Skip to comments.Chandler, Fletcher Share Same Voter Base in Fayette Co., KY
Posted on 05/25/2003 6:33:21 AM PDT by Theodore R.
Candidates' grass roots in a tangle Chandler, Fletcher share same Fayette voter base By Ryan Alessi and Linda J. Johnson HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITERS
Elementary political strategy says you start with your home base of supporters, then reach outward into key up-for-grabs areas.
But what happens when two opponents share the same back yard?
Looking ahead to this fall's general election, Democrat Ben Chandler and Republican Ernie Fletcher will embark on what promises to be a tooth-and-nail fight across the state and particularly in Fayette County.
That's largely because both candidates can claim Fayette as part of their home turf. And local Republican and Democratic observers agree that neither can say he has the county in his pocket yet.
"It's going to be a tough battle," said state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, a Democrat supporting Chandler. "They will both be fighting hard here. There's a pretty sophisticated party apparatus on both sides. And I think they'll be primed and working hard door-to-door."
Take last week's gubernatorial primary results as an example of how closely they match up.
In Fayette County, Chandler got 11,811 votes from Democrats. Fletcher collected 11,742 Republican votes. (An additional 10,004 people voted for other candidates.)
When looking head-to-head at the votes Chandler and Fletcher received in each precinct, Chandler would have won 119 Fayette precincts; Fletcher 124 precincts. In three polling places, they collected the same number of votes.
"I wouldn't jump to too many conclusions by the primary election results," cautioned Scorsone. "The issues and dynamics of primaries are much different. But clearly it can show you things."
For starters, it says each has roughly the same number of "committed" supporters.
"Who were those people who voted last Tuesday? They were the hard-core, never-miss-a-vote crew. They would go to the polls on life support if need be," said former secretary of state Bob Babbage, a Democrat.
He said both candidates can bank on those votes in the fall. The real fight will be waged over the voters who backed other candidates, and the roughly 10 percent of Fayette County voters registered as independents or with other parties, and the large segment of registered voters who stayed home last week.
In the fall, Chandler also would have a larger pool of Democrats from which to draw. He collected 60 percent of Demo-crats' votes in Tuesday's primary while Fletcher took nearly 84 percent of Republican votes.
Fletcher's backers, however, say he also will be vying for those other Democrats.
"The thing that's not played out in the figures you see -- and I don't know how you get a handle on it -- is that a lot of Democrats say they would have liked to have gone to the polls and voted for Ernie Fletcher," said Frank Schwendeman, chairman of the Republican Party in the sixth congressional district.
Here's one indication that some Fayette Democrats may cross party lines come November: House Speaker Jody Richards, who got 7,117 votes in the county's Democratic primary, had one major similarity to Fletcher: Both generally oppose broad abortion rights. Chandler supports abortion rights.
State Rep. Ruth Palumbo, a Democrat, said if Chandler can enthusiastically motivate people, the sheer numbers of Democrats would be too much for Fletcher to overcome.
She said in the 6th congressional district, Democrats outnumber Republicans 64,920 to 30,920. On Tuesday, Chandler captured 37,225 of the Democrats.
"Republicans need Democratic votes to win. Democrats need to keep Democratic votes to win," she said. "Registration is not a true factor anymore. The people in my district look at individual people and philosophy rather than party."
Illustrating her point, Palumbo represents the Fayette County precinct that most favored Fletcher. More than 60 percent of people who went to the polls in the North Elkhorn area, which stretches along Newtown Pike to the county line, pushed the button for Fletcher on Tuesday.
According to registration numbers and Tuesday's results, Fletcher appears to be strongest in the outlying areas of the county like North Elkhorn, as well as Lexington's southern suburbs.
Geographically, Chandler can lean on downtown Lexington and the suburbs just north of New Circle.
Many see the key areas as the developments around New Circle. Three such precincts came out equally for Chandler and Fletcher on Tuesday.
State Rep. Bill Farmer, a Republican who represents the southeast corner of the county, said one of those places, the Aqueduct precinct, is a mix of rental homes and upscale established homes.
"I would say that would classify as a swing district," he said, adding that those voters will be looking for specific plans from the candidates to make a decision in the fall.
Phil Osborne, a Democratic political consultant, said other battleground areas might be the older, established developments in the southern part of the city inside New Circle.
"Out to the Lansdowne-Tates Creek area, ... I see that as a place where Republicans could make a compelling case," he said, adding that swing voters tend to respond best to personal campaigning. "It may be that we're going back to the old days that organization matters more than television buying."
Recent history also may play a part in getting those voters engaged in the race.
On the surface, that could favor Fletcher, said Scott Crosbie, a Republican who lost the Lexington mayor's race last year. "He has the experience of running against two candidates -- Scotty Baesler and Ernesto Scorsone -- who have great name recognition."
In 1998, Fletcher beat Scorsone in a close race for the 6th congressional district even though registered Democrats in Fayette County outnumbered registered Republicans 81,012 to 50,751 at the time. Fletcher edged Scorsone 36,182 votes to 35,356 in the county.
Fletcher then defeated Baesler, the former Lexington mayor and congressman, to keep his seat in 2000. Fayette again came out for him, and he beat Baesler by nearly 11,000 votes in the county. Fletcher easily won re-election to Congress last year.
Chandler, meanwhile, grew up in next-door Woodford County and boasts a famous family name as grandson of former Gov. A.B. "Happy" Chandler.
But he hasn't had to campaign aggressively in Fayette since he defeated Republican William "Will T." Scott in 1995 to become attorney general. He won the county vote 36,788 to 24,737 that year. In 1999, he ran unopposed for re-election.
"They're both immensely popular here," said Babbage, the former secretary of state. "They're household names with long histories. People have the sense that they know them, know them well."
Throw in other recent voting trends in the area -- the close governor's race in 1995 between Paul Patton and Larry Forgy, Bush carrying the state in 2000 and last year's tight mayor's race -- and Babbage says it's anyone's race to win or lose.
"I don't imagine either one could say they're safe any place in the state," he said. "All that sets up an epic fight, a classic election."
Reach Ryan Alessi at (859)231-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until organized labor sunk its talons into that part of the state, it had been heavily GOP (which the counties directly to the west have forever remained). In 1930, they played a part in tossing out the first KY woman Congressmember in what was the then-10th district (Katherine Langley) in favor of 'Rat Andrew May. May solidified his hold on the seat and remained there for the next 16 years. However, it turned out (or "typical", as it seems today), May was a crook and taking bribes for awarding contracts during WW2. A young Republican 34-year old upstart and WW2 vet named Howes Meade came in and defeated the 71-year old May in the '46 election GOP tidalwave (by a margin of 60-40%). Alas, Meade lost by the same margin to Perkins in '48 and tried to make a comeback in 1951 for the GOP nod for Governor, losing to future Congressman Eugene Siler in the primary (who, in turn, lost to acting Gov. Lawrence Wetherby). Gov. Louie Nunn appointed Meade to some state jobs in the late '60s-early '70s, and he died in 1986 (had he been able to hold that House seat, he would've outlasted Perkins by 2 years). Organized labor probably did indeed help Truman in '48, although Gov. Dewey's poor campaigning helped immensely, especially when he decided to arrogantly sit on his lead. Let us hope the current occupant doesn't get as cocky next year.