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November 5, 2008

Blame it on the game

This campaign season, we’ve seen one bonehead move after another. Here, a few worth remembering

Remember that “I’ve had enough” speech Barack Obama made back at Slugger Field two years ago? It marked the start of the 2008 political season.

Now we, the public, can write our own “I’ve had enough” speech. We’ve all had enough of the dirty campaign ads, the media’s obsession with polling, the debate-ducking incumbents of 2008. We’ve had enough of everything about the political process, except maybe a few of these comical campaign outtakes.

Let’s start in Pleasure Ridge Park, where Republican Metro Council candidate Dwight Witten staged a press conference with state Senate candidate Doug Hawkins to alert voters that a bunch of sex offenders live in the South End. Ironically, just a day before, Witten’s past as a local radio shock jock came back to haunt him when pictures of him groping a stripper’s breasts surfaced online.

Speaking of Hawkins — currently a Metro councilman representing the South End — much of his race for the state Senate inexplicably centered on an ongoing dispute about the placement of what he’s dubbed a “bomb storage facility” in his district. Hawkins’ outrageous rhetoric included a suggestion that terrorists might be targeting Cardinal Hill. Undaunted by logic, Hawkins said he’d continue to fight the facility (which actually would store low-grade munitions, not bombs) in Frankfort.

And before we leave Dixie Highway, it’s worth noting a ridiculous stunt involving Chris Thieneman, the hero of last year’s anti-library tax movement. The South End activist was thrown out of a Halloween-themed community festival after attempting to walk the grounds with a character dressed as Osama bin Laden, intended to symbolize the supposed terrorist threat created by the “bomb storage,” and to make District 14 Councilman Bob Henderson look bad for supporting the facility.

Thieneman later criticized the council incumbent again by posting a giant sign on Dixie Highway, attracting the attention of city property inspectors and vandals.

Weirdness ruled in Henderson’s race, which included opponent Bob Hueglin, a Thieneman business partner, and two independent candidates: bait shop owner Norman Pepper, who originally signed up to run as a Republican until he discovered he wasn’t registered to vote, and Jennifer Wood, a 23-year-old fresh out of UK whose father, Jack Wood, lost in the Democratic primary.

Speaking of fathers and daughters, a race for Jefferson County District Court judge attracted unprecedented interest with the candidacy of Katie King, the inexperienced daughter of Metro Council President Jim King. The council president was criticized for using his powerful position to campaign for his daughter, prompting at least one concerned citizen to file a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission. And that’s the tamest tale from this race. Last month, local media uncovered embarrassing evidence in Katie King’s personnel file, like the fact that she called her supervisor in the county attorney’s office a “fucking cunt bitch.” A handful of embarrassing photos also have surfaced, along with the fact that her ex-boyfriend called police on her for banging on his front door, and that police responded to her house in 2004 and arrested her then-boyfriend for possessing pot.

But the Kings haven’t let it get them down: Last weekend, Jim King circulated negatives about Katie’s opponent, David Holton, through a mass e-mail, and pushed media to pick up the anti-Holton story.

There was a fair amount of weirdness in the East End, too. In Metro Council District 18, Republican candidate Jon Ackerson won the primary, even after his opponent, Ellen Reitmeyer, accused him of stalking after she spotted him outside her apartment at 6 a.m. In response, Ackerson said he was pulling his campaign signs from her garbage.

Democrats in that district didn’t have a candidate after Mike Perkins, without explanation, pulled out of the race days after winning the primary. Among Perkins’ many bizarre statements was the suggestion that all pit bull owners move to Bullitt County. But he probably won because he was a white guy running against a young African-American attorney named Kungu Njuguna.

Then there was the amusing campaign of Republican Anne Northup, who alternately attacked LEO’s Stephen George and a polling firm that showed her well behind before shifting a campaign of ferocious misrepresentation and negativity onto her actual opponent, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth. Last month she showed up at a press conference at the VA Hospital, only to learn her campaign had failed to alert hospital officials, who shooed her away for violating a law prohibiting politicking on federal grounds.

Veterans were a key issue in the country’s most important congressional race, too. Republican incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell figured the best way to beat Democrat Bruce Lunsford was to attack Valor Healthcare, where Lunsford sits on the board of directors. So his campaign filmed veterans dissing the company. The stunt backfired when the Lunsford camp learned the McConnellites tricked one of the elderly vets into making the statement. In response, the vet appeared in a Lunsford ad saying he’d been duped.

Regardless of how the election turned out on Tuesday, at least now we, the public, can enjoy a little break.