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June 2012
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Combining the best assets to create a $30 million Kentucky politician

BY JOHN DAVID DYCHE jddyche@yahoo.com

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the television series The Six Million Dollar Man, starring Lee Majors of Middlesboro and Eastern Kentucky University. The show was about an astronaut, Steve Austin, who was rebuilt with powerful bionic parts after being badly injured in a crash.

In the opening sequence, the director of the government agency in charge of Austin famously said, "We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better. Stronger. Faster."

Factoring in four decades of inflation (not to mention higher costs from Obamacare), the $6 million operation to remake Steve Austin would now cost almost $30 million. That staggering sum is still less than each candidate is expected to raise and spend in Kentucky's current U.S. Senate campaign!

Suppose that small fortune instead went into creating the perfect Kentucky politician by combining the best assets of the state's current crop. The "$30 million Kentucky Politician" might look something like this.

The super candidate would have the campaign skills of Mitch McConnell, the state's senior U.S. Senator and Republican leader in the Senate. The undefeated McConnell's campaign fundraising, strategy, and tactics are already considered superhuman.

He raises seemingly unlimited money. His opposition research is incomparable, from discovering in 1984 that Democrat incumbent Dee Huddleston missed votes to make speeches for money, to finding in 2014 myriad misstatements by GOP challenger Matt Bevin. McConnell's humorous commercials have used a light touch to hit foes hard.

The bionic Bluegrass pol would also have the inexplicable popularity of Governor Steve Beshear. Benign, bland, and averse to anything bold or big, Beshear has been consistently popular in polls throughout his timid administration.

Our souped-up statesman would also enjoy the broad and expanding national support network of Rand Paul, the state's junior U.S. Senator. Paul's backers transcend his Republican Party to include libertarians and fans of his former presidential candidate father, Ron.

Paul is energetically using his formidable powers to take his message to new followers, too. He is aggressively evangelizing among traditionally Democratic voting blocs like African-Americans and young people.

Kentucky's super-politician would have the superficial appeal of Jack Conway, the Democratic state attorney general. Some consider Conway good looking, and he has a beautiful family, and lives in a large house in a picture perfect part of Louisville. He manifests multiple personalities to fit the moment, ranging from being "one tough S.O.B." one day to shedding supposedly sensitive tears the next.

The two top Republicans talked about for governor in 2015 each have something to offer our cyborg statesman. Louisville's Hal Heiner has big policy ideas, a lot of his own money, and squeaky-clean Christian character, but James Comer, the state agriculture commissioner, boasts broad, bipartisan grassroots popularity, an exceptional aptitude for retail politics, familiarity with farm issues, and legislative experience.

Our creation could benefit from the assets of other Democrats, too. Like Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, the $30 million Politician would be brilliant, devious, and unscrupulous, but could successfully hide malicious motives behind a Machiavellian mask of mountain folksiness.

And like current and former auditors Adam Edelen and Crit Luallen, the bionic man or woman would have a laser-like focus on accountability, best practices, real reforms, and substantive policy improvements, as well as being able to make a decent speech. The courage to tackle tough issues head-on, like Lexington's Mayor Jim Gray has done, would be another attribute.

Like liberal Louisville congressman John Yarmuth and Republican appropriator representative Hal Rogers, the Frankenstein-like fabricated Kentucky politician would have a safe district that overwhelmingly shares his governing philosophy and political ideology. And like former Louisville mayor and current lieutenant governor Jerry Abramson, the creature would enjoy unfailingly favorable press coverage.

The ideal Kentucky politician would hail from a famous Kentucky family and have high name recognition, like Democratic former congressman and constitutional officer Ben Chandler. An impressive academic, business, and military background Second District U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie's would also be a big plus.

No politician is perfect, of course. But it need not be science fiction for us to try to make them better than they have been before.

John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator.

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