So I happened to be in Kentucky on Tuesday for the inauguration of the new governor, Republican Matt Bevin.
Pundits and polls had thought that Bevin was headed to defeat on election day last month, but he sailed to an upset, defeating Democrat Jack Conway by 85,000 votes.
But before we go into more detail and speculation: Ladies and gentlemen, Jon Voight:
I swear that’s Jon Voight. A moment after this, he literally turned and smiled and waved, but the shot I took with my normally foolproof FujiFilm x100t is nothing but a big blur. Put me in a crowded dark bar with a drink in my hand, and I know just how to take one solid photo after another, but if you put me on a sunny street corner at 10 a.m., it’s nothing but trouble.
Anyway, now what?
I can’t see that the newly elected Bevin has any particular plan to address Kentucky’s failing government pension system. (Really, it’s collapsing.) He is poised to roll back the Medicaid expansion even though Kentucky has arguably benefited more from it than any other state. Across the state, poverty-stricken rural areas that have quickly come to rely on the Medicaid expansion for better quality of life and for potential economic development voted overwhelmingly for Bevin. See here, here, and here.
Bevin’s appointees include a coal executive to head the Energy and Environment Cabinet and a charter school advocate from Louisville to head the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. I seriously have nothing against charter schools when appropriate oversight is in place, but school choice isn’t going to solve the woes of rural Kentucky. Many counties barely have the students and funding to maintain one public high school.
On the other hand, Bevin is a successful businessman and army veteran who was raised and attended college outside of Kentucky. He does not have deep ties to much of the state’s Republican establishment — he even challenged incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell — and he might bring an independence and entrepreneurial spirit to the governor’s office. Repeat, might.
No matter what happens, cities like Louisville and Lexington seem likely to continue prospering, and my hometown of Frankfort will always benefit from the presence of state government. Frankfort will even benefit, at least in the short term, from the party changeover, which will bring all sorts of economic stimuli (home sales, spending by lobbyists, etc.).
So here’s the new governor:
He looks thrilled to see me, right?
My parents’ home is literally just a block from the corner where I took that picture. I was hovering amidst the very heavy security — officials probably beefed up security after San Bernardino, right? — and then there was Bevin hopping out of the trolley to walk up Capital Avenue.
It was a lovely day for a parade, and in the photos you can see all sorts of random things. Some quick impressions:
- Kentucky now has a black woman — Jenean Hampton — as Lieutenant Governor. Who knew?
- Who wasn’t in the parade? Oh, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, most members of Congress …
- Hey, marching band parents, listen up: If you’re hovering over your kids and their friends while they march in parades, you are screwing up the photos. And if you’re wearing garish colors that don’t match the school colors, then you should pack it in and go home.
- Speaking of marching bands: are the outfits getting even odder? Check out the percussion section for one band wearing leopard skin capes over their kilts.
- The requisite vultures were circling — they’ve been everywhere in Frankfort for years.
- Franklin County Judge/Executive Huston Wells was my tennis coach for a year in high school. A couple of years after that, we worked on a summer paint crew together. Two really fine young men on that crew — Kenny Miller and Bert Harberson — died far too young. I yelled to Huston today and told him who I was, but I’m not sure he put the pieces together.
- Former governor Paul Patton and his wife look great, and their faces lit up when I told them so.
- Yep, there were lots of empty seats in the bleachers up near the capitol.
- The big U.S. flag being carried by the Vietnam veterans was pretty impressive.
- There was one gray-haired environmentalist with a protest sign.