Mike Weaver, the Democrat challenger for Kentucky's 2nd District congressional seat, was featured Monday night in a debate on KET.
Incumbent Rep. Ron Lewis did not participate in the debate. While I initially believed this to be a poor move on the part of the Lewis campaign, a little research revealed that Lewis did not participate in KET candidate forums in 2000, 2002 or 2004 either.
I had no lack of confidence that Lewis could debate Weaver on the issues in such a forum. What I failed to take into account was the panel of journalists who would be asking the questions.
The panel consisted of Warren Wheat from The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown and a fellow whose name I missed from WKYU TV in Bowling Green.
Warren Wheat's questions for Weaver quickly showed he was very biased toward Weaver. Wheat threw nothing but easy pitches at Weaver, who gleefully hit them out of the park as home runs. Wheat's questions certainly were crafted to allow Weaver to hammer home his central campaign themes. I don't believe Wheat asked a single question that challenged Weaver on any issue.
The journalist from WKYU threw out more balanced questions that did not indicate if he was biased toward one candidate or the other. Wheat did not even try to maintain an facade of balance in how he presented his questions. The point is probably moot since Lewis didn't attend, but as a journalist myself I would have tried to appear less of a Weaver supporter regardless of my personal feelings. A journalist appearing on statewide TV must also represent his company. (The Nelson County Gazette is decidedly conservative, and not a bit bashful about it either.) I don't know if the The News-Enterprise is trying to be impartial in its coverage of the 2nd District race; Wheat made it very clear which candidate he supports.
KET is archiving the debates on its Web site. I watched Weaver's debate again late last night, but was unable to play it this morning. Visit www.KET.org and click on the link about halfway down for "Election 2006: The Candidates" to view the debate.
WHERE'S THE BEEF? Weaver's statements on KET were a return to much of his early campaign stump speeches. There was litle new in his answers, and I didn't see the enthusiast, engaged candidate who sat next to me on Monday's special edition of "The Brooks & Ken Show."
Weaver, who has been to the radio station several times during his campaign, was a different candidate than the man who came here a couple of months ago.
It's hard to quantify exactly, but he definitely carried an air of confidence. During the radio show, he never fell back on his campaign stump statements in answers to my questions or those of Kenny and callers. While I disagree with some of his plans (i.e. repealing tax cuts), he was clearly enjoying the give-and-take.
In fact, Weaver's answers and statements in the WBRT studio provided what I believe to be a much better take on the candidate.
ONLY IN KENTUCKY. I find it so very ironic -- nothing in Kentucky politicis should surprise me -- that Weaver is fighting tooth-and-nail to paint himself as a conservative. Only in Kentucky will you find a congressional Democrat who WANTS to be a conservative, and will argue with you about any other description of his views.
While Weaver claims to be a conservative, Lewis' TV adds highlight some less-than-liberal parts of his voting record in the General Assembly. Probably the most disturbing thing in his campaign so far is that he told WBRT listeners he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the house (provided Democrats win control), while at the same time he has taken numerous donations from Pelosi's PAC and other very liberal Democrats.
Weaver may claim to be a conservative, but he's sure got plenty of liberal friends supporting him financially. And if you compare Rep. Pelosi's "plan" for the first 100 hours of a Democratically controlled House of Representatives (if she's speaker), you'll find that Weaver echoed many of those points in comments on WBRT and on KET.
Weaver is certainly a social conservative, but his views on taxes and healthcare make it clear he's much more liberal than many of the voters in the district. The momentum appears to be going toward Weaver right now, but as I pointed out to the candidate yesterday, four weeks is a very LONG time in the life of political campaign.
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