Fletch wounds?A Look at Anne Northup's Ties to the Doomed Governor and How They Might Affect Her This Election Year

May 16, 2006 at 7:00 pm

A snake with a mortal wound can still discharge its venom. This is a natural, proven fact, and for some, a hard-learned lesson. Any properly trained gamesman knows you’ve got to watch the thing if you want to keep from getting holes in your ankles, or some kind of flesh menace from haphazardly spurted animal poison.

As Gov. Ernie Fletcher continues to thrash around with a nasty puncture wound, spitting accusations some would contend are about as reckless as hiring and firing people based on their politics, affiliated politicians and officeholders will most assuredly begin to get out of the way. This is natural, the Animal Order.

Since well before yesterday’s 3rd District Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Anne Northup has known she’ll have to defend her rigid support of President Bush, currently flailing in his own rite, during the general election this fall. But with a few key exceptions, Northup has tended to maintain a safe distance from Fletcher, with whom she served in the House from 1998-2003.

Smart animals can smell danger well before they’re standing in front of it.

There’s virtually no question Northup’s Democratic opponent will do his finest to connect the five-term Congresswoman to the doomed governor — that’s just good politics. But how easy will that be? Northup’s direct connection to Fletcher — that is, outside the general party apparatus — is somewhat tenuous and vague.

The other heavy question: Will it work? She’s been practically across-the-board Bush for six years, and such connections have yet to dent her. Now that the president is finally tanking, add a deeply embattled Republican governor and the venom might just be a little more potent. Or not.

In 2003, Northup was the statewide co-chair — along with 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers — of Fletcher’s gubernatorial campaign, during which time she put her own fundraising largely on hold to stump for the governor-to-be, according to a Nov. 20, 2003, Courier-Journal article that quotes her top aide, Terry Carmack.

Northup was on the Fletcher-appointed Louisville Arena Task Force, along with other prominent political leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell. She and Fletcher have worked together on the Ohio River Bridges Project, through which Fletcher has displayed a financial dedication to Louisville traditionally uncharacteristic of the state legislature or Kentucky’s highest office. The partnership has clearly been a positive and beneficial one.
All this, however, is fairly conventional behavior when a governor commits to a huge capital project like the Bridges Project.

During their time together in the House, Northup and Fletcher shared tremendously similar voting habits, the major exception being when Northup broke Republican ranks to support importing prescription drugs from Canada, a cause she has maintained.

Perhaps the most unfavorable bits of public record for Northup are comments from October of last year. To both The Courier-Journal and Associated Press, Northup expressed unwavering support for Fletcher, who was mired in the scandal for which he’s just been indicted.

“I think the public will come to recognize that Ernie has many good ideas for addressing long-term, difficult problems in this state,” she’s quoted as saying in the AP article. The C-J story quotes Northup: “The public is already realizing that, despite the fact that the press seems to be fascinated with the investigation.”

Northup also said she hopes Fletcher is reelected, and that she didn’t think the merit system investigation would adversely affect Republicans during the election year.

Northup’s office did not return phone calls earlier this week.

So does Northup need to worry? The jury, as it were, is out.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Mazzoli, who held the 3rd District seat from 1971 to 1995, said the governor’s scandal would be a factor, but not the deciding one.

“I think that anything that connects Ms. Northup either with the governor and whatever is going to be the outcome of , and with President Bush … will play a part,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any way it’s going to be the total determining factor. I still think the race has to be run on an individual basis.”

University of Louisville political science professor Dr. Phil Laemmle doesn’t foresee the doomed governor affecting Northup’s race at all, that she has no connection to the Fletcher administration’s offenses that voters will relate to.

“Except for the generic Democratic culture of corruption, which is one of the things are trying to do,” Laemmle said. “But that’s just not going to play here very well. It’s too tenuous a connection.”

Nevertheless, Louisville Democratic Party chairman Tim Longmeyer said the party plans to exploit every connection Northup has to Fletcher, Bush and other potentially crooked Republicans.

“That’s a direct, powerful connection,” Longmeyer said of Northup’s October 2005 vote of confidence for Fletcher. “Just the ability to remind voters what type of leadership she endorses will be powerful in light of the problems with the Fletcher administration.”

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