Key Democrats to work together on drumming up votes in urban areas

06/25/2010 03:57 PM

Several key Democrats will be teaming up over the coming months to campaign for each other in vote-heavy Louisville and Central Kentucky, which Democrats say will be key to Jack Conway’s chances in the U.S. Senate race.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth at a 2008 Democratic campaign rally

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a two-term Louisville Democrat, told cn|2 Politics that he planned on having “a great deal of coordination” with at least three other Democrats on the ballots this fall: U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles, Louisville mayor candidate Greg Fischer and Conway, the attorney general running for Senate.

“Jack and I are good friends. We campaigned together the last weekend of the primary (in Louisville).” Yarmuth said in a phone interview.

Much has been made about party unity after both parties saw heated primary battles for the open U.S. Senate seat.

Republicans staged a much-publicized “unity rally” the weekend after their contentious GOP primary for U.S. Senate, which Rand Paul ended up winning handily. Some observers predicted that party might have a harder time coming back together, particularly because Kentucky Republicans have only endured two previous contentious primary: the 1991 and 2007 gubernatorial races.

But so far, the healing has been slower for the Democrats. There has been no public display of unity – contrived or not — except for top party leaders such as Gov. Steve Beshear promising it will happen. Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who narrowly lost to Conway, has not publicly come out to endorse the nominee.

Still, Yarmuth said he and Chandler are ready to work overtime on Conway’s behalf at least in their congressional districts.

“I’m sure there’s some places Jack won’t want to take me in Kentucky and I’m sure it’s the same with Ben (Chandler),” Yarmuth said. “But I think where we can be useful Ben and I will be and the same for Jack with us.”

Conway likely starts off the general election with an advantage over Paul in urban areas that Yarmuth and Chandler represent. (In the 2008 Senate race, Democrat Bruce Lunsford beat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell by more than 50,000 votes in Louisville and Lexington but lost the election by nearly 107,000).

In this spring’s Democratic primary that Conway won by less than 4,200 votes, he built up a 33,745 vote lead out of those two cities. And he had a net victory in the “big three” Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Kenton and Campbell by 61 votes out of more than 12,500 cast in the Democratic primary even though Mongiardo edged him in Boone and Campbell.

In comparison, Conway lost Pike County, a key county in Eastern Kentucky, 7,131 to 3,665. And Conway lost to Mongiardo by a similar 2-1 margin in the important western Kentucky county of McCracken.

Chandler said he hasn’t yet spoken to Conway about working together.

And the two differ on some key issues. Chandler voted for a bill aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions using a market-based approach of pollution credits known as “cap and trade.” Conway has said he opposes the legislation Chandler supported.  But Chandler said he expects he and Conway to be on the same page on other issues.

“I’m sure we’ll agree on a lot of things,” Chandler said. “I suspect there will be a lot of agreement in terms of where we believe the country ought to go and where the policies ought to be.”

—Kenny Colston and Ryan Alessi


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