Kentucky Democrats Prepare for National Convention

Several Kentucky delegates are headed to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention this week.

The delegation will include Governor Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who are all backing President Obama’s re-election bid this year. But Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler is skipping the convention to campaign in central Kentucky instead.

Critics also point out that 42 percent of Kentucky Democrats voted “uncommitted” over the president in the May primary and are not all supportive of Mr. Obama’s agenda.

Third District Congressman John Yarmuth is among the delegation. He says he is concerned about a split among the delegates, but remains optimistic that their vote will be unanimous.

“I and others will spend part of the convention trying to argue with those uncertain delegates that unanimous support for the president is important because we’ve got down ballot races across Kentucky. We’ve got many state House races that promise to be competitive and we need to be unified in the fall campaign,” he says.

Yarmuth says the president’s speech will have to remind voters of the successes of his first term in office and lay out an agenda for the next four years.

A total of 77 delegates from the commonwealth are attending the national convention, but not all Democratic officials in the commonwealth have been as cozy with the Obama administration as Yarmuth. It was Beshear who famously told the Environmental Protection Agency to “get off our backs” with regulatory measure and distanced himself from Mr. Obama during last year’s gubernatorial race.

And as Kentucky Public Radio’s Kenny Colston reports, no Democratic officials will be addressing their national party which is in stark contrast to the prominent role that Kentucky GOP lawmakers and candidates played at the Republican National Convention.

But Democratic activist Shawn Reilly, who is attend the convention, says delegation as a whole is very supportive of the president and that they look forward to a debate with the GOP this fall.

“We gathered last week at the governor’s mansion and everybody there was extremely supportive of the president,” he says. “The governor himself was extremely ecstatic to be supporting President Obama his time around.”

Polling shows President Obama’s approval rating in the Kentucky is a mere 38 percent, and many Democrats are concerned he could be a drag on the ticket particularly in state legislative races.

Yarmuth says the best way to combat that is for the president to remind voters of the successes of his first-term in office and outline an agenda for the next four years.

“This election does represent a very, very clear choice and a stark choice of directions,” he says. “And I think the American people want to go in the direction President Obama does, but he needs to make sure that they understand what that direction is.”

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