The Joe Elliott talk show on WHAS 840 radio Thursday night was devoted mostly to the latest news out of Frankfort -- the indictment of Gov. Ernie Fletcher, the first Republican governor of Kentucky since 1971, and the third governor of the state to be indicted while still in office.
Fletcher's political career -- for all intents and purposes -- is finished. His approval rating among voters was already low, though he did fare well during the recent session of the Kentucky General Assembly. This year's session will long be remembered for the state's funding for education.
Republican supporters (this includes the many cross-over voting Democrats who backed Fletcher as I did) can still argue several points about the indictments.
It's a sad day for Republicans in the Commonwealth too. Sure, there's many who'll proclaim that the indictments don't damage Fletcher's political standing, and proudly pledge their support. I admire their loyalty, but I suspect that inside they're feeling as disappointed and betrayed as Democrats did when President Clinton began asking what the definition of "is" is.
Yes, Gov. Fletcher hasn't been convicted -- at least not in the courts. In the court of public opinion, the indictments sound the death knell for the governor's shot at a second term.
It's interesting to note that the Governor's legal team was apparently anticipating his indictment. Within 90 minutes of the release of the indictments (4:30 p.m. Thursday), the Governor's legal team had already filed 19 pages of legal documents in a motion to disquality Attorney General Greg Stumbo and his entire staff from further involvement in the indictments.
The copy of the indictment posted on The Herald-Leader's web site has a fax date stamp of 11:58 p.m. Sunday, April 23rd, which may indicate the media -- and Fletcher's counsel -- was anticipating the public release of the indictment. I would expect that as a back-channel courtesy to the sitting governor, even the attorney general of the opposition party would give him a heads-up he was about to be slammed. Or maybe its simply a case of the Herald-Leader's fax machine date being off by 18 days.
I can't help but wonder if Personnel Cabinet Secretary Erwin Roberts' resignation announced Friday, May 5th was at least partly done in anticipation of the indictments (Roberts spoke at the local GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner earlier this year).
As more details come out about the indictments, it seems less likely that this is simply a case of an "Attorney General Gone Wild." (I recommend readers visit the Courier-Journal or Herald-Leader web sites and view the Adobe pdf files of the indictment and related documents).
It's a sad day for all of us who believed in Fletcher and his campaign. What may be even worse is that for Fletcher his political career is done. Even if acquitted, the chances of a comeback for winning the governor's race in 2007 is a longshot.
I suspect officials of both parties are vetting potential gubernatorial candidates (if they haven't been doing so already). U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler is a natural pick -- provided he wants it. Reports I have been hearing indicate he's very happy working for Kentuckians in Washington, and is probably feeling the sting from his loss to Fletcher.
The indictments make it a wide-open race, and it will be interesting to see potential gubernatorial candidates jockeying for position. This, my friends, will be the real Kentucky Derby.
That's the way it looks tonight from my hill overlooking Cox's Creek.
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