Dems may get lucky in Kentucky


Geraldine Sealey
February 14, 2004 3:59AM (UTC)

The Wisconsin primary isn't the only contest of national interest on Tuesday. A special House election in Kentucky's Sixth District will provide the first real referendum, for GOP and Democratic voters alike, on President Bush and the Republican congressional leadership this election year. If Democrat Ben Chandler wins the race to fill a vacant House seat, it won't be from luck. Chandler has faced the worst the national GOP apparatus has to offer, from well-funded attacks and distortions to strong-arm tactics from party leaders.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert practically bribed Kentuckians to vote for Chandler's opponent when he dangled a federal tobacco buyout to benefit Kentucky farmers if they voted for Chandler's GOP opponent, Alice Forgy Kerr. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who hand-picked Kerr as the Republican candidate, promised to "do whatever it takes" to defeat Chandler. In its editorial endorsing Chandler, the Lexington newspaper expressed disgust at the "waves of attacks and distortions, most fueled by out-of-state Republican money, coming by TV, mail and phone This multimillion-dollar mudslide is so repulsive that voters could hardly be blamed for ignoring Tuesday's special election, which has the added disincentive of falling on the day after a federal holiday for some workers. But voters should not let the waves of negativity keep them from going to the polls to decide who will speak for them in the U.S. House of Representatives. By wading through the muck and examining the candidates' credentials, they will see that Ben Chandler is easily the most qualified."

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In the polls leading up to the election, Chandler led Kerr 49.4 percent to 39.6 percent. As Roll Call (sub. only) reports, this strong Democratic showing isn't what Republicans expected when the seat opened last November.

Roll Call: "GOP strategists planned to make the special election a referendum on a popular president and a contrast of ideologies in a conservative district But, instead of being an unadulterated asset, the president is proving to be more of a mixed blessing, and Kerr and the Republicans are struggling, at least so far, to convince voters that the race presents a stark choice between a liberal and a conservative."

This is one to watch on Tuesday.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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