Friday, September 14, 2007

Republican Floodgates Open; Race to Endorse Democrat Beshear Begins


Bluegrass Report has been predicting for weeks that Republican officials would soon start endorsing Democrat Steve Beshear over incumbent Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher.

Most of us thought the first one would be Lt. Governor Steve Pence, who rejected Fletcher in August 2006, after Fletcher was indicted for violating state hiring laws.

But Pence wimped out last month with a pale refusal to endorse Ernie. Instead, first out of the gate is former state representative Steve Nunn.

"I believe in good government," Nunn said. "I believe we need to elect people who are going to govern and the core group around the governor and the governor himself haven't demonstrated an ability to do that or to deserve another four years."

Nunn, who lost his seat last year, said he has no plans to become a Democrat. "I think Republicans should be for good government and this Republican is for change."

Steve Nunn lost his seat in the state House last year for lack of wingnuttery - in other words, he put his constituents and the good of the Commonwealth ahead of his party and his own personal ambition.

Which is exactly what his father, Louie B. Nunn, did as Kentucky's last Republican Governor almost 40 years ago.

Louie Nunn is excoriated by state employees to this day for firing Democratic state workers and replacing them with Republicans. But Louie Nunn single-handedly saved the Kentucky economy from sinking to Fourth-World levels by creating the state's first sales tax.

The five-percent tax was labeled "Nunn's Nickel," and it cost Louie - only 47 when his term ended - any hope of future political office in Kentucky.

Louie had a political resurrection of sorts in the late '90s, when he once again championed an unpopular cause to help the state he served. Louie lent publicity, credibility, and some humor to the hemp-legalization movement by escorting a truckload of legal Canadian hemp to the front of the Capitol in Frankfort.

Steve is no fan of Ernie - he lost to Fletcher in the republican gubernatorial primary in May 2003 - but he's also his Daddy's boy. Louie died in January 2004, but his legacy of doing the right thing and damn the consequences lives on in his son.

Steve Nunn's endorsement of Steve Beshear may start not only a rush of Kentucky Republicans to the Democrat's side, but also some new thinking among those same Republicans about abandoning Mitch McConnell in 2008.

No one would call Steve Nunn a leader of the Kentucky Republican Party.

But I will call Steve Nunn this: The Last Kentucky Republican With Integrity.

UPDATE, 9:40 a.m.: Ben Carter of BlueGrass Roots points out that Governor Bert Combs established the first Kentucky sales tax of 3 percent. Louie Nunn increased it to five percent. Apologies for the fact-checking failure, and thanks to Ben. If I may point out, the sales tax was perhaps the least of Comb's accomplishments. He desegregated public accommodations in Kentucky, formed the first state Human Rights Commission, improved education, expanded the state highway system and established the merit system for state employees. I, too, would rank Bert Combs close to the top of the list of great Kentucky Governors.