A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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...

Al Cross: Trump gets an F, Beshear a B so far; what pandemic grade will local officials get?

As we approach a crucial election, it’s time to think about the sort of leaders we want and need at all levels of government – especially when strong leadership is badly needed to help save lives in a pandemic. On that task, our president has failed on almost all counts. I doubt Vice President Mike Pence really believes what he said in Wednesday night’s debate: “From the very first day, President...

Mitch McConnell’s legacy is a conservative Supreme Court shaped by his calculated audacity

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with reporters, July 30, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) By Al Cross University of Kentucky Unless Democrats win both the White House and the Senate in November, abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is about to finish his project of remaking the federal judiciary from top to bottom. The impact of that achievement...

Al Cross: Power, precedents, and political pyromania — yes, indeed, Mitch McConnell is playing with fire

There is logic in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s argument for quickly filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but upon close inspection it reveals his flawed political nature – and its risk to the country. To many, the boss of the Senate seems to be following different rules than he did in 2016, when he declared hours after Justice Antonin Scalia died that the Senate...

Al Cross: Mitch McConnell should get Trump to stop contradicting science — that’s bad for public health

When I was a child growing up in one of the poorest counties in the nation, with one of the smallest percentages of college graduates of any county, I was lucky. I had parents who had been to college and knew something about public health and had even worked in it. Even the less fortunate folks in our community had respect for the local health department. We all knew that it was a trusted place with...

Stack goes another round with legislators, pushes back on data questions, answers queries on schools

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Republican legislators kept up their questioning of the state’s coronavirus data last week, and the state health commissioner and Democratic lawmakers pushed back. Sen. Danny Carroll of Paducah, co-chair of the Program Review and Investigations Committee, was the leading questioner and most outspoken legislator, just as he was at the panel’s Aug. 13 meeting,...

Al Cross: Beshear sees his limits; now it’s time for an individual character test and for you to carry the ball

There’s no shortage of subjects for a Kentucky political column: the U.S. Senate race (Mitch McConnell’s got a leg up, and both sides are misleading you), the bipartisan plan for the election (kudos to Secretary of State Michael Adams and Gov. Andy Beshear) or the Republican convention (Donald Trump’s latest TV show, well produced but with too much fiction). But the most important piece of business...

Al Cross: McConnell, his power tested, needs a deal at this critical time for him and the nation

The last two times Kentuckians have re-elected Mitch McConnell to the U.S. Senate, his best logical argument has been his growing power: as minority leader in 2008, and would-be majority leader in 2014, why should a state with many needs give up such influence? Voters say it again and again. For most of his current campaign, McConnell has made a similar pitch, overtly in ads and subtly in “earned...

Latest White House COVID-19 report shows fewer Kentucky counties in danger zones this week

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky got a better report this week from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. It has two more counties are in the task force’s “red zone” — for places with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people, and a positive rate of at least 10 percent in tests for the virus — but a lot fewer in its “yellow zone,” for those with 10 to 100...

Al Cross: Local, trusted voices are needed in a pandemic and doing the right thing should be exalted

Norman Chaffins and Donnie Keeton probably never expected to see their name in a column about Kentucky politics. But they’re elected officials who have done the right thing when it comes to the coronavirus, and they and their kind should be exalted. Chaffins, a Republican, is the sheriff of Grayson County, in west-central Kentucky. Keeton, a Democrat, is a magistrate in Morgan County, in Eastern...

Al Cross: Does Amy McGrath have any chance against Mitch McConnell?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell surely smiled as he watched Amy McGrath slip, stumble and nearly fall to state Rep. Charles Booker in the Democratic primary for his seat. The first challenger who could match Mr. Money dollar for dollar had to drain half her campaign fund to fend off an upstart who was the ideal surfer of a historic wave of outrage about police treatment of his fellow African...

Al Cross: Any doubt about the vote count could resonate long past the primary

Voting for the Democratic nomination to face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is over, but the election is not, because most ballots were mail-in absentees due to the pandemic and are still being counted. That means the campaigns aren’t over, either, and that could affect the general election. Wednesday afternoon, the campaign of state Rep. Charles Booker sought donations “to hire lawyers,...

New coronavirus cases continue to increase across Kentucky, but hospitalizations are on the decline

Kentucky Health News chart compares daily case numbers with rolling average for past seven days. By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Gov. Andy Beshear reported 258 new cases of the coronavirus in Kentucky Friday, the sixth day out of the last seven that the number has risen. Following his recently revised schedule, Beshear did not hold a press conference Friday, but issued a press...

Al Cross: Charles Booker, Mike Broihier harvest votes on a field Amy McGrath planted

When Amy McGrath ran for the U.S. House in 2018, Cameron French was with her. He was a campus organizer at the University of Kentucky, where he is a student. But now, as McGrath seeks the Democratic nomination for senator, he’s organizing for state Rep. Charles Booker. French said he abandoned McGrath on the second day of her Senate campaign, when she told the Courier Journal that she would have...

Al Cross: National shift makes Booker the Senate candidate of the moment, at least for now

It is easy for some to say that the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd was an outlier, not representative of his own department, much less police in general. But he was representative enough – of a streak in police, and in society, that still regards people of color as second-class beings, not worthy of full respect. It is a poisonous streak, one that keeps America from overcoming...

Al Cross: On Memorial Day, we will get to see a story that was almost never told

Fifty-one years ago last month, my Clinton County High School classmate Paul Conner and I got on a bus in Lexington for a 4-H trip to Washington, D.C., our first visit there. We rode up with his parents, Murl and Pauline Conner, whom I knew mainly as mainstays of the local Farm Bureau. I also knew Murl from my work at WANY in Albany, where we would often read a notice that he would be at the courthouse...

Health commissioner worried that too many Kentuckians think COVID-19 doesn’t pose danger

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Dr. Steven Stack, the state commissioner of public health, said in an interview recorded Friday and broadcast Monday night that he fears Kentuckians aren’t taking the coronavirus seriously enough. “I’m very worried that the public is becoming comfortable that this is not a danger,” and does not realize that only about 5 percent of Kentuckians...

Trendline for new coronavirus cases remains up, but Beshear says two Louisville facilities skew numbers

Kentucky Health News chart shows trendline of new cases since May 3 (where there were 173) is up. By Al Cross Kentucky Health News As Kentucky prepares to allow all retail stores to open Monday, its two-week trend of new coronavirus cases is up, contrary to the federal guidelines that say such reopening shouldn’t begin unless cases have shown a downward trajectory for the previous two weeks. Gov....

Al Cross: As Trump’s virus work drags them down, Republicans seem frantic

Republicans facing an election amid a century-rank catastrophe made worse by their president are throwing anything they can against the political wall to see what sticks. Some of what they’re throwing is pretty slippery – trying to discredit experts, shifting the blame to China, or, well, just making stuff up. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been a voice of reason, repeatedly volunteering...