By all indications, five-term incumbent Rep. Anne Northup (R) is in her toughest fight yet. Northup has acknowledged as much, and the election could turn on any number of issues.
It seems safe to say, however, that most folks around here have made up their minds whose side they’re on. The question, and the point of all the political advertising, is which side will do the best job of motivating those already in the fold. My guess is that if every individual of voting age were to go to the polls, we’d have an even split in the Yarmuth-Northup race.
But we all know that won’t happen.
So the political campaigns must do something, anything, to motivate their troops. If that means painting John Yarmuth as an out-of-the-mainstream liberal, that explains the Northup campaign’s ideas for dramatically showing it.
If it means Yarmuth’s campaign must paint Northup as a George Bush clone with no mind of her own, you can see why they’re trying persuade Democrats who are sitting on the fence about voting to get to the polls.
I took an informal tour of the city to chat with average voters about the upcoming election, and, more specifically, the 3rd District Congressional race. The tour confirmed some stereotypes that most people assume are true regarding the make-up of our city. To see how well you know Louisville’s voters, take this quiz. Guess the party affiliation of each individual listed below:
1. West End business-owner, age 60
2. Fern Creek single mother of teens,
government employee, age 42
3. East End investment banker, age 47
4. South End Baptist, student and
restaurant worker, age 20
5. Plainview bartender, age 26
If you guessed Democrat for 1, 2 and 5, Republican for 3 and 4, you know a little bit about the polarized nature of our city. The point is, none of these individuals is likely to be swayed to the other side, under any circumstances, no matter what mud is slung at their candidate.
So whether it’s fear, disgust or anger that the campaigns are playing to, the reason politics have become so attack-oriented, so television-obsessed, is simple. It’s the best way to get voters to the polls.
42, Fern Creek
Circuit Court Clerk employee
Linda Cobb has a Yarmuth sticker on her car, attends Democratic Party rallies and thinks people should focus more attention on the war in Iraq than on political scandals. The single mother of three teenagers was interviewed during dinner at the Fern Creek Beef O’Brady’s. She said she’s been actively interested in politics all her life.
“The war is so important, and I think it’s getting ignored,” she said. “Anne Northup votes with George Bush most of the time, and I think we need someone who can think for themselves and represent the people.”
She thinks John Yarmuth has a real chance to win his race against Northup in the 3rd District Congressional race, which she recognizes as the most important of the election season.
Among issues Cobb thinks get too much attention: the so-called “God” issues, such as abortion and gay rights. “The Republicans have made it a big issue, but all people have opinions on social issues, it isn’t just the Right that cares.”
Locally, she thinks too much attention has been paid to the debate over Ohio River bridges, and she thinks that overall Louisville is politically moderate.
“It makes a difference to be politically active and care about who represents you. For some reason, people got disgusted with the Democratic party.”
60, West End
Norman Simpson owns Simpco’s Fashions at 20th and Broadway. He thinks of all the people in his circle of influence, exactly one is a member of the Republican Party. Still, although he plans to vote for Yarmuth, he thinks Anne Northup will prevail again in the 3rd District Congressional race.
“She’s done a lot of good things for the West End, even though she follows George Bush, which I don’t like,” he said. “She’s worked the churches down here; she’s a good politician.”
Though he likes Yarmuth, Simpson thinks he’s got an uphill battle. “Some of the stances he took as a youngster seem to be coming back to hurt him,” he said.
Simpson sides with the Democratic Party on most of the major national issues, saying he’s for whoever can bring the troops home and that he’s pro-choice and supports gay rights. But Simpson’s political passion is reserved for a local issue.
“I’m disappointed in Jerry (Abramson) for blocking Broadway for Derby, because that hurt businesses in the West End,” said Simpson, who thinks he lost his second Christmas and more than $8,000 this year when Derby cruising was stopped. “The West End should be able to participate in the Derby like everyone else.”
He doesn’t see much difference between Abramson and challenger Kelly Downard, and thinks Abramson will win that race convincingly.
20, Bullitt County
College student, restaurant worker
Like many young people, the election isn’t the hottest topic on Clint Cecil’s mind. On the other hand, he’s a former government major at Western Kentucky University and is proud that he cast his first vote in a major election for George W. Bush in 2004.
Cecil says his political leanings are based on “Christian moral values” that he learned attending a Baptist church all his life. He transferred to Jefferson Community College this year to study information technology.
“I don’t disapprove of gay people — it’s not my job to judge them,
but I just don’t approve of the lifestyle,” he said.
Cecil said the 3rd District Congressional race is the one he’s heard the most about, and he supports Northup because she backs George Bush’s policies.
“I agree with the war,” he said. “If we hadn’t done something about it, something might have happened. Even if they didn’t have WMD, they could have gotten them.”
Though Cecil seems to be following the Yarmuth-Northup race, he said he has “no impression” one way or the other of the Democratic challenger. As for Northup, he said, “I know she supports George Bush and what he’s doing — she shares his views.”
47, East End
Tom Raque grew up in a family of Democrats, but switched sides when he studied economics at Bellarmine University. He said that while he agrees with the Republican stances on social issues, the reason he supports GOP candidates is economic.
“It’s important that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent because that is what has assured that the economy has surged out of the Clinton recession,” he said. “For our country to be strong and able to fight the terrorism threat, we have to have a strong economy.”
Raque, who reads plenty of political Web sites, blogs and newspapers, views the political landscape in terms of “us vs. them” and said Anne Northup has done a good job.
“I used to read LEO just to find out that the other side is thinking,” he said. “Yarmuth is a far left wacko way out of the mainstream.”
Northup, he said, is strong on moral values and has done a good job bringing home federal monies, though he’s not so sure that’s a good thing.
“There are too many politicians using the earmark system to help them lure tax dollars home to help them in elections,” he said.
But Raque turns almost giddy about Northup’s long line of election wins. “I believe she will put an untimely end (to) another aspiring Democrat’s career,” he said.
Jennifer Stevens doesn’t claim to be politically astute, but it’s not hard to put her solidly in the Democratic camp. And she may be the type of voter that Democrats need if they are to win on Nov. 7.
Stevens voted for John Kerry two years ago, is against the war and said she would probably vote for Yarmuth — if she gets to the polls this time. Though she’s passionate in expressing her opinions, she said she’s “not really interested” in the campaigns and is not sure if she’ll vote.
“I felt like Bush screwed us on the war and not letting the troops come home,” she said. “He’s lied to us.”
She is tired of all the attack ads that on TV, which serve as background noise behind the bar at Harper’s, on Hurstbourne. She thinks a vote for Yarmuth might help bring about a change in the drinking age, even though that issue is not really on the table. But Stevens knows something about Northup that she doesn’t like.
“You don’t stand by George Bush’s side on every issue, and I think that’s what she does.”
Contact the writer at [email protected]