August 23, 2012

Publisher's Notebook: Judgement of local Republicans questioned

By Willie Sawyers

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Opinions of their own party leaders did not sway the majority of Republican committee members last Thursday when they chose Albert Robinson as their nominee to run for the 21st Senatorial District.

Consider these less-than-sterling endorsements of Robinson from his fellow Republicans:

“I think he’s the most self-serving politician I’ve ever seen,” said Tom Jensen of Robinson in a 2004 candidate profile in the Herald-Leader. Jensen is stepping down as state senator in the 21st to pursue an appointment as circuit judge.

On cn|2 Pure Politics last week, Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Dan Seum of Louisville stated:

“Albert’s getting up in years, and he wasn’t all that helpful. He was self-serving, quite frankly.”

Another high-profile Republican in Laurel County, former party chairman Warren Scoville, was even more succinct in his opinion of Robinson.

“He’s a joke,” Scoville told Ryan Alessi. “I hope we find someone else that doesn’t embarrass us.”

But the former state senator and representative from London who once was called the ”worst” legislator in Frankfort is ready for a return after committee members gave him the nomination with a handshake and a slap on the back.

Let the embarrassment, and the questions, begin.

How could Republicans nominate a candidate who has been so openly criticized by members of his own party?

Why would Laurel County Republicans, who controlled the most votes on the committee, want to nominate a politician who garners little respect in Frankfort, and is known for working for his own self interests?

True, the Democratic Party can nominate their own candidate, and one indeed may be forthcoming. But in an area where Republicans outnumber Democrats 4-1, the nominee will face an uphill battle. Uphill, as in Mt. Everest.

More upsetting are indications Robinson’s nomination was fixed even before the committee met last Thursday, which smacks of a ”good old boy” arrangement that has no place in a progressive community.

Marian Davis, a former Laurel County PVA and state revenue commissioner, told Alessi she was recruited to run for the nomination, but thought it would be ”an effort in futility” after being informed by local GOP committee members Robinson already had enough votes.

Why not nominate a fresh face to carry the party’s banner, instead of helping Robinson lug all that baggage to Frankfort? Mike Calebs was a fresh face. He appeared before the committee and presented some thoughtful ideas on what he would do as state senator. He apparently didn’t know, like Davis, the fix already was in.

Calebs, an employee with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said he knew roads and how to fund them. But he has nothing on Robinson, who secured a $300,000 state grant for construction of a street through land next to the London Walmart he just happened to be developing and marketing as a real estate agent.

Or his tinkering with the plan to reconstruct Ky. 30 in Laurel County so it would pass through his land and increase its value. Yes, Robinson knows roads, especially when they can benefit him personally and financially.

Robinson wasn’t very specific when speaking to the committee, saying only “God, country and family come first,” and that most of the problems in the state and nation come from a lack of faith and strong principles.

But surely God had no part in crafting the vaguely-worded amendment Robinson snuck in during the final days of the 2000 General Assembly, which authorized a huge pension increase for Robinson and other legislators.

Robinson was characterized as “intentionally incomprehensible” and “deliberately surreptitious” by the Kentucky Supreme Court when it overturned his backdoor attempt to double lawmakers’ retirement benefits.

Yes, Robinson is correct in saying the state’s problems stem from a lack of strong principles.

This is how the Republican nominee was characterized in the 2004 Herald-Leader campaign profile: “To others he is a hypocrite, pushing a moralistic agenda while using his office to get state money to improve land he’s marketing, for instance, or quietly pushing a pension increase for himself and other lawmakers.”

This is the candidate put forth by local Republicans to represent us? We question their judgement, and their ability to lead the majority party in the future.