A lot happened in politics last week. National news overshadowed some significant events in Kentucky's race for governor. So let's review.
The gubernatorial week began with Democrat Jack Conway releasing what he called a "jobs plan." The document starts with a dig at current conditions under incumbent Democratic governor Steve Beshear and goes downhill from there.
After almost eight years of Beshear's stewardship of Kentucky's economy, Conway admits that "too many are still struggling." Conway claims he will build on Kentucky's strengths, open doors to business, and build the best workforce.
As for specifics, however, his "plan" features breathtaking insights like, "Kentucky should look to grow businesses inside our borders." Start engraving the Nobel Prize in Economics for this breakthrough!
Being a Democrat, Conway wants more bureaucracy. He proposes "a cabinet-level Office of Small Business Advocacy."
Another of his earth-shaking initiatives is – get ready for this – an "economic competitiveness strategy." The bland pap just keeps on coming as Conway proposes "eliminating needless regulatory barriers to growth; addressing workforce and infrastructure challenges; and combining existing incentives and/or creating new ones that could further reduce business costs."
Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville, not exactly a reactionary conservative, critiqued Conway's offering for its lack of specifics. "Though the plan proposes expanding tax breaks and increasing investment in infrastructure, education, and job training, it provides little to no detail on where such funding would come from, as the state budget continues to face shortfalls and increased obligations to pay for public pensions, Medicaid, and education."
Conway probably expected to reap positive publicity for serving up this mess of mushy policy pottage. The tempest over removing the Jefferson Davis statue from the Kentucky Capitol mercifully blew his "jobs plan" out of the news.
State Republican leaders, including GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin, quickly called for moving the Confederate's monument to a museum. When Joe Arnold of WHAS-11 asked Conway for a statement the Democrat demurred, "I'll have to chew on that one a little bit."
Many voters probably translated that as, "Let me talk to my campaign consultants and pollsters." If a Republican had shown such indecisiveness the state's large liberal newspapers would have set themselves aflame with righteous indignation and outrage.
Because it was Conway, the Democratic golden boy, the state's so-called progressive press gave him a break. Eventually, and to Conway's credit, he came round to where he ought to be, and where many Republicans already were, for moving the Davis statue to a museum.
Bevin's week began better than Conway's, but ended in embarrassment. At a meeting of Kentucky's public retirees an audience member asked him, "Will you commit to putting the full ARC in your budget?"
ARC is an acronym for "actuarially required contribution," or sometimes "annual required contribution." It is a basic pension term referring to the amount the employer must contribute to cover benefit costs.
Virtually every news story or report on pensions defines ARC. Kentucky's bipartisan failure to make the ARC in recent years is a big reason our state pensions are among the country's worst funded.
Bevin holds himself out as a pension expert because he "started a firm here in Kentucky that now manages $5 billion in pension assets." At that moment, however, he looked and acted like a dog hearing a strange sound.
It was the Kentucky equivalent of Texas governor Rick Perry's memorable, "Oops!" during the 2012 presidential campaign when he could not remember all the cabinet agencies he proposed to eliminate.
Whereas Perry's lapse was merely one of memory, Bevin's was one of knowledge.
The only gubernatorial candidate who has made a serious attempt to address the pension crisis is independent Drew Curtis. His is a novel approach involving use of a line of credit to help fund the ARC for a time, but at least it acknowledges the magnitude of the problem.
Public Policy Polling, believed by many to be Democratic leaning, recently released a poll showing Bevin ahead of Conway. PPP's polls on the GOP governor primary proved reasonably accurate.
But the public does not seem especially happy with its choices. Some Democrats deem Conway a dull phony. Some Republicans use the letters BS to describe Bevin as a blowhard, and they are not referring to a Bachelor of Science degree.
If Curtis makes it onto the ballot he could get a considerable number of protest votes. Mine may be one.
Are Conway and Bevin really the best we can do, Kentucky?
(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.)