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Paul L. Whalen: If Judd not willing to do hard work, then she needs to get of the way

As chair of the Campbell County Kentucky Democratic Executive Committee, I am extremely interested in who will run against Kentucky’s senior U.S. senator. It should be noted that I am writing this as an individual and my opinions do not express those of the Campbell County Democratic Party.

While the race for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s U.S. Senate seat is important, most commentators nationally and statewide are overlooking the fact that races for seats in the Kentucky House of Representatives are more critical. Kentucky presently is the only state between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico where Democrats control at least one chamber of the state legislature. Failure of Kentucky Democrats to keep the Kentucky House of Representatives puts in peril the lives of workers throughout the Commonwealth.

What happened in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana could happen in Kentucky if Republicans take control of the Kentucky House. Kentucky Republicans want to make Kentucky a “right to work for even less state” (Right to Work) in a state where wages are generally lower than the national average and our poverty rate in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky is slightly above the poverty rate of Mississippi and West Virginia. As it stands now, a Judd campaign could jeopardize the Democratic Party in Kentucky for years to come. Presently her potential candidacy has no coattails.

While Ms. Judd would make a formidable candidate against McConnell and a great U.S. senator, the question is—will she run an effective campaign? Or will she be a “shooting star”—one that shows a lot of potential at the beginning and burns out quickly.

To win statewide in Kentucky, it takes more than winning Jefferson County and Fayette. She is going to have to do more than have twitter and Facebook followers. In addition to going on the offensive early and often via paid media, she is going to have to personally appear in most of the Commonwealth’s 120 counties appear at Jefferson and Jackson Day Dinners; Fire Houses; as well as fairs and festivals and be able to appear at four or five parades in a single day on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.

The national media seems to believe that Obama is unpopular in Kentucky. That perception is probably because President Obama and the first lady have never spent any time in Kentucky outside of Louisville and Lexington and then only for a couple of hours. People in Kentucky do not know the president. This is compounded by the conservative media in the Commonwealth and the numbers in Electoral College which makes Kentucky a low-priority state therefore a self-fulfilling prophesy exacerbated every four years by the National Democratic Party and its affiliates such as the DCCC.

It should be noted that in the 1988 Kentucky Democratic primary for president, Jesse Jackson ran ahead of our neighbor, then Tennessee Sen. Al Gore. Jackson spent more time in Kentucky than Gore. If Obama would come to rural Kentucky this year (2013) his popularity would rise. With this said, if the president or first lady would make some trips to rural Kentucky in 2013, Ms. Judd could overcome the Obama issue. However, will have to be coupled with the question, does Ms. Judd want to spend the next 18 months working in Kentucky to connect with the voters from Hickman to Hindman as well as Ludlow to London?

To win a Senate seat in Kentucky, Ms. Judd is going to have to go on the offensive early and often and expect to do some retail politicking for the next 18 months. She is going to have to go after McConnell for local issues that deal with what has he done for Kentucky. Why hasn’t he sponsored legislation for rebuilding the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries I-75 and 71 over the Ohio River into Cincinnati? (A major north–south artery through Kentucky from Canada to Miami.) The issue concerning this bridge which carries two interstate highways is of major concern in Kentucky’s second-largest population areas in the Cincinnati suburbs of Northern Kentucky.

To win, Ms. Judd will have to get into some jeans and flannel as well as hip waders and be prepared to pitch some mud as well as receive it. McConnell as a campaigner goes for the opponent’s throat for the kill. She will have to work not only win the U.S. Senate seat but work to develop some coattails for down-ticket Democrats. Republican control of the Kentucky General Assembly would be disastrous for Kentucky’s people particularly in the mountains and rural areas.

Judd’s decision needs to be concerned about the overall political situation in the Commonwealth. If she is not willing to campaign, spend the time and the money and do the political brand of WWF wrestling that needs to be done with McConnell, then she needs to get out of the way and let someone like Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes run against McConnell. Secretary Grimes in less than three years has shown she knows how to campaign in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties and the importance of the down ticket races in Kentucky’s economy.

Paul L. Whalen is chairman of the Campbell County Democratic Party

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