned, Owens cradled his head in his hands; this stunt had the odor of a clever carjacking. But Kerr turned out to be a kind, if uninvited hitchhiker. To term her amendment â€œfriendlyâ€ would be an understatement; it doubled the fuel in Owensâ€™ vehicle to $10 million.
On Friday, the amended bill advanced to the full Senate, which became a historic day for women in the legislature. In the absence of President David Williams, President Pro Tem Katie Stine, a Northern Kentucky Republican, presided. The two bills on the agenda were carried by GOP women: Kerr (House Bill 283) and Elizabeth Tori (Senate Bill 30). It was the first time women outnumbered men in the governance of a chamber session. Had no man spoken on the bill Kerr introduced, only one manâ€™s voice, that of Majority Floor Leader Dan Kelly, would have been heard during the Senateâ€™s legislative actions (orders of the day).
For Owens, the odyssey ended happily. â€œThe important thing is that the people get help with their heating bills,â€ he told me on the Senate floor, moments before he received a standing ovation. Others pondered how much the GOP may depopulate or de-mythify the Kentucky Democratsâ€™ big tent, as Republicans deepen their inroads into traditionally Democratic domains: gender equality, help for military families and assistance for the disadvantaged.
BY STEVE SHAW