For an old fart like me, I was out a little late for a school night. But this was a momentous occasion. It’s not often that I’m on the winning side of a political race. But tonight I helped a friend celebrate his victory in the Democratic primary for governor. It was an interesting race, with some unusual twists. It is often said that politics are the damnedest in Kentucky, and this race proved it. But now it’s full speed to November.
There were seven Democratic candidates (and three Republicans, but we’ll get to them later), and early in the race polls showed Steve in third place, hardly an auspicious start. But as he began to move up in the polls, and one candidate dropped out, things began to get more interesting.
One complicating factor was the requirement for a runoff between the top two candidates if nobody got over 40% of the vote. In a 6-way race, 40% would be hard to get, even if two of the candidates were jokes. And when the polls put Steve in the lead, it was with percentages in the mid-20’s, with another candidate just a few points behind.
As late as Monday, the polls were holding steady in that range. Steve was maintaining his lead, but there was no way he was going to close on 40%.
The polls closed at 6:00 PM tonight, and I checked the results about 6:30. With about 10% of the votes counted, Steve was at 48%. I said “Holy Shit! I’d better get to Frankfort before the booze runs out!”
As the evening progressed, things began to look a little more tense. There was never any doubt that Steve would remain in first place, but the runoff, which had been a certainty the day before, and then looked unlikely, was starting to look like a possibility again as his percentage dipped down below 42%.
A 6-way race, with one candidate at 42% and nobody else above 20, looks like a slam dunk. But there was that pesky runoff requirement. Even though the second-place candidate had gotten a serious ass-kicking, it wouldn’t be totally unrealistic for him to hope that the race would tighten up a little more as the final votes were tallied, and even with his ass seriously kicked, he could have a chance of making it into a runoff.
With about 80% of the votes tallied, and the percentages holding steady, I said “It’s time for the sumbitch to concede”. Somebody else said “He just did!”. Sure enough, he had called Steve and said that, regardless of whether he stayed above 40% or dropped below it, there would be no runoff.
So now that he’s whupped 6 other Democrats, Steve just needs to whup one Republican in November to move into the governor’s mansion. And, even in this “red” state, and even though that Republican is the incumbent, that shouldn’t be very difficult.
Once again, politics are the damnedest in Kentucky. The majority of the voters are registered Democrats who typically vote for Republican presidential and Congressional candidates. But many other races are actually decided in the primary, with the Democratic candidate facing no opposition, or only a token candidate. Our current governor was the first Republican elected to that office in thirty years. And, for their first governor in 30 years, the Republicans could hardly have picked a worse candidate.
The guy was such a slimeball that many of the party abandoned him. His lieutenant governor declined to run with him again, and endorsed one of his opponents in the primary. The senior US Senator, who had basically anointed him in his previous run, would not publicly endorse any candidate. The other Senator endorsed his opponent.
Why did all his fellow Republicans abandon him? Not because he’s a total sleazebag; that’s never bothered Republicans before. It’s because they don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting re-elected, and they want to hold onto the office. He was under a lot of pressure to step down, but he refused. So they ran a candidate against him in the primary who they thought would have a better chance of winning in November.
And she probably would have had a better chance of winning in November, if she had managed to win the primary. But the Republicans voting in the primary are apparently the ones that still think GW Bush is the bestest president ever. So they nominated the slimeball again, which is good news for Steve because he gets to run against the weaker candidate.
I still wouldn’t call it a slam dunk. The Republicans are going to throw a lot of dirt at him, and a lot of Kentucky voters are easily swayed by stupid issues. But I think there’s a very good chance that I’ll get to go to another victory party in November.