A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Al Cross: Republican legislature grabs wheel from Democratic governor; voters will have a say in 2022

When Kentuckians elected Andy Beshear in 2019, they created a recipe for partisan conflict between a legislature with a recent, ultra-Republican majority and a governor from a greatly diminished Democratic Party. In the recently completed legislative session, the governorship itself was diminished. Legislators took some powers from the governor, gave a few to Republicans who hold other statewide offices,...

Kentucky’s COVID positive-test and new-case numbers head in the right direction Saturday

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s pandemic numbers continued their relatively flat roller-coaster ride Saturday, as the positive-test and new-case averages both declined — after a week in which they increased most days. The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the novel coronavirus in the last seven days was exactly 3 percent, after rising to 3.08% on Friday. The state reported...

Al Cross: Rural Republican Stivers finds common ground on race with urban, Democrat senators

Just before the legislature adjourned Tuesday night, there was a remarkable scene on the dais of the Senate: fist bumps and wide smiles among two Republicans and two Democrats. Three of the senators were from Louisville, Kentucky’s Democratic stronghold. The other was a Republican from Manchester, in the most Republican part of the state: Robert Stivers, the president of the very Republican Senate. Senate...

Al Cross: Al Smith’s journalism was one of good faith, now often missing

Al Smith, my friend and mentor who died last weekend after a very full life, was known best as the host of “Comment on Kentucky,” KET’s Friday gathering of journalists to hash out the week’s news. He was also one of our state’s greatest public citizens, engaged in a host of good causes. I knew him best as a journalist, one who exemplified the craft that is supposed to make democracy work....

Al Cross: In a sneaky way, the secretive, short-circuited legislature makes itself more secret

For years, the Kentucky General Assembly has been sliding down the slippery slope of secrecy, into a hole that shields it from public scrutiny. Last week, 71 members of the state House doubled down on darkness, and expanded it – to make just about every other part of government in Kentucky less transparent. In one of the more ironic but emblematic moves I’ve seen in more than 40 years of watching...

Beshear calls new vaccine a ‘game changer’ as end of pandemic is in sight; masks, distancing still needed

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News As a new vaccine was released and the coronavirus and Covid-19 kept waning in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the end of the pandemic is visible and the third vaccine “is going to be a game-changer.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the one-shot, easily handled vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson could be given to anyone over...

Al Cross: McConnell stayed true to form; no guardian of the republic, but ready for the next battle

As the House impeachment managers concluded their case against Donald Trump Saturday, one seemed focused on a senator in the front row. Rep. Joe Neguse, Colorado Democrat, had Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in mind. He began by quoting Henry Clay, the Kentucky Whig whose desk McConnell treasures, and who first inspired McConnell’s ambition to be a senator. He dropped the name of John Sherman Cooper,...

Pandemic metrics continue to fall in Kentucky, but state’s infection rate remains one of the highest

County infection-rate ranges since start of pandemic, with lowest and highest marked. For other counties, via an interactive map from the American Communities Project, visit www.americancommunities.org. By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Two major measures of the pandemic in Kentucky, new cases of the novel coronavirus and newly listed Covid-19 deaths, dropped sharply Saturday. The state reported only...

Al Cross: Mitch McConnell never evolved so quickly, and then in reverse

The 50-year political career of Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. is a study in evolution When he was running for and serving as Jefferson County judge-executive, he was a moderate – which he had to be, in order to be elected as a Republican in an increasingly Democratic county soon after Richard Nixon sullied the brand of the Grand Old Party. He even made moderates, liberals and organized labor think...

Al Cross: McConnell makes play to sideline Trump as he has chance to remake how he’ll be remembered

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. . . . On such a full sea are we now afloat.” – Brutus to Cassius, Julius Caesar, Act 4 The last time I talked with Mitch McConnell, I suggested that our next conversation be about the future of the Republican Party (after Donald Trump). I didn’t use the last three words, since it was just before the election. He...

ANALYSIS: Some ideas for countering the Big Lie about presidential election (a clue: Biden won)

By Al Cross Director and Professor UK Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues I wrote recently that journalists, including those in rural areas friendly to President Trump, have an obligation to counter his big lie of election fraud that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Now Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan and American Press Institute Executive Director...

Al Cross: McConnell’s speech was a turning point, as he stands up for the truth

On one of the most dramatic days in American history, Kentucky’s senior senator saw he would lose control of the Senate; fled the chamber under attack from a mob incited by a president whom he had enabled, but who probably cost him that control; and gave a speech concluding their political divorce. Mitch McConnell’s remarks, which you should read, might have been the big news of the day if not...

Al Cross: Mischievous Christmas gifts for Kentucky politicians, a tradition continued

Thirty-nine years ago, Ed Ryan, then the Frankfort Bureau chief of The Courier-Journal, wrote a column headlined “Possible gifts for officials, first family.” Ed had great material to work with – Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., his appointees and wife Phyllis George Brown – and he made the column annual. Ed died in 1984, at only 45, but his journalistic legatees have continued the tradition. Since...

Al Cross: Governor Beshear needs help with preventive pandemic messages

It’s rare for a high-ranking official to seek advice publicly, but that’s exactly what Gov. Andy Beshear did Wednesday at his daily coronavirus briefing, seemingly at wit’s end when it comes to persuading Kentuckians to follow his emergency orders and help thwart the accelerating pandemic. Beshear was asked by Melissa Patrick of Kentucky Health News (which I publish) about a Washington Post story...

Al Cross: Mitch McConnell has the switch to turn off The Trump Show, but will he use it?

As far as we know, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t told President Trump to throw in the towel and start funding the transition to President Biden. That’s a message that would quickly emit from the leakiest White House in living memory. So why hasn’t he given Trump the word, for the good of the country? For one thing, the current episode of The Trump Show may be the climax of the...

Al Cross: Republicans cement Frankfort power; will they overreach?

Well, that was a whoopin’. Tuesday’s election was a political disaster for Kentucky Democrats, and it has the makings of a governing disaster for their leader, Gov. Andy Beshear. But if Republicans overreach, it could be a public-health disaster for us all. Driven by allegiance to President Trump and a strong seventh endorsement of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, voters increased Republicans’...

Al Cross: Good, evil, McConnell and the Supreme Court

After decades of writing about politics, never have I been so eager – anxious may be a better word – for an election to be over. That thought came when I read an Oct. 20 story in the Somerset Commonwealth Journal about a Republican rally where Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jonathan Shell, declared, “This campaign is about good versus evil.” U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers had a similar theme:...

Two-thirds of Kentuckians approve of Beshear’s COVID-19 efforts, 60 percent support mask mandate

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentuckians polled Oct. 7-15 gave Gov. Andy Beshear good grades for handling the coronavirus pandemic and supported the idea of state law to require wearing of masks in public. (Graph from Spectrum Networks) The poll, and released Oct. 21, found that 37 percent of Kentucky adults strongly approved Beshear’s handling of the crisis, with another 28 percent saying they...

Al Cross: Amendment 2, on the ballot, has a hidden agenda but it’s a good one

As our tumultuous, pandemic-extended election consumes the country, this space takes a breath to offer a closer look at something important on Kentucky’s ballot, and a look back at a political kingmaker. If your ballot has several races, you may miss one or both of the constitutional amendments on the back. You may have heard of the first one, “Marsy’s Law” to establish rights for crime victims,...

Al Cross: McConnell’s good at politics but for whom?

In the only debate of their race, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Amy McGrath painted very different pictures of the incumbent, on whom the election is essentially a referendum. The Senate majority leader, seeking a seventh six-year term, portrayed himself Monday night as a supremely accomplished practitioner of politics who gives Kentucky an advantage when states compete for federal money. “It’s not...