May 13, 2008

Has the tidal wave subsided? Republican primary, 3rd District Congressional race

The ensuing may seem tedious but is relevant in light of Anne Northup’s return engagement.Anne Northup: Photo by Ben Schneider Anne Northup wants a rematch with 3rd District Rep. John Yarmuth, but first she has to win the Republican primary on May 20.A recent phone conversation with Anne Northup basically began with a question that was difficult to ask without sounding, well, paranoid. But she had to ask, and we have no problem answering:LEO no longer has direct association with John Yarmuth, who started LEO in 1990 and sold it in 2003. The newspaper feels no responsibility toward helping him win reelection to Congress. It is not our duty to protect him from criticism.These statements can, of course, be parsed, so at the risk of flogging the proverbial dead horse during Preakness week, let me chop them up further, because if Northup wins this primary as expected, they’re bound to come up anyway.Yarmuth neither seeks to, nor could he, influence editorial decisions at LEO. When Yarmuth and Blanche Kitchen sold the paper in July 2003, Yarmuth relinquished decision-making authority but continued writing his weekly column in exchange for a tiny office inside LEO and health insurance.All of that said, Northup plainly knows LEO generally shares Yarmuth’s values and way of seeing the world, and that we won’t pull our punches in that regard. We cannot let the neutrality canard chill us from amplifying what we believe is important, through a range of editorial choices. We’ll keep doing that while pledging to represent Northup’s views accurately. In this year where Barack Obama has challenged the country to call bullshit on the destructive superficial tangents that smother our politics, it’s the least we can do.Yarmuth-Northup 2006 was great fun, with Northup folks schlepping old LEOs from our office to Kinko’s to copy Yarmuth’s columns. It didn’t stick; Yarmuth put a hurtin’ on her, which Northup, in the recent interview, attributed to a single factor (George W. Bush), a factor she calls rare and certainly not in play this year, in spite of Democrats’ clear intent to paint John McCain as Bush III.Chris Thieneman: Photo by Ben Schneider Chris Thieneman worked against the library tax and has an unwavering cadre of support in southwestern Jefferson County.“One issue created a tidal wave,” Northup said. “That one issue — George Bush and the war, especially George Bush, is not gonna be the issue. Somebody may try to trivialize it and make that the issue, but they’ll fail. I have a lot of faith in the voters. … And, the war is going better. So those two things tell me it won’t be a one-issue race.”She still paints Yarmuth as really out there, a whack job, way too liberal, out of touch and unrepresentative of the district, to which he retorts that she has no idea how people here are thinking these days. A rematch would be far different than two years ago, obviously, because people who previously knew Yarmuth only through some abstract rendering (baby-killin’, goat-humpin’ atheist) now know the man. And he has a voting record. She clearly plans to make the Bridges Project a central issue — she says the East End bridge should be built first, and that Louisville should consider a Southwest bridge, both changes from a previous stance — and accuses Yarmuth of poor leadership on the issue while promising to do better.“If we don’t have the money (for both bridges), we need to do that first,” she said. “There’s no place in the Record of Decision that says every single step has to be done simultaneously.”Of course, we are getting ahead of ourselves. It’s natural to talk about Northup because of her history, but before a rematch, she must win the Republican primary against Chris Thieneman, Bob DeVore Jr. and Corley Everett.The race looks like a cakewalk, with Northup and Thieneman the only candidates with TV ads and Thieneman’s small-but-vocal cadre of unwavering southwestern Jefferson County support vowing to catapult him into office. It’ll be interesting to see the extent to which a wild card candidate like Thieneman screws with orthodoxy. We won’t hold our breath.ANNE NORTHUPNorthup, 60, is now the former insider running from the outside. While declining to elaborate, she hinted that she will speak more candidly about certain issues when the time comes.She partly blames the latest Bridges Project impasse on reforms last decade that moved control over gas tax surcharge funding from the federal government to the states, which presumably were better able to administer their own projects. In Kentucky, the timing turned out to be poor when a governor from her party treated that money like his personal stash, laying oodles of blacktop in a pitiful attempt to stay his political execution. Now that funding is a political football tucked squarely in the belly of a state legislature with no urgency to help Louisville accomplish much of anything.Northup reported raising $460,000 during the most recent period and declined to elaborate on subsequent fundraising while not brushing aside the notion that people tend to love you most when you’re on top.“People who have business with the city and people that are working with the incumbent may not like what’s going on, but they may not feel like they want to contribute because they don’t wanna risk whatever relationship they have,” she said.CHRIS THIENEMANSince his football days at U of L, Thieneman, 42, has developed real estate, largely in southwestern Jefferson County. He’s well known in the area and taps the sort of stick-it-to-the man impulses that live in the hinterlands. Most recently he played a visible (if not necessarily actual) role in defeating the library tax last fall.He’s up on TV now with a commercial touting a list of feel-good generalities that startles only for its lack of shout-outs to mom and apple pie. His election bio lists a similarly non-specific set of views on issues like the war (he supports immediate transition of power to Iraqi government); energy (repeal tax breaks for oil companies, regulate the industry, build refineries and drill more on American soil); the bridges (it’s the feds’ job to help build infrastructure, and we may need “new and creative” means of funding); and education (fully fund and completely make over No Child Left Behind to emphasize educational needs, not test scores). BOB DEVORE JR. AND CORLEY EVERETTCorley Everett, 41, has run for office several times without a whiff of success. His presence in the race provides comic relief (check the unflattering photo of Yarmuth on Everett’s website, with the caption “crypto-socialist,” or the YouTube clip of him laying it down at Evangel World Prayer Center, where he spends all of his time cautioning against the threat of “Barack Hussein Obama” and telling the rest of the world that’s rooting for Obama where they can go — “and it isn’t up, but it’s down”).Devore, 53, works at UPS and describes himself as an “overtaxed working-class representative.” Contact the writer at cstemle@leoweekly.com