Sunday, December 05, 2004

Election Irregularities in the State Due South of 'Katherine' Blackwell's Ohio

Kentucky Senate to make 'unbridled' attempt at subverting the rule of law

Oh, Kentucky! Ye ancient land of “unbridled spirit,” of horses, hospitality and horseshit politics... Say it isn't so! (Heck, this state even has Congresspeople with horsey teeth, but that of course belongs in a dentistry blog.) And did I mention this state's got horses?

With my writing discipline now restored and focusing on the issue at hand, let me first welcome y'all to my state, the Commonwealth of Kentucky (No, 'commonwealth' has nothing to do with socialism, kid—your parents are Republican, I bet). Anyway, y'all see, what we basically have going on here is this Republican candidate for the 37th Senatorial District, Louisville pizza parlor heiress Dana “Dan 'Malano' Seum” Stephenson, somehow having forgotten to look at the state Constitutional blurb regarding the residency requirement for running for this open Senate seat. Ms. Stephenson hadn't lived in the state six years prior to the election, as required, as she lived across the Ohio River in enemy state Indiana for two-thirds of that period. Stephenson's forgetfulness was revealed when her opponent, Democrat Virginia Woodward, filed suit a day ahead of the November 2 election. And not withstanding the smelly political timing of the lawsuit, Stephenson made no attempt to withdraw her name from the ballot. Y'all smell this political stink from a mile away, I betcha.

From the perspective of running a well-tuned democracy, I have no rational choice but to declare a pox on both these candidates. (And OK OK, I will stop blurting “y'all” for the rest of this article.)

You see, once the election was over and the unqualified candidate won, off to court this stink went. And the judge, Jefferson Circuit Judge Barry Willett did something extraordinary: He actually disqualified Stephenson and revoked her win. And you're sitting there thinking: “So what, the judge had no choice.” But wait, there's more! The judge actually... get this.. awarded the victory to Ms. Woodward, even though she received a minority of the votes! It's just such a humdinger to behold when the rule of law is upheld at the same time democracy is subverted. I love this state!

There's certainly no question that Stephenson's win should have been thrown out, unless you're a seething anti-democracy, arch-conservative and weirdly partisan Republican. But, on the other hand, to award a win to the candidate who didn't actually win is, well, unbridled horseshit. The only reasonable judicial response would have been to order a special election and let the best qualified candidate win, where 'win' means a plurality/majority of the votes, thank you! Democracy would have been restored. But this judge, apparently on crack, handed yet another issue to fun-loving, Florida-admiring Kentucky Republicans to exploit.

Now, Ms. Stephenson, through the auspices of her arch-conservative attorney and blinkered TV debate personality, Jim Milliman, is pursuing a political overturn of the judge's decision in the Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate. Mr. Milliman is daring to suggest that the legislature can override the strict and clear requirements in the state Constitution by determining the qualifications of their membership. This is patently absurd and worse, plainly illegal, as the Senate cannot legally determine qualifications that subvert constitutionally-defined qualifications, but only judge them, according to the same Constitution. Moreover, a state legislature cannot afford to make a judgment that openly defies the state's highest laws, then expect citizens not to view an action like that as indication that the rule of law is no longer in play in that state. Horrifically enough, however, there was a precedent for such shenanigans when in 1987, the Democratic-controlled House seated somebody who wasn't a legal resident of their district—shame on those Democrats. But two wrongs don't make a right, and seating Ms. Stephenson would be nothing short of a brutal political attack on the rule of law.

Sadly, though, Republican Senate President David Williams is indicating that the Senate will indeed take up this matter as soon as it's brought before the body. Williams is the same extreme partisan who openly spread gay rumors about Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Mongiardo just before the election and then denied it, all to ensure the victory of the floundering reelection candidate and dimmest bulb in the Senate, Republican Jim Bunning. Perhaps this speaks more for Kentucky politics than it does any particular players, but it's seemingly apparent that there's only one person to go to in Kentucky these days if you're a Republican in trouble (due to your own foibles) and need the assistance of an unethical partisan power play. On top of this, who the heck cares if Mr. Mongiardo sets off some GAYDARs (as if there's anything wrong with that)... oh, I almost nearly forgot, this is bible bumpkin Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Ms. Woodward is expecting, if not demanding to be seated based on an election she didn't win. Love that democracy! Perhaps Ms. Woodward might be reminded of the roots of her Democratic party. Even with a judgment in her favor, certainly a personal recognition of the unethical smell of taking a seat she didn't get the most votes for should be accorded. Further, she should realize that she will have a great chance of actually winning in a special election, given her newfound name recognition.

Both political parties need to come to a rational agreement here: That all candidates in any political election need be qualified, and that the candidate with the most votes wins. Neither side in this dispute seems ready to do the right thing for the constituents of the 37th District. Only a newly minted special election will make sense here. I'm not politically adept enough to know how this can be pursued at this point, but certainly, for the sake of getting things done right, political leaders will find some way to proceed on this.

Of course, with any course taken, there's a price to be paid. Elections aren't cheap to run. But state leaders suggesting in any way that the law isn't the law is far more pricey.

Now, speaking again of horses (naaaay! that dreaded image my state cannot shake, nor wishes to shake)... Elections really aren't like horse races, after all. In an actual horse race, when the first place finisher gets disqualified, the second place horse automatically wins. Judge Willett must have inserted this analogy into his decision. However, he neglected one simple point: The people didn't decide to elect the second place finisher!

The people of Kentucky's 37th Senatorial District must be given another chance to exercise their democracy, and do it with a slate of qualified candidates. Anything short of this is unacceptable, and unbridled... well, you know.

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