Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 20, 2012

RONNIE ELLIS: It’s politics as usual

CNHI News Service



CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — I’m betting that if you’ve followed the redistricting contortions birthed by the Democratic controlled House and Republican controlled Senate, you’re hardly shocked.

House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover said the gerrymandered House districts, which put three Republicans into one district and another, Jill York of Grayson, into the district of Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, is why the public is disillusioned with politicians.

Senate Republicans went the House one better, effectively making Democrat Kathy Stein of Lexington ineligible to run by moving her 13th District out of Fayette County altogether and moving Democratic Sen. Dorsey Ridley’s 4th to Fayette County where Stein resides. (Even numbered seats like the 4th are not on the ballot this year, so Stein can’t run for that and she doesn’t live in the new 13th which will be on the ballot — so she can’t run for that. For the next two years, a senator from western Kentucky will represent constituents living in downtown Lexington).

 Rep. Danny Ford of Mt. Vernon announced he won’t seek re-election in his new district which he described as a “horseshoe with a leash.”

The majority parties in both chambers took care of themselves — which in politics is expected. But they did it at the expense of citizens, denying them representation they had duly chosen, a fundamental American political principle. That’s not what voters expect but most will simply shrug or if they complain it will be a partisan complaint, excusing their party’s gerrymandering while deploring the other’s. But even if voters in Stein’s district resolved to show their displeasure, how can they? They won’t see her name on the ballot. York can run against Adkins and some of her present constituents live in the new district, but it will be an uphill battle.

That’s how Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Morehead, described his prospects after being placed in a 200-mile district with Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers, a district that extends from Rowan County to Knox County.

“It’s tough to lose before you even run,” said Blevins who hasn’t decided what he’ll do.

One House Republican placed in a district with two Republican colleagues, Jim DeCesare, says he will run for a newly drawn Senate district which has a convenient peninsula extending into Warren County just far enough to pick up his residence. It’s been described as the “DeCesare District.” DeCesare strongly supported Senate President David Williams in last year’s budget standoff with House Republicans and Williams’ bid to become governor. Some lawmakers have more humorously called the peninsula “the DeCesare middle-finger.” But the map makers ultimately offered that gesture to some voters in gerrymandered districts. The gesture was entirely bi-partisan though anything but non-partisan.

The legislators in charge of redistricting aren’t the only political cynics. Gov. Steve Beshear was criticized during the campaign for avoiding discussion of serious issues. He talked about how he’d steered Kentucky through tough times but there was light at the end of the tunnel. He declined to discuss tax reform and said as little possible about expanded gambling, both of which he now says we need.

Well, that light turns out to be a roaring budget locomotive. Beshear is offering a budget which will force 8.4 percent cuts on agencies which have been cut 25 percent in the past four years and retards educational progress.  We all knew it was coming but Beshear said hardly a word about it during the campaign.

It wasn’t about what is best for Kentucky, it was about what would get him re-elected which he obviously believed were one and the same. Just like those gerrymandering legislators of both parties.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort