Running against Rand

Nov 25, 2015 at 2:02 pm
Running against Rand

Ok, hope you had a great fall break, because it is political season again. And I am not referring to the Republican primary circus or Hillary’s Yellow Brick Road. It is — and has been for about two weeks — time for a Democrat to get in the Senate race against Rand Paul. Yes, unless Senator Paul somehow solves the Syrian refugee crisis, defeats ISIS, or unearths Trump’s secret plan to throw the election by totally corrupting the Republican nomination process, he will be up for reelection in 2016. 

Remember? That is why Republicans are holding a primary caucus in March, so Paul’s political career doesn’t end after one term in the Senate and a failed presidential run. 

Sure, after several recent elections, any Democrat must be reticent about a statewide race in Kentucky. Obviously the recent gubernatorial race was a shipwreck, sinking nearly every down-ballot race with it (the only Democratic victories being two political legacies of the Commonwealth, Lundergan and Beshear). But what was true one year may not be a prelude for what’s to come. 

Of course there will be obstacles: Obama will undoubtedly be on the ballot again (for his fifth time in Kentucky if I’m not mistaken); Democratic performance has been woeful in recent years; and chiefly, Rand Paul, a savvy politician with a tremendous war chest, is undoubtedly Goliath.  

That said, I have been telling people since Election Day, if I were interested in running for any seat next year, I would have announced the day after Bevin won the Governor’s race: Turnout will be 65 percent, not 35; it is a full ballot; and this looks like it could be the all-time cross-ballot election, with voters mixing votes between parties up and down the ballot. And think about all of the crazy issues that will be brought by Governor Bevin and whichever Republican wins the nomination — so much insanity to campaign against, your campaign could just follow Saturday Night Live’s weekly routine.

Sure, there are the usual considerations that must be made: trying to scare off a primary challenger, organizing and fundraising. And if it seems early, the filing deadline for candidates is in two months — eight Tuesdays to be exact. If Democrats are serious about challenging Paul, they need to get a candidate … fast. 

Unfortunately, after Republicans take over the Governor’s Mansion, the highest-ranking Democrat in the state will be Congressman John Yarmuth. I mean, the Kentucky Democratic Party might as well just ask LEO Weekly to be their exploratory committee. So instead of waiting on them to call, we’ll just go ahead and give them our list now. 

Heather French Henry. Of course she is former Miss America, but anyone who underestimates her and assumes she’s an “empty dress” does so at their own peril. She wouldn’t be the brainless bikini model on stage whose foreign policy is, “And such.” She has spent her life working on veterans issues — her dad a wounded Vietnam War veteran  — using her Miss America tour and celebrity status to create the Heather French Foundation for Veterans in 2000. Most recently, as a result of her commitment and accomplishments, she was tapped by Governor Beshear to be the commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veteran’s Affairs. 

Next, our 1a candidate would be Ashley Judd — “UK’s No. 1 fan.” She was so close to running two years ago, before both establishment parties actively undermined her prospects, I would not be surprised if she had the paperwork filled out and ready. Remember, in 2014, Mitch McConnell was more afraid of her than he was of Matt Bevin.

She would be the most progressive candidate the Commonwealth has seen in modern politics. She is progressive on the environment and a staunch protector of Kentucky’s mountains (no mountain top removal). She would be the greatest advocate for women’s rights in Kentucky political history, particularly for the most desperate women in rural Appalachia. And she’s a UK fan. 

Sure, she’s liberal. Maybe even too liberal to win. But that is the point. If we have learned anything from the last two elections, it is that the stale politics of quasi, if not ashamed, liberalism is a formula for failure. Not just slight failure, but colossal humiliation. There is nothing worse than trying to run as a pragmatic candidate, when the voters across most of the state have proven to be anything but pragmatic, and letting a Republican opponent label you as liberal while liberals wonder who their candidate is. 

Democrats don’t just need a candidate, they need an inspiration. So here are the two. They’re young, smart, and they’ll be different than every pseudo-Democrat that has been run in recent years. The best part is, they can’t lose. Even if they lose, they will mark the beginning of the revitalization of Kentucky’s Democratic Party, which is currently on life support.