Sunday, March 30, 2003

Ky. Politics


Fletcher camp just blew it

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Mitch McConnell is probably busy this weekend, trying to find a new gig for Hunter Bates.

The last two just didn't seem to work for Bates, a McConnell protege-in-waiting who can't hang on to a job. Even jobs handed to him by Kentucky's senior U.S. Senator.

McConnell, Bates' former boss, first tried to shove the boy wonder off on Fourth District Republicans. Bates, who has never held or run for office, was going to wrest the district's congressional seat from Democratic U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas of Boone County.

In a rare show of defiance, Northern Kentucky Republicans rebuffed McConnell.

Bates then ended up as the running mate for Republican Congressman Ernie Fletcher, the favorite gubernatorial candidate of the GOP establishment. Once again, Northern Kentucky Republicans scratched their skulls, wondering what it is Bates has that they were missing.

To be fair, Harvard-educated Bates did run an incredibly effective Washington operation for a top-flight Senator who has ascended to a top leadership position in the Senate GOP caucus.

But is the GOP bench so thin that there are no Republican legislators, county officials, city officials or others qualified to be Fletcher's running mate? Why did the coveted No. 2 slot fall to someone who hasn't lived in Kentucky for nearly a decade?

Which, in the end, is what sank Bates and, potentially, Fletcher's candidacy. A judge ruled last week that Bates doesn't meet Kentucky constitutional muster when it comes to residency requirements.

How, everyone is asking, did this get by Mitch and his gang? How much more basic does it get than, "Is the candidate qualified to serve?"

Where was Fletcher? This guy wants to be governor and he screwed up the first big decision he made.

Or maybe, as a lot of Republicans believe, Fletcher had little say in picking his running mate.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal , Fletcher said he was advised by "experienced legal minds." We haven't seen legal advice like this since the L.A. prosecutor's office told the Juice to try on those gloves.

Republicans are trying to put up a good front, saying this won't hurt Fletcher, Bates deserves to be on the ticket and others are just demagoguing the issue.

Uh, yes, it will, no he doesn't and you can bet if a McConnell opponent had this info on a foe he would use it.

Now Republican Bob Heleringer, the running mate of GOP gubernatorial candidate and now likely front-runner Steve Nunn, was part of the lawsuit that felled Bates. He is vowing to go back to court to have Fletcher booted out of the race.

What of the money already contributed to the Fletcher/Bates ticket? Will it have to be refunded?

Fletcher's camp is claiming Nunn and Rebecca Jackson, another potent Republican gubernatorial candidate, are waging a "mission of destruction." They don't have to. Fletcher's own team took care of that.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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