Tired of Kentucky’s crappy public image, then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher launched the “Kentucky Unbridled Spirit” advertising campaign in 2004 after a statewide vote on proposed slogans.
Fletcher’s plan caught the attention of Jay Leno, who suggested the motto could be “Kentucky: Got Teeth?” Asking for equal time, Fletcher then appeared on Leno’s show with a few jokes of his own and a gift of a Louisville Slugger, which he said he had gripped tightly to keep Leno in line. Talk about good publicity!
Of course, we all know what happened to ambitious Ernie, who was Kentucky’s first Republican governor since 1971. His administration’s rush to install a GOP army into state jobs and punish Democrats led to indictments, including Fletcher’s. In the end, he issued pardons for his cronies, and his charges were dropped after he admitted evidence “strongly” indicated wrongdoing by his administration, not by him, personally.
The man pressing the investigation back then was Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who later would become speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives.
It took about a decade, but, on Election Day 2016, the Republicans finally got back at Stumbo. He lost his House seat, a victim of the Trumpian, Republican red tide that swept Kentucky and spared only the liberal islands of Louisville and Lexington.
In addition to Stumbo’s seat, Republicans won enough other districts to seize control of the House, which had been in Democratic hands since 1921 and was the last Democratic legislative chamber in the South.
Our churlish Republican governor, Matt Bevin, told WVHU Radio in Huntington, West Virginia, that he was “delighted that the people of Kentucky have spoken.”
“What they meant is that we want a new opportunity — we reject the 95 straight years of inside dealing and corruption and greasing of the wheels of certain favored friends. They’re fed up with it,” he said.
Inside-dealing, like a hiring scandal?
And then Bevin proceeded to hold forth on the many problems he expected our Rump in Chief to take care of during the next four years. Like what he hopes is Trump’s plan to “gut” the Environmental Protection Agency, so that states could take care of the nitty gritty of environmental protection. What could go wrong with that? Because, you know — his appointee to the Energy and Environment Cabinet, a former coal company executive, can certainly be trusted to protect your interests over those of businesses.
Bevin, in another radio interview, also said he expects the GOP coup would allow Kentucky to be (more) intolerant of LGBTQ rights. Or, as he put it, a state “where people are going to [have] incentive to be, you know, traditional families with a mother and a father raising their children. Where we’re going to start to reward the types of things that we know the cornerstone of a good, civilized society and a successful society are based on. We’re going to return to the true Judeo-Christian principles that this nation was founded on. We’re not going to be apologetic for the values that made this state and this nation great.”
You mean like the racist values of Republican Dan Johnson, who rode Trump’s greasy coattails to oust incumbent Linda Belcher from the House for the 49th District seat? Now, you might recall Johnson, a bishop at the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville who posted images on Facebook depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as apes. When asked about them, he told a reporter: “Well, I’d like to know first off, what images that are being considered offensive.” Sure, state Republicans asked Johnson to withdraw from the race, which he refused to do. But we wonder how anyone who knew his views could vote for him.
Unless, of course, they agree with him.
Bevin and the Republicans were not completely victorious in Kentucky. Despite their efforts, they failed to take Democratic Rep. Russ Meyer’s seat in Nicholasville. Meyer has said Bevin tried to cajole him into switching parties, even issuing a veiled threat (in a voicemail that Meyer kept) and then blocking an $11.2-million road project in his district. Bevin then took the highest road: “State Rep. Russ Meyer is a habitual liar,” he said on Facebook.
The Bevin-Meyer allegations were under House investigation at the time of the election. Who was leading it? Stumbo.
Guess Bevin is off the hook for that one.
So now we Kentuckians will get what we voted for: a governor who is free of legislative oversight and has not a lick of common sense.
We call that Unbridled Stupidity.