Sunday, December 03, 2000

For Steve Henry, 'I do' turns to 'No, I didn't'

        Well, the honeymoon in Frankfort appears to be over.

        No, not the honeymoon of Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and former Miss America Heather French Henry. We assume they are living in wedded bliss, provided the definition of “bliss” includes near daily media reports that Kentucky's taxpayers had shelled out several grand for the couple's Oct. 27 wedding and a three nights at hotels in Lexington for Mr. Henry.

        On the latter it seems the lovesick pol couldn't make the grueling 30-mile trip from his taxpayer-funded house in Frankfort to downtown Lexington, where Heather Renee was participating in some Miss Kentucky pageant events.

        The state has been reimbursed for the wedding expenses by Mr. Henry, a millionaire according to his state financial disclosure forms, to the tune of $4,372; by Mrs. French Henry's family, which repaid $2,116.32 for wedding photos, wedding media packets and business cards for the new Second Lady; and by the Miss Kentucky Scholarship Organization, which reimbursed the state $349.57 for Mr. Henry's hotel stay.

        According to his office Mr. Henry was on “official business,” attending some of the beauty pageant events.

        There's more. A Louisville television station, WLKY-TV, is reporting that as many as 24 state employees volunteered to help plan the big wedding.

        State Auditor Ed Hatchett continues to look into allegations that state resources were used to prepare for and pull off the wedding. And don't forget, just days after the happy couple exchanged “I do's” at a Louisville church, it was reported in the media that Mr. Henry had added a person to his staff to be his wife's assistant.

        Mr. Henry disputed that the staffer was hired strictly to serve Mrs. French Henry's needs, but the damage was done.

        Is this any way to run a marriage? Or to prepare for the 2003 governor's race, a prize both Mr. and Mrs. Henry have their eyes on?

        The honeymoon I speak of involves the couple and a whole slew of outside forces - the public, the media and the tell-all nature of Frankfort politics.

        It wasn't supposed to be this way. Miss America and Mr. Henry were going to exemplify power and glory in their Bluegrass Camelot, a second couple that would be second to none.

        They were pictured in People, posed in George, had their wedding carried on live TV in Louisville.

        She would work with veterans' groups and on veterans' issues and causes - her father is a disabled Vietnam vet - and he would do whatever it is that lieutenant governor's do.

        All the while they would gear up for that important Democratic gubernatorial primary that is still a few years away, but don't forget, this is Kentucky. There's always a campaign going on, it simply never stops.

        But all the wedding gifts hadn't even been exchanged when the scandal hit the fan. OK, so it's not Watergate, or BOPTROT or even all that terrible. Some bad judgment, some worse press, pay the money back and try to move on.

        Mr. Henry's political opponents, who probably had something to do with the whistle being blown in the first place, won't let the public forget the first few rocky weeks of the Henry-French wedding debacle.

        You have to love politics to participate in it. But politics sure can screw up love.

       Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or by e-mail at


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