•Burrel Charles Farnsley
It’s May Day, the first of May, and there’s a rally going on at Jefferson Square downtown. Several hundred mostly Hispanic immigrants are gathered to celebrate their contributions to the United States, part of the call for Congress to kill legislation that would turn illegal immigrants into felons. “A Day Without Immigrants” was intended as a walkout, a day where immigrants would not work, make purchases or attend school. The idea was that the sheer size of such a void would remind our Eurocentric culture that immigrants — particularly Mexicans here in the United States — form a vital part of our economy and work force, and should be treated as such by the government and law.
At the foot of a marble statue of Thomas Jefferson, across the street from the square, sits Burrel Charles Farnsley, the very antithesis of a stranger in a strange land. His family is among the oldest in the city, and he himself is nearly a lifelong resident. His father was Mayor from 1948-53 and served as the 3rd District representative in the U.S. House for one term, from 1965-67. That is the very same seat his son, now 59, is seeking.
The romantic and uniquely small-town vision of a peasant political dynasty like his father’s is not lost on Farnsley. It’s something he is attempting to revive. One of a family of five (two brothers, two sisters), he has sought this office three times before, in 1994, 2000 and 2004. He is a Jeffersonian Democrat, a man of the street who often wears a khaki jacket and matching shorts, the jacket today slightly obscuring a fiesta red sweatshirt bearing the original “City of Louisville” seal in brushed yellow.
He is a raconteur whose life story is a voluminous series of anecdotes he’s always willing to share. Politics necessarily folds into such reveries, for which Farnsley summons an encyclopedic knowledge that takes the archetypal long view of history. He is a master of rhetorical deviation, and smart enough to pull it off without being annoying, mainly because his stories and theories are, well, interesting. His conversational mood swings are a force of nature; it’s difficult to grab onto much because he shifts gears so quickly and often. The concept of a non sequitur simply does not apply — most things in his web-like mind seem interconnected.
This, of course, is not particularly well-suited to canned settings like political debates, and Farnsley has consistently taken heat for it. People who write columns and produce TV and radio shows in Louisville don’t take him or his candidacy seriously. In fact, he initially declined to meet with me because a story I wrote after the first 3rd District Democratic debate was dismissive about his stance on certain issues.
He looks sloppy, his tangled hair still surprisingly dark and full for his age. He wears aviator glasses with clear lenses.
Why society and the general political apparatus dismiss certain candidates and embrace others is based on a complex set of circumstances that are rarely arbitrary, and Farnsley’s case is no exception. He exists in a world that no longer does, a city his father created around him where culture and arts had more primacy than today, where history was thoroughly considered and religion was a tool of personal morality and flatly rejected as a political party or vote-padding ploy. He is an idealist who believes quite simply in bottom-up economics and the politics that reflect that. What Farnsley needs as much as anything is a revolution of ideas, one that seems sadly unlikely in modern American politics.
Before he was Louisville’s mayor, Charles Farnsley was a top lobbyist for the liquor industry, pulling in $60,000 a year. When he decided to live the more peasant-like life of a public servant, Burrel Farnsley says, his annual income dropped to a mere $6,000. The Mayor’s wife wasn’t too happy about how her husband’s social conscience dented their pocketbook, but you can only argue with virtue and calling for so long.
From that point, Burrel Farnsley lived a strange life. As a child he was a constant photo-op, a kind of a PR operative for his father. He showed me a photo from the ’60s of him shaking hands with the Pope in Rome, for instance.
Farnsley attended Atherton High School and a Connecticut boarding school before arriving at the University of Louisville. Before his senior year, he says, his father’s business, Lost Cause Press — which was on the vanguard of microfilm technology, using it to supply libraries with such material as Paine’s “Common Sense” — was audited by the Internal Revenue Service shortly after Richard Nixon took office. Farnsley believes it was politically motivated, part of the Nixon witch-hunt for liberals. It left Farnsley without tuition money.
At 19 he was diagnosed with clinical depression, for which he would take one kind of medication or another until roughly 15 years ago. When he was 23 he was savagely attacked during a robbery — “hit on the head,” he says — and sustained serious nerve damage, a condition from which he still suffers, most obviously through a limp.
Still, Farnsley maintains that he’s fit to serve in Congress, able to work and focus despite such personal difficulties.
“The last three years, I’ve turned around my depression,” he says, having accepted how his body and mind work and being able to move from there. It’s led to a personal awakening, a new sense of confidence and empowerment.
The first thing Farnsley would do if he’s elected to Congress is establish a storefront office downtown. He would hold an open house one day a week for citizens to discuss the issues du jour, a throwback notion that he notes is missing from modern politics.
Farnsley, an Episcopalian, tailors a string of religion into just about every discussion of issues. He’s never been married and says he would’ve become a priest had he not been anointed into the family business. He believes he’s electable this year, in part, because there’s not a Catholic in the primary (incumbent Rep. Anne Northup is Roman Catholic), and the denomination no longer holds the grip on Louisville politics it once did. In Farnsley’s view, Republicans wrongly invoke God for everything from abortion to paying taxes.
“We’re living in a world of concept,” he says. The Republican concept of religion as a political tool is a harangue based on the idea that God gives favor to those who deserve it. Farnsley calls this “the dark side of the Force,” a “Star Wars” reference.
He was anti-merger and calls Mayor Jerry Abramson a “Metrocrat” too interested in appeasing Metro Council members who represent the old county.
He believes the city doesn’t need the Ohio River Bridges Project as badly as it needs a Southwestern bridge, to provide easier access to Fort Knox, Shippingport and underutilized industrial sites in the area. He takes the bus and walks, having sold his car at age 45. His solution for curbing oil dependence is fairly simple.
“If one day a week, if every business commuter in this town — 70 percent of them — took the bus , there would be a significant impact on the, quote, purchase and use of gasoline,” he says. “That’s a modest one day a week.” Farnsley believes TARC is ready to handle such an influx.
He would work to see Medicare expanded and believes the squabbling and moralizing over gay marriage is just a diversion from the real problem: America’s divorce rate. He believes political parties should finance campaigns, and instead of candidates accepting big money, they should redirect that money to charities or organizations that need it.
His thoughts on global warming will certainly upset some: It should be left to happen.
“If we’re going to talk the free market and we’re going to talk natural reality, the planet is adjusting to us,” he says. “The planet should have a chance to relate to this problem. It sounds like a joke, but warmer climate, what’s wrong with a warmer climate, especially for poor people? They’ll burn less fuel in the wintertime keeping themselves warm if it’s warmer.”
In the downtown basement diner where we’re sitting, CNN broadcasts footage from May Day rallies across the nation. I ask Farnsley about immigration.
“We don’t need any new law, we just need to enforce the ones we have (against corporations),” he says. “And tell everybody to get passports,” as he considers it paramount to be able to easily identify oneself in any given situation.
At this, Farnsley retrieves a state-issued ID card from his money clip and tells a story about a time he was sitting on the West Main Street bench that holds his father’s statue. Several police officers were hassling him, telling him to move along. He had no ID. He explained to the officers that the statue was his father, and one seemed to recognize him. They let him go.
It reminded him that, despite what his father meant to Louisville politics or how much he loves this city, he’s still a stranger to a lot of people.
Contact the writer at [email protected]
In politics, particularly political campaigns, the real art to master is control. It’s important to have command over one’s positions and general knowledge of issues, as well as how to present them in easily digestible formats. It’s also critical to shape how those messages might be construed by the voting public.
Andrew Horne has good control.
In the scant debates, forums and public appearances he has made along with the other three candidates in the 3rd District Democratic primary, Horne has come off as stoic and resolute. This is no surprise from an ex-Marine who served as a military police commander in the first Gulf War and trained Iraqi security forces during the current one. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, both active duty and reserve, from 1979 until March of this year. During his most recent time in Iraq, he says, he was engaged in direct combat four times. He has been an outspoken opponent of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies since returning, and has signed a petition by “Veterans for a Secure America” — a group of war veterans both running for office and supporting candidates in this year’s Congressional elections — calling for defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation.
The 45-year-old Louisville native has been married 14 years to his wife Stephanie. They have two sons. He is an attorney who attends Christ Church United Methodist, where he is involved in coaching sports and teaching Sunday school classes.
Dr. Phil Laemmle, a political science professor at U of L, says Horne has “a great resumé. People who know him really like him, they say he’s an honorable guy. The problem is his issue is primarily all foreign policy. That’s an issue that doesn’t really motivate many primary voters, particularly in this area.”
From behind a podium, Horne comes off as a quietly powerful man with a focus on accomplishment. He probably is, although we’ve never met. When LEO requested an interview with Horne, his campaign staff relayed the message several weeks ago that he would not meet with me, as the other three candidates eventually would. The Horne campaign expressed doubts that LEO can write an objective package for a race that involves the newspaper’s founder, John Yarmuth, and said Horne would participate only if the newspaper submitted written questions, to which he would respond in writing.
Although LEO would have much preferred a face-to-face interview, editor Cary Stemle decided that including Horne’s written comments in the newspaper better served LEO readers than having nothing about him at all.
As such, LEO sent Horne a set of questions that is nearly identical to those asked of the other three candidates, with adjustments for personal characteristics such as Horne’s military service. LEO asked Horne to articulate his position/point of view on these issues, limiting his responses to around 1,500 words to match the length of the other three profiles.
Horne’s responses are printed below in their entirety (save for a few portions where the candidate suggested going to his Web site for more information).
City leadership and your role
Our city has elected representatives that reflect each community. As your congressperson, I would work closely with the Metro Council on the issues they endorse, and would use my position to promote its efforts and secure any necessary federal resources. However, I will always use my own judgment in representing the district.
The Ohio River Bridges Project
Local representatives decided long ago to embark on the Ohio River Bridges Project, and considerable time and money have been invested. While I understand the feelings of people who might not want a bridge built in their proverbial back yard — and although I might have taken a different tack if I were involved in the decision a decade ago — it wouldn’t be right for me or any federal representative to second-guess the years of hard work of our many local officials that have struggled with this matter. As the U.S. representative for Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District, I will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the Bridges Project continues to receive appropriate funding.
Public transportation and whether it’s something that should be examined for Louisville
To maintain our quality of life, we must consider making long-term investments in clean, safe, convenient and efficient transit systems. We could also improve our nation’s current transit problems by aggressively developing buses and other forms of transportation that use alternative energy. An option for some communities such as Louisville is the creation of new rail service or improvements to existing rail service. However, the fiscal obstacles to rail improvements are considerable.
President Bush’s environmental policies are arguably among the most destructive in history. How will you work to reverse the trend that’s been set?
Conservation and stewardship are patriotic, and the Bush administration has forgotten that. I’ll work determinedly to return our environmental policies to effective and practical standards and methods.
Air quality in Louisville
Louisville has some of the worst air quality in the Southeast. I’m convinced that we can find ways to improve our air overall and raise manufacturing standards while retaining our industries and jobs. In fact, investments in new, cleaner technology could create more jobs, and would certainly improve our quality of life.
Renewable or alternative energy
America can’t afford to continue its pace of consuming limited fossil fuels. We need to make a sizeable investment in renewable energy research, similar to the effort brought forth during the ’60s space race under President Kennedy. This will create the industries and technologies required to get us on the fast track to clean, sustainable energy production and use.
It’s unconscionable that Congress voted to give Exxon and other oil companies multi-million dollar tax breaks while Exxon was reaping some of its largest profits ever and its CEO was set to retire with a $400 million golden parachute. Crude oil prices have soared to new highs and average Americans are paying the price at the pump. I refuse to support companies that make huge profits on the backs of people who can afford it least. We need common sense solutions for the common people.
We must provide access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Our current system needs a major overhaul, and while there are many proposed reforms, it would be irresponsible to sign off on a specific plan without input from representatives of all those affected. (This would be akin to Vice President Cheney’s energy plan, crafted only by industry titans.) We need an open and honest health care summit that brings all of the stakeholders to the table, where we can decide together what joint sacrifices are required. A comprehensive solution will require time we can ill afford. We must take steps now to provide basic health services to as many people as possible and shore up the current system. Health disparities between races and income levels are appalling and immoral. These must be addressed head-on. Furthermore, vulnerable individuals are often the sickest from lack of preventive care and delay of treatment, and result in tremendous costs to the system.
There are some emergency fixes we should adopt in the interim while we develop a comprehensive solution.
Let me be very clear: the sooner we get our troops out of Iraq, the better off we’ll be, our troops will be, and the American and Iraqi people will be. The Bush administration needs to lay out a strategy to withdraw our troops as soon as possible, and not add any additional forces. Our withdrawal must be based on defined events and milestones, as agreed to by Iraqi leaders, not an arbitrary U.S. timetable. Leaving Iraq to stand on its own too soon will create a vacuum that would very likely lead to a full-fledged civil war or a failed state. That said, with a concerted effort, it’s conceivable that most of our men and women could be out of Iraq in 12 to 18 months, with a small force kept in the region to support the Iraqi government if needed.
This is only an issue because the Republicans want to exploit it during the upcoming elections.
I recognize we need to get far better control and be tough at the border, fair to those who have built a life here, and practical in terms of solving the illegal immigration problem over the long term. I support strengthening border security, but with fairness and compassion for immigrants and their families.
In our post-9/11 world, we must look at our borders differently. We have serious problems now because the Bush administration has failed to enforce the laws on the books. Our border is undermanned and overwhelmed.
The bottom line is, we treated these people like citizens when we needed them, and hung out a “help wanted” sign.
Campaign Finance Reform
American campaigns are out of control. Our nation needs serious campaign finance reform with legitimate enforcement mechanisms so lawmakers can get back to doing the people’s business instead of chasing campaign donations. Our incumbent congresswoman, Anne Northup, has accepted $42,000 from former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, now under indictment, and votes with him about 97 percent of the time. Northup’s forgotten the people who sent her there. But I strongly believe that you can’t fix an ethical problem with only a legislative solution. It takes two to tango. If you need a new law to tell you that trading cash and vacations for legislative favors is wrong, you shouldn’t be writing laws in the first place. It’s time for you to go.
Social Issues (Gay marriage)
I don’t support discrimination of any kind; and this is probably the only area where George Bush, John Kerry and I agree: I believe in civil unions. However, voters in Kentucky and Jefferson County strongly supported a state constitutional amendment similar to the proposed federal marriage restriction. I would not support a federal law that would circumvent that vote, nor would I vote for federal legislation that would override the laws of other states such as California.
I’m pro choice. I support Roe v. Wade and the basic liberties it protects. But one in five pregnancies in America ends in abortion, and I think that’s too many. We have a collective responsibility to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. I believe we can find sensible, effective strategies to lower the number of abortions in this country while protecting personal freedoms. These might include: 1) reducing teen pregnancies through sex education; 2) making emergency contraception available; and 3) helping pregnant women remain in school through subsidized childcare and student financial aid.
The power of religion in politics
I don’t think issues of conscience can be separated from politics, but our nation’s founders knew it was a slippery slope and thus erected the church/state boundary. Increasingly, though, lawmakers’ deliberate injection of their religious preference into government has become dangerously close to establishing a state religion.
Anne Northup’s position on the Appropriations Committee and the money she brings to Louisville
There’s no doubt that Anne Northup spreads some seed money around the community, and it’s also true that one congressional district’s pork is another’s treasure. I would not want to see Louisville’s well-deserving recipients have fewer resources. But it’s tragic that while Northup sprinkles with one hand, she takes away with the other — sometimes tenfold. I think it’s insulting to provide grants to various neighborhood groups, then go to Washington and vote against federal funding of initiatives and programs that these groups depend on. It’s great politics but it’s horrible public policy, and in the end it hurts everyone. A good example of this is providing grants to local churches for tutoring and after-school programs and then cutting funds for Head Start, which affects the same population.
In closing, what is the first thing you will do if elected to Congress?
Once elected, I will make sure the people of the 3rd District know that it’s a new day, and that they — not just corporate interests — will be fairly represented. My doors will be open to everyone regardless of party affiliation, and this office will no longer be for sale to the highest bidder. When sworn in, I will take into consideration each person’s views and try to support what the majority of the voters want. My first legislative priority will be quality affordable health care, health care and health care for all.
For more information on Andrew Horne, visit
Contact the writer at [email protected]
This is awkward.
Astute LEO readers know of this campaign and have been aware for some time that it could be. John Yarmuth is seated behind a desk in a large, comparatively empty room at his campaign headquarters in Clifton Heights. The walls are white. A TV blares one of the around-the-clock news channels in the background. Affixed with Scotch tape to the wall perpendicular to the desk are 15 or 20 letters, some typed, some handwritten, some store-bought cards, all presumably supportive of the LEO founder and his bid to take on, and unseat, Anne Northup in Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District.
Yarmuth, 58, is calm and cool as is his public persona, dressed in a crisp white oxford shirt with rolled sleeves and an earthy green necktie. I’m here to interview him for a profile, to spend time with the candidate, get to know him. I am a journalist and need to cover this race — as the newspaper does — like any other. To the extent that’s possible. There are some who will never believe that.
So we should begin by addressing the elephant in the room: Yarmuth and LEO.
John Yarmuth was never my boss. While he owned LEO, I wrote one piece for the paper — a blurb, actually, about an upcoming concert, that was probably 90 words long. Yarmuth sold LEO on July 15, 2003. My first LEO freelance story of any substance appeared in the July 30 issue.
As part of the sale, Yarmuth agreed to continue writing his column. He had a three-year contract to do so, according to LEO publisher Pam Brooks. In exchange, he got an office at LEO headquarters and health insurance for he and his wife, Cathy. The insurance costs the paper $772.65 a month.
Yarmuth retains no financial interest in LEO and is not considered part of the paper’s staff. His contract expires this month, and he is currently in negotiations to renew. Obviously, that partly depends on what happens next Tuesday.
Yarmuth’s column was suspended indefinitely shortly before he filed for this race. The decision was LEO’s, and the thinking was that it would simply be unfair to give Yarmuth a pedestal that other candidates did not have. If Yarmuth wins the primary, the newspaper will have another decision to make in that regard, says editor Cary Stemle.
To be sure, Yarmuth still talks with adulation about LEO, for it really is — other than his 22-year-old son Aaron — his baby. He started the paper in 1990 with a handful of investors, and for two-and-a-half years it was a biweekly rag full of opinions. As the paper grew into its weekly version, Yarmuth says he delegated as much authority as he could to various editors and advertising professionals up until he sold the paper.
“I always believed that the best manager is somebody who hires good people who can do what they do,” he says. “That’s what I always wanted to do.”
There have been at least two major political tipping points in Yarmuth’s life, both of which have changed it considerably.
The first traces to the early ’80s. Yarmuth was still a Republican, and had been building his resumé in the party since his days at Atherton High School, when over the summer after his senior year he worked for then-county judge-executive Marlow Cook. When Cook campaigned for U.S. Senate in 1968, Yarmuth was the vice chair of “Young Kentuckians for Cook,” a group that toured the state’s colleges and universities trying to gather supporters. The chairman of the group was Mitch McConnell, now Kentucky’s powerful senior U.S. senator.
When he returned from Yale University with a degree in American Studies, Yarmuth spent a year as a stockbroker, which he calls a “horrible mistake.” McConnell called him one day in late 1970 and said he was leaving Cook’s legislative staff, and would Yarmuth be interested in taking his position? Yarmuth spent four years in D.C. as a legislative aide to the senator.
He quit in 1975 and returned to Louisville, where his father, Stanley Yarmuth, would soon die of brain cancer. It was later in 1975 that Yarmuth ran for alderman. The young Republican lost to Bill Stansbury, later Louisville’s mayor, in the general election.
At McConnell’s urging, Yarmuth jumped back into competitive politics in 1981, making a bid for county commissioner. He also married his wife Cathy that year. Yarmuth lost that race as well, and in its wake he swore off direct political involvement.
He reached that first tipping point in 1985, when he switched parties. There were two reasons: Class war and the emerging role of religion in politics.
“I thought the message sent was, ‘Not everybody counts in America,’” he says. “ definitely relied on class war to be elected. That troubled me a lot, because it was a very difficult economic time, and at a time when people were really hurting, he basically said, ‘Screw you. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.’”
Meanwhile, religious leaders were gaining more access to the White House. The influence that zealots like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had achieved within the national party disturbed Yarmuth on sheer principle, a feeling that has reemerged during Bush’s presidency.
Ultimately it was a speech by Falwell in 1985 that made Yarmuth’s decision for him. The year after archbishop Desmond Tutu had been awarded a Nobel Prize for his work to end South African apartheid, Falwell — who had just been in South Africa — basically called him a fraud. Yarmuth has been a Democrat since.
The second tipping point came earlier this year, in the week or so after his last LEO column, in which Yarmuth presented readers with his dilemma over whether to run. He received around 150 responses, he says, most from people he’d never met, urging him to join the race.
“It was amazing,” he says. “So I said to myself at that point, the only reason not to do this is personal comfort, and that’s not good enough.”
Yarmuth’s personal comfort, in particular his wealth, has been the subject of conjecture throughout much of his adult life. It wasn’t until he was 16 that his father got out of the used car business to start National Industries, a holding company that would soon grow into Kentucky’s second-largest public company behind Ashland Oil. Up to that point, Yarmuth says, his upbringing was typically middle class.
“We grew up in what I would consider to be a very middle class existence,” he says. “My dad, who later became a very successful businessman, was a used car dealer when I was growing up. Our background was not one of wealth at all. I rode my bike to school.”
His mother was a homemaker and the daughter of the chairman of Bank of Louisville’s board; Yarmuth says she’s one of the campaign’s most reliable volunteers.
Though protective of his personal financial information, it has long been assumed that Yarmuth is worth millions as a result of his father’s business triumphs. And while he did receive an inheritance upon his father’s death, he, too, has succeeded in the business world. His two brothers started successful companies in which he invested. He never took a salary at LEO; his take on the paper’s sale was less than $1 million.
Put it this way: Yarmuth can afford to put some personal money into this race, but he can’t fund his entire campaign. He wrote a check for $133,127 to the campaign initially; as of May 4, Yarmuth for Congress had $311,115 on hand, according to Federal Election Commission data. He’s winning the money battle by a lot.
“I had become so upset about what was going on nationally, and particularly Anne Northup, who I fault primarily for never being willing to stand up for her own record and admit her own record,” he says when talking about how, if he could’ve foreseen Tony Miller The Candidate, he would’ve entered the race in 2004. The same holds true today.
Yarmuth has had the luxury of presenting what is essentially a campaign platform in minute, excruciating detail for 15 years. He is in tune with the progressive majority on abortion and supports civil unions or domestic contracts that would afford gay couples equal treatment regarding medical decisions, benefits, inheritance and so on.
His campaign’s mantra is, in essence, that he’ll cop to every word he’s written if Northup will cop to every vote she’s cast. He’s not saying much about Andrew Horne or the other Democratic hopefuls.
Of course, Northup has supported the administration’s Iraq policy, which Yarmuth has been critical of since before the first bombs fell on Baghdad. He supports an immediate withdrawal of troops from combat positions to remove the American military footprint and, hopefully, the notion that ours is an occupying force. He says his plan would keep forces in the region “in case everything goes to hell, but we need to get all of our troops out of any military posture.”
Yarmuth is also a believer in single-payer healthcare, wherein the government is the payer.
“I am open to any options for doing that, but from what I’ve seen, I’m pretty convinced that the single-payer way — basically extending Medicare to everybody — is the only way to accomplish it.”
Rather than try and round up the 11 million or so immigrants currently believed to be in the United States illegally, Yarmuth would work to raise the minimum wage, in turn creating competition for the low-wage jobs immigrants are now taking.
“I’m not as concerned about illegal immigrants being forced by economic conditions to return,” he says.
He acknowledges a need to protect the borders, though, as well as to enforce some of the existing employment laws that prohibit illegal workers.
Yarmuth would promote campaign finance reform, particularly lobbying reform. He says he’s leaning toward some level of publicly financed elections, but is unsure how far such a thing could go in the current political climate.
On environmental issues, Yarmuth says he would review all the changes made to federal environmental standards and regulations in the past six years to try and repair the damage the Bush administration has wrought. As gas prices rise, he would propose tax incentives for drivers of high-mileage (read: gas-efficient) vehicles funded by a surcharge on those who drive low-mileage vehicles, which is essentially the opposite of what the Bush administration has done.
In Louisville, he supports the STAR program that works to reduce the amount of pollutants local companies can emit. He says he would continue to secure funding for the Ohio River Bridges Project, although he fears there ultimately won’t be enough funding to build both bridges and revamp Spaghetti Junction.
He’s seen Tyler Allen’s “8664” presentation four times and would push for it to be officially evaluated.
“I’d like some serious study of it before we reject it,” he says. “If it can work, then it’s a great vision for downtown. What they’re planning to do with Spaghetti Junction, if depiction of it is accurate, which I think it is, I think that would be a horrible fate for downtown Louisville.”
Yarmuth would also support bringing light rail to Louisville, given that the push to repopulate downtown continues.
Dr. Phil Laemmle, a U of L political science professor, thinks Yarmuth would have a shot at beating Northup in the general election, although he believes the five-term representative will try to demonize Yarmuth as an extreme liberal.
“From a Democratic perspective, Yarmuth is — Anne Northup’s a very difficult person to beat here,” he says. “What’s going to happen is, I think, if Yarmuth wins, which I would anticipate that he would, all they’re going to do is take John Yarmuth, liberal liberal liberal, liberal liberal liberal, and they’re going to demonize liberalism.”
If he wins the primary, Yarmuth says, he’s not too concerned about defending his written positions.
“People don’t say, ‘You’re too liberal,’” he says. “People say, ‘You’re genuine.’ I’m hoping that’s going to be the broad reaction. will definitely use stuff against me, but she has to be careful. She has to choose wisely. The way I look at it, she’s got a lot more to defend than I do. She’s cast votes that have changed people’s lives. I just wrote a column.”
For more information on John Yarmuth, visit www.yarmuthforcongress.com
Contact the writer at [email protected]
Jim Moore is dressed in a candy apple red button-down shirt, the sort with that modern dull luster and no small buttons to keep the collar down. Underneath is a black cotton T-shirt, with only a widened V showing. He’s wearing blue jeans and the kind of black Reebok running shoes that have only recently reclaimed hipster panache.
His flat black hair and rimless rectangular glasses, along with his attire and the sharp angles of his face, betray his 49 years. It seems Moore must simply slide out of bed each morning and seamlessly transition from dead sleep to professional-grade savvy while barely managing to button his shirt.
He’s quite laid back, particularly for a person who consumes coffee the way he does — his wife Caroline Fortin, who works about 10 feet away at their information technology firm Engineering Data Corporation, has made a pot of coffee that he insists he will consume on the spot. She laughs, but no one seems to doubt this. During our conversation he downs a cup every 30 minutes or so.
Moore is more than six feet tall, thin but not unhealthily so, and he sulks slightly when he walks, as if carrying invisible weights in both hands. At public appearances, he wears nicely fitting plain dark suits. During the first candidate debate at Masterson’s early last month, which he calls his coming out event, he looked statuesque, like a mannequin at Saks Fifth Avenue. He often makes self-deprecating jokes, something his pro-bono advisers — mainly attorney friends and his wife — say he should do less frequently on the stump. But he doesn’t care. Moore is what he is, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He does come off as sincere in his political convictions, but personally he’s a bit of a jester.
Moore is a political newcomer running an unconventional “kitchen table” campaign — the only money he’s raised is the $1,600 he put in himself, which funds the red, white and blue yard signs and stickers that seem to be getting more prevalent around town — for the chance to face U.S. Rep. Anne Northup in the general election for the 3rd District congressional seat.
Moore’s emergence as something more than a crackpot has pleasantly surprised some and left others miffed at the competition. Moore says the Horne campaign asked him to bow out, worrying he’ll take votes from Democratic hopeful Andrew Horne. Horne admitted he’s approached both Moore and John Yarmuth requesting they drop out, he says for the sake of avoiding a “divisive and expensive primary.” A few volunteers who had intended to help Horne decided instead to work with Moore after seeing the first debate. They are now his de facto campaign staff. In general, it seems increasingly more people hope he sticks around, win or lose.
It’s a rather convenient position for an idealistic candidate like Moore, who promises not to accept money from political action committees and to refrain from negative campaigning. He explains his candidacy by saying he’s merely a voter who’s sick of politics as usual. Judging by the response after the first debate and anecdotally since, it seems he’s not alone.
Sitting in the drab basement office that his company calls home, Moore is surrounded by four computers and two laptops. EDC, he notes with pride, conducts 97 percent of its business out of state. A color-coded U.S. map on the wall has multiple dots, each representing a client. They’re scattered everywhere: northeast, southwest, California, the Midwest. His company seems to exemplify the new American economy — a small business connected to the larger world by technology. Moore has done well: He owns a house in Louisville and one in Montreal, as well as a four-seat Mooney plane, his primary mode of transportation for business.
Above his desk is a sign he picked up during the decade he spent living in Europe, mostly in Germany. It’s protest art in Russian, assailing the British government for supporting the United States during the Cold War. Like the chunk of the Berlin Wall he showed at a war and peace forum a few weeks ago, it’s a stark remnant of his time spent overseas.
As a boy Moore wanted to fly planes. Born and raised in a Louisville with more pastures, as he says, he was a product of the nuclear age, an elementary school kid during the Cuban Missile Crisis who vividly recalls the weird fear that seemed to permeate rational thought in the ’60s (being under a desk will not save you from nuclear eradication). In third grade he was plucked from regular classes and pushed into the advanced program, which was something of a novelty in those days. Still, he would spend the next nine years with essentially the same group of students.
Moore got a master’s degree from U of L’s Speed School and took a job with McDonnell-Douglas, the big-time aerospace manufacturer now owned by Boeing. He worked in St. Louis, helping develop a weapon called a cruise missile. Within three years he was off to Stuttgart, Germany, as a technical adviser to the Air Force, Navy and NATO.
Young and entranced by European culture, Moore roamed as much as he could, spending time on local college campuses and getting to know the German language at places beyond the military base where he worked. He was hassled about his job by lefty Europeans, but he says it never bothered him much. He was fairly apolitical in those days.
He met Caroline, who is Canadian, in Germany in 1986 — she was there studying abroad (they married in 1994 and have no children).
It was 1992 when Moore’s perspective changed enough to leave cruise missiles behind. To a point he’d been indifferent about the power of the technology he studied. But his thinking changed literally in the amount of time it took him to look at a photograph.
The first Gulf War marked the initiation of cruise missiles in battle. When one was shot down by Iraqi anti-aircraft fire and landed in pieces on the Al-Rashid Hotel, known for housing foreign journalists during both Iraq wars, a piece of shrapnel struck and killed a young girl working there. Moore saw a photo of the girl’s grief-stricken mother in Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. In an instant it became real to him, everything he’d seen in controlled laboratories and on computer simulators.
He returned to the States shortly thereafter to work for the same company on secure communications systems. He left within two years.
The first thing Moore will do if he gets to Congress, he says, is try to change how elections run. He isn’t the first to note how money has tainted the electoral process, particularly expensive media buys. Moore contends that the resulting economic pressure on candidates is something the Founding Fathers never could’ve envisioned.
“When you read about the viability of people’s campaigns, it’s not that ‘Jim’s a smart guy, Jim’s a talented guy,’ it’s ‘how much money has Jim raised?’” he says. “That’s all they seem to care about. That’s just so wrong. That’s why people are calling me naïve, and you know what, I don’t care. We have got to break that vicious cycle.”
Candidates tend to accept money from corporations and other interested parties to finance such ad buys, Moore says. A week of local TV buys can run into six figures in the general election.
Then, as soon as a candidate is elected, a lobbyist is in his or her office looking to recoup. That’s one key explanation for the fat earmarks that get buried throughout budget legislation.
Moore says he’d push for publicly financed elections, although he’s not hopeful that will actually happen in his lifetime. Instead, he’s simply refusing to take money from political action committees.
Moore is progressive beyond his signature issue. He’s the only Democratic candidate to openly support “8664,” an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project that city leaders have criticized as unworkable and too late in the process. The plan embraces New Urbanism, Moore notes, by removing the riverfront portion of I-64 and sharpening the overall focus on repopulating downtown. He’d push for public transit to complement “8664” and help make Louisville a more sustainable city.
“The concept of trying to make your city a city again, get those damn highways out of it, is the correct concept to follow,” Moore says of “8664,” which he agrees doesn’t have all the answers. If the Bridges Project is ever fully realized, Moore predicts it will mark the death of the city.
“I really want to push the issue of light rail, and I am not going to sit around and wait for this groundswell of support to happen. People are beating up on me for it, but I don’t care. To me, that is what leadership is. You define an issue that’s important and you go with it.”
He believes the city has suffered a grave lack of leadership on transportation issues.
“This is a very critical period of time for us — this next decade and a half is the time when we need to work on getting people back into the urban setting, and living and working there, where you reduce those commute times,” he says. “That, to me, has a major impact on quality of life.”
Moore supports the STAR program and says the city’s air needs to be cleaner, particularly for those living in the West End. He would push for economic incentives to promote cleaner technology for chemical and power plants. As an engineer, he says, he understands such changes are costly and can’t happen overnight.
As for health care, Moore endorses the single-payer option where everyone would be covered and the government would foot the bill. He would also promote healthy and sustainable food initiatives meant to help Americans be less obese.
Moore has said publicly that he believes every American soldier should be out of Iraq by the time President Bush leaves office in January 2009, which means a phased withdrawal of troops. He favors an amnesty program for illegal immigrants but no guest worker program, which he says would only exacerbate the current problem.
Moore is a political rookie in a field of rookies (Burrel Charles Farnsley being the lone exception). Because of his stance on campaign finance reform, he’s been called “naïve” by some political observers. He abhors the label.
“I think that they’re stuck in the old world, they’re old-school,” he says of such detractors. “I am pushing the envelope a little bit, I know that. But I am out to prove, as I’ve written, the ongoing revolution in Internet speech is changing the face of American politics rapidly, and for the better. Maybe I’m a little bit ahead of my time, but I think I’m plugged into where American politics is going. Everybody is sick of the big money interests ruining it. Everybody is sick of looking at the mind-numbing 30-second political ads, and there’s a backlash building against that, and I’m the guy who’s very well plugged into that.”
Dr. Phil Laemmle, a U of L political science professor, says in an ideal world, Moore would be a solid candidate, but we’re not there yet.
“Would I like to think he’s right? The answer’s yes,” he says. “The problem is that, particularly people in Kentucky have proven themselves over and over again that they’re not amenable to those kinds of reformist messages.”
Moore is unsure of his political future if he doesn’t win the primary. Regardless, as long as he’s got a message, he plans to be active. That would seem only natural.
For more information on Jim Moore, visit www.jameswmooreforcongress.com
Contact the writer at [email protected]
BY JIM MOORE
I take umbrage only at Mr. George’s assertion that my features betray my 49 years. Most people tell me that I look much younger! In a single sentence, Mr. George has dashed all of my carefully cultivated self-esteem. I had no idea that politics could be such a dangerous business! I’m glad at least that my Reebok running shoes, snagged from the bargain bin of a local shoe warehouse, give me a bit of “hipster panache.” When it comes to the world of fashion, I am so clueless that I once thought Donna Karan was a racecar driver.
Mr. George is spot-on with his observation about our drab office. I’ve also concluded that we must either move or redecorate, though neither option is particularly appealing. I hereby resolve to move our suburban office to downtown, as long as I can be sure that 23 lanes of concrete highway will not be built above our heads.
As Mr. George pointed out in his article, I have been encouraged that my campaign has moved away from “crackpot” status. Nevertheless I remain a political radical, and I never intend to shed that image. The civil rights and women’s movements would not be where they are today without the radical activists of the ’60s who got things started. I will continue to fight for the cause of campaign finance and ethical reform, no matter what the consequences to my political career.
As this is my first political campaign, I have most certainly made a few mistakes. I have had trouble dispelling the myth that I will never accept contributions, simply because of my refusal to do so in this primary. If I had it to do over again, I would accept private donations in order to correct that misconception. I should also explain my 527-PAC and lobbyist stance — I don’t mind them at all. I think that in many cases (Swift Boat Veteran-types aside), they can even do some good. I’m certainly sympathetic to many of the causes that PACs and lobbyists promote, and I listen to them when they talk. But I’m never going to take their money — not ever.
Perhaps Dr. Laemmle is right in his observation that I am a candidate who is a bit too far ahead of his time. But perhaps Dr. Laemmle is wrong. By voting for me on May 16, Democrats of the 3rd Congressional District will have the chance to rock the world of American politics like it has never been rocked before. I am giving them the opportunity to be true revolutionaries. Will they take that chance? We’re all about to find out.