Category Archives: Kentucky politics

2014 Danville City Commission and other Boyle County candidates

Here are the candidates running for Danville City Commission and other local elections this fall. 

2014 Danville mayoral candidates: Mike Perros and Paige Stevens

2014 Danville City Commission candidates: Rick Serres, Denise Terry, Kent Mann, J.H. Atkins, Buck Graham, and Kevin Caudill

Boyle Judge-Executive: Lynn Harmon (R) and Harold McKinney (D)

Boyle Sheriff: Marty Elliott (D) (uncontested)

Boyle Jailer: Barry Harmon (D) (uncontested)

Boyle County Clerk: Trille Bottom (D) (uncontested)

Boyle County Attorney: Richard Campbell (D) (uncontested)

Boyle County Coroner: Don Hamner (R) (uncontested)

PVA Administrator: Eddie Tamme (D) (uncontested)

To view Magistrate, Constable, and other elections, they can be found here: http://apps.sos.ky.gov/elections/candidatefilings/statewide/countyfilings.aspx

Note: as of Sep 10th, this information is currently available through the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website available here. I will admit, though, that it took some amount of digging to find it. I might suggest to our state and local officials that it may be profitable to consider ways to make this information more readily available to interested parties. 

Note: a previous version of this post incorrectly reported the name of the Coroner and PVA Administrator candidates. We regret the error.

Campaign Advice for Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes

[ Note: this essay is cross-posted on Huffington Post and the Commonwealth Duel Blog ]

There’s no shortage of campaign strategy advice in this year’s Kentucky Senate race. In that spirit, I’ll add my own two cents.

If I were advising the McConnell campaign, I would say…

Don’t screw up.

You’re the incumbent and incumbents already enjoy somewhere between a 5%-10% advantage right off the bat, although this does tend to fade over time so it’s not going to be worth as much as it was in the past when you first ran for reelection. Also, the economic and political “fundamentals” are on your side, which is why all the numbers geeks are giving you anywhere between a 78% and 99%+ chance of winning (see here, here, andhere). So basically, just make sure to keep up with the fundraising and campaigning, give your conservative Republican base a reason to turn out to vote for you by railing on Obama and by talking up the strong possibility of a GOP Senate takeover.

And don’t screw up.

If I were advising the Grimes campaign, I would say…

You and I both know that you have an uphill battle to fight. You’re a Democratic challenger in a red state where the sitting Democratic president is very unpopular. But then, your incumbent opponent is also very unpopular in your state, but that tends to matter less than the economic and political fundamentals which are currently giving you a 1-in-5 chance, at best. You’ll need a strong campaign combined with some luck to come out on top this year.

Right now it seems that one of your key strategies is trying to appeal to women, presumably in an attempt to entice Republican women over to your team (seehere, here, and here, e.g.). While it makes for a great media narrative and may possibly work, there are strong reasons to think that this may not be the most effective strategy. To put it bluntly, women simply don’t tend to be swing voters. Oodles of political science research has shown that, after controlling for partisanship, there’s not much of a difference between men and women in their voting patterns. In other words, women are just as reliably partisan as men. The fault lines of American politics do not tend to fall around gender, but rather partisanship and ideology. Thus, there are likely not very many Republican women who are going to “defect” in this high-profile partisan election.

So who are more likely targets where you could concentrate your efforts? I took the liberty of doing some number crunching on an exit poll of Kentucky voters from the 2008 Kentucky Senate election where McConnell narrowly beat Bruce Lunsford 53%-47%. In that election, only about 14% of Republicans voted for Lunsford, and they made up only 5% of all voters total. Further analysis shows that these Republican defectors tended to be a little younger than their loyal partisan counterparts (about 22% of Republican defectors were under age 30 compared to 15% of Republicans who stayed in the fold). They also tended to be poorer (46% of Republican defectors made less than $50K/year compared to 33% of loyal Republicans) and more ideologically moderate (56% of those Republican defectors identified as moderate and 34% as conservative, while those who stuck with McConnell were 37% moderate and 70% conservative).

Perhaps most importantly, there was ZERO difference when it came to gender. 50.7% of Republicans who voted for Lunsford were women compared to 50.4% who voted for McConnell – a statistically indistinguishable amount. This suggests that women are very likely not the persuadable demographic among Republican partisans. Instead, it seems to be younger, poorer, more moderate Republicans.

On the other hand, nearly a quarter of self-identified Democrats switched sides and voted for Mitch McConnell in 2008. They made up a full 11% of all voters in that election. What did these Democrats look like? They were more ideologically conservative (34% of Democratic McConnell voters said they were conservative compared to only 15% of Democratic Lunsford voters), more likely to be white (95% of Democratic defectors were white compared to 72% of loyal Democrats), and more likely to approve of George Bush (34% compared to 10%). They were also slightly more likely to be men, making up 48% of Democrats who voted for McConnell compared to 41% of Democrats who voted for Lunsford. There were also no differences when it came to age, education levels, income, or religiosity. This suggests that in 2008, Lunsford lost Democratic partisans who looked a lot like Republicans – conservative white men who were more approving of President Bush. This suggests that you might have success keeping your Democratic partisans “in the fold” by veering toward the middle and appealing to cultural conservatives in Kentucky as much as possible.

That presents a tough choice: appeal to younger, more moderate Republicans who might be persuaded to defect or appeal to conservative white Democrats who may be likely to switch sides. Given that there were more than twice as many voters in the latter category (11% of all voters) than the former (5% of all voters) in 2008, it stands to reason that veering toward the middle and trying to retain moderate Democratic partisans may be the option with the higher pay-off. That being said, you don’t want to veer too far toward the middle or you might risk alienating your loyal liberal base so much that they don’t care enough to turn out to vote on Election Day. Trying to balance that tightrope walk will be a delicate endeavor indeed.

One thing is for certain, at least: there is little evidence from the 2008 Kentucky Senate election that Republican women were a persuadable demographic in that campaign. It’s possible that the 2014 Senate campaign will be different, but given how consistent and predictable American voting patterns are, I wouldn’t bet on it. Perhaps consider altering the approach slightly. Forget about “peeling off” Republican women and instead focus on loyal Democratic women (to make sure they show up to vote on Election Day) and moderate or conservative-leaning Democratic women (to encourage them to stay in the fold).

Support for the fairness ordinance and education levels

It was brought to my attention that in the City Commission meeting of June 9, Mayor Hunstad raised a concern about the representativeness of our January public issues survey showing that approximately three-fourths of respondents were supportive of a fairness ordinance. He argued that since around two-thirds of respondents had a college education or higher, the survey results are not a valid approximation of the community. Indeed, the U.S. Census reports that only about 26% of Danville residents have a college education or higher. This is indeed an important concern to consider in terms of interpreting the results, but it would skew the estimation of support for a fairness ordinance only if support for a fairness ordinances substantially differs by level of education.

In our survey, here is the breakdown on support for a fairness ordinance by level of education:

  Support Oppose
High school 70.2% 29.8%
College 75.9% 24.1%
Post grad 85.7% 14.3%
Total 76.0% 24.0%

As expected, those with post-graduate degrees are about 15% more supportive of a fairness ordinance. However, those with only high school levels of education who completed the survey were still more than 70% supportive of a fairness ordinance. This implies that the results would not change substantially even if there were more respondents in the survey with less than a college education.

Thus, in the absence of more accurate evidence to the contrary (which is always welcome – more evidence is better than less evidence!), there is little basis to support the argument that the survey results are wildly inaccurate on this question.

Can voters remove a sitting mayor from office in Danville?

Today’s Advocate-Messenger reports that a petition is circulating demanding that Danville Mayor Hunstad resign following his comments toward the LGBT community at the June 9 commission meeting.

Without taking a position one way or another on the merits of such a petition, I’m just going to take a wild guess that he’s not going to accept the petition’s invitation to resign. In that event, is there anything that the petition’s supporters could do to force the resignation of the mayor, or any other city elected official for that matter?

In a word, no. Danville is a third class city under Kentucky law, and KRS 83A.040.9 clearly states:

Except in cities of the first class, any elected officer, in case of misconduct, incapacity, or willful neglect in the performance of the duties of his office, may be removed from office by a unanimous vote of the members of the legislative body exclusive of any member to be removed, who shall not vote in the deliberation of his removal. No elected officer shall be removed without having been given the right to a full public hearing. The officer, if removed, shall have the right to appeal to the Circuit Court of the county and the appeal shall be on the record. No officer so removed shall be eligible to fill the office vacated before the expiration of the term to which originally elected.

In other words, the only way that Mayor Hunstad could be forcibly removed from office is if the other four sitting commissioners vote to remove him. My strong hunch is that there is little desire or motivation for such a move by the other four sitting commissioners. That is very likely a non-starter, unless perhaps the petition is able to gather the signatures of a critical mass of Danville voters – perhaps a third or so of Danville eligible voters (3,000+ signatures, give or take). I would also put that in the “highly unlikely” category.

Note: I’m not an attorney so it’s possible that I misinterpreted the KRS statute or am unaware of a separate provision that would permit such a recall procedure. If such is the case, I welcome any corrections.

Commission voting and voter issue importance

In a recent letter to the editor, Danville Mayor Bernie Hunstad issued some corrections to a newspaper article that had recently been published about the upcoming Boyle County Republican Judge-Executive primary race.

First, he writes that “our commission has voted together 97-plus percent of the time.” He is generally correct in this assertion, although it’s not quite 97%+. An analysis that I published in 2011 shows that the commission voted unanimously on 80.7% of their votes during the summer of 2010 through summer of 2011. A year later that figure had changed to 82.6% for 2011-2012. The latest analysis published last year shows unanimous voting 87.3% of the time from 2012-2013. Regardless of the exact percentages, Mayor Hunstad is correct in that there is much more agreement than disagreement in the Danville City Commission under his tenure, at least measured in terms of roll call voting by commissioners.

He also writes that “the next board will not likely focus on the number one issue with the voters, which is the creation of better jobs and improvement in our local economy.” This is also correct, as evidenced by our 2012 Boyle County Exit Poll which showed a plurality (30%) of Boyle County voters listing “jobs” as the most important problem facing our local community. 38.3% said the same in the 2011 Exit Poll

Publicly opposing Centre College can potentially be smart politics

In Sunday’s Advocate-Messenger, Danville Mayor and Republican candidate for county Judge-Executive Bernie Hunstad identified Centre College among several groups in the community politically opposed to his candidacy: 

 “I believe I am the underdog in the primary, and I believe I will be the underdog in November,” Hunstad said. “I’m running against Lynn, the EDP (Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership), Centre College, the McKinney supporters and the newspaper.” (Page A01 and A08 of April 2oth’s edition; not yet available online.)

As I interpret this comment, Mayor Hunstad was listing groups in the community that he believes are opposed to his candidacy for Judge-Executive. It occurred to me, though, that perhaps by publicly aligning against each of those groups (including Centre College), it may serve to elicit support from potential Republican primary voters who also view those groups unfavorably.

In the 2011 Boyle County Exit Poll, we asked voters whether they agreed or disagreed that “Centre College gets too many unfair advantages within the city of Danville.” This is a measure of implicit “resentment” toward the College, and 26.5% of respondents indicated that they “agree.” It’s possible that by publicly claiming that the Centre College community is opposed to his candidacy, he may increase his support with the quarter of the community that also harbors unfavorable attitudes toward the college. Given that more than a quarter of Danville harbors implicitly resentful attitudes toward Centre, that’s not a bad political strategy. 

(I should note, though, that there doesn’t seem to be a political relationship with feelings of Centre resentment as 26.6% of Democrats compared to 25.6% of Republicans said that they thought that Centre had unfair advantages in the community – a statistically insignificant difference. So there’s no clear advantage for winning a Republican vs. a Democratic primary by aligning against the College.)

Finally, the 2012 Boyle County Exit Poll showed that about 58% of Boyle County had a favorable view of Judge-Executive Democratic incumbent Harold McKinney while only 14% had an unfavorable opinion (28% DK/no opinion). The same survey showed Mayor Hunstad with a 32% approve/46% disapprove (22% DK/no opinion). Clearly whoever emerges from the Republican primary will face an uphill battle to unseat Judge McKinney in November.

Some final thoughts on the Road Diet issue in Danville

The Advocate-Messenger reported on Wednesday that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced that plans to consider the “Road Diet” option in Danville have been cancelled. The article reports that no one is exactly sure who was involved or how that decision was reached, but reports that it likely came from some high-level official in the Kentucky state government somewhere. 

Here are a few final thoughts I’ve had recently on the recent Road Diet discussion over the past week or two:

First, numerous letters to the editor have made claims to the “will of the majority” on this issue (see here and here, e.g.). Road Diet opponents claimed that they had a “majority” on their side and proponents made similar arguments. Well, they can’t both be true. So who is right? Were the majority of Danville residents in support of or opposed to the Road Diet proposal? From my perspective, the answer is “we don’t know.” No one did a scientific probability survey nor did anyone happen to talk to all 16,000+ Danville residents on the matter. I think there’s good evidence that a majority of downtown business owners were opposed to the Road Diet and that a majority of city and EDP officials were in support. We can also confidently say that a majority of letters to the editor were opposed. But these three groups are not representative of the entire population and are numerically less than 0.5% of all city residents. So any claims to know what a “majority of Danville” thought on the matter cannot be supported with existing evidence and we should be more cautious in our claims about what the “majority” thinks on this issue.

Second, I am very impressed with level of activity with which the downtown business owners organized on this issue. They saw an issue that they were concerned about, they showed up to meetings, they organized petitions, they wrote letters, etc. Although we have no publicly-available evidence one way or another, it’s possible that their efforts either directly or indirectly affected the decision of the state to cancel the Road Diet plan. (It’s also possible that the two were completely unrelated, I don’t have enough information to know either way.) Either way, kudos to them for taking action and participating in democratic self-governance. The lesson for Road Diet proponents is that they should have been quicker to organize and just as vocal if they wanted to have the same level of influence.

Third, (and this is completely a guess – this could be wrong), I imagine that those running for Danville City Commission this fall are relieved not to have to take a public stand one way or another on this issue now that it’s out of their hands. It would be interesting to ask them during this fall’s campaign how they would have voted on this issue if it had been permitted to continue. Mayor Hunstad is the only one (to my knowledge) to have expressed a public stand on the issue.

Fourth, Pam Wright reported in her article: “Numerous other sources claim to believe an individual or small group of individuals had an influence at the state level to stop the decision.” I would urge Ms. Wright, or anyone else for that matter, to try to find out exactly who this “individual or small group of individuals” was and publicize the information. Transparency, openness, and honesty are hallmarks of good government, and from the available evidence it looks like this decision was made in the dark by a few people without public input… exactly the kind of decision-making process that the downtown business owners were originally protesting. Ultimately, this decision was not made in an open, transparent, or “democratic” fashion.