By John David Dyche
HOT: Governor Steve Beshear is hot. He earned respect for his bold and effective implementation of Obamacare and expansion of Medicaid. Now Beshear says he will, albeit belatedly, offer a tax reform proposal. He has cultivated a healthy working relationship with Republicans, which may help in this difficult budget session. Halfway through his second term Beshear remains popular with Kentuckians even as he has presided over tough economic times.
NOT: Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo is not. Stumbo stepped in it when he recently compared Senator Mitch McConnell to Nazis. Stumbo did not use that word, but his meaning was clear, and it clearly crossed the line. He made matters worse by saying that the name "Senator" was "too good" for McConnell. It is one thing to be funny, as Stumbo often is, but another to be so utterly disrespectful of a political opponent, as Stumbo was.
HOT: Senator Rand Paul is hot. The Kentuckian is second in the Real Clear Politics average of polls for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The frontrunner, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, has taken a hard political hit from the traffic scandal, and an ongoing investigation threatens to do more damage. Meanwhile, Paul is getting plenty of positive press for his positions on government surveillance, restoring felons' voting rights, and spending restraint. His influence is also expanding within the state Republican realm as candidates increasingly align with him and seek his support.
NOT: Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin is not. A recent Human Events/Gravis poll showed challenger Bevin behind incumbent McConnell by a formidable 53-31 percent. A recently released video and related article in National Review Online revealed confusion from Bevin about whether the problem in Washington was too much partisanship or too much compromise. Bevin looks like a guy who is going to have trouble handling the scrutiny he will face when the race really heats up.
HOT: Louisville mayor Greg Fischer is hot. Fischer recently reorganized the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District. Once again he has cleaned up a mess inherited from the administration of his mayoral predecessor, Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson. After audits and reviews revealed a raft of problems at the agency, Fischer replaced the executive director Abramson had appointed in 2008. Fischer is also earning respect for his work supporting a local option sales tax in Kentucky. He is poised to win reelection this year without any credible competition.
NOT: Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is not. Already too closely linked to President Obama, who is wildly unpopular in Kentucky, Grimes had his idea to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour a major part of her campaign. Stumbo's gaffe overshadowed the release of her so-called jobs plan. She did not know how much her plan would cost or how many jobs it would create. Her policy director was the chief editorial writer at The Courier-Journal, which is another way of saying she is way out of step with ordinary Kentuckians.
HOT: Auditor Adam Edelen is hot. Edelen has not made a misstep since winning election in 2011. His special examination of Dayton's independent school district produced a criminal conviction of the former superintendent and returned over $500,000 to taxpayers. Edelen's top legislative priority, a cyber-security measure requiring governments to notify citizens if their personal information is disclosed, has broad bipartisan backing. His audit of Jefferson County Public Schools offers him another opportunity to burnish his resume' as a potential governor.
NOT: State Representative Leslie Combs is not. Combs accidentally fired a handgun while unloading it in the Capitol Annex. Afterwards, her inexplicable statements to The Courier-Journal's Tom Loftus included, "It happens," and "I was particularly careful." According to CN2's Ryan Alessi before the incident, Combs was "increasingly being mentioned among Democrats as a potential lieutenant governor candidate with [Attorney General Jack] Conway." Her errant gunshot injured no one, but probably killed her chance to be Conway's running mate.
HOT: House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover is hot. The Jamestown Republican gave a funny, hard-hitting speech to an influential audience at the Kentucky Chamber Dinner. Hoover also announced his intention to seek reelection to the House. He had considered running for a circuit judgeship. His chances of becoming speaker look better than ever. The GOP needs a net gain of only five seats to take over the majority. Recent polling looks great, they just won a special election in formerly Democratic territory, redistricting should help Republicans, and Obamacare will be an anchor around Democratic necks.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.