Benchmark Election For Southern Progressives
Progressives have an opportunity on Tuesday to prove hundreds of strategists wrong. Kentucky is holding its primary elections and the Governor's race pits Progressive former Lt. Gov and AG Steve Beshear against millionaire businessman Bruce Lunsford, a man who has strongly supported George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, Ernie Fletcher, and Anne Northup. Lunsford has outspent Beshear nearly 3-1, but Beshear passed Lunsford in the polls this week and has a chance to topthe 40 percent mark needed to avoid a run-off and win the primary outright.
The importance of the race however, goes further than pure ideology. Yes, Bruce Lunsford said he will allow public schools to teach creationism. And he campaigned actively against Democrat Ben Chandler when Ernie Fletcher won the Kentucky Governors race in 2003, the first time a Republican won the office in 30 years.
This race involves a candidate in Bruce Lunsford, who not only belongs in the Republican primary, but he belongs in the Ken Lay wing of the Republican Party. Lunsford made his millions founding the healthcare company formerly known as Vencor. While he was the CEO, the federal government brought a fraud claim of $1.3 billion against it, alleging that Vencor overbilled Medicare.
The company eventually agreed to pay a $104.5 million settlement, and ended up in bankruptcy. However, Lunsford's attacks on Kentucky's working families may not have ended there. Lunsford split his Vencor company before it headed to bankruptcy and created a second company, Ventas. It may not be to anyone’s surprise that the wife of Senator Mitch McConnell, current Secretary of Labor to George W. Bush, Elaine Chao, was named to the Board of Directors.
In 1997, Lunsford and his partners were sued for "insider trading, fraudulent omissions and stock prices punctured by bad news in the health care industry." (Lexington Herald Leader, 6/1/2001) The lawsuit was tossed by a Louisville judge but in 2001, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reinstated the case after holding that the plaintiffs arguments "permit a strong inference that defendants engaged in securities fraud." (Courier-Journal, 6/7/2001)
Lunsford never learned to steer clear of his crowd of Republican friends, and ran for governor with a coterie of advisors that looked like a Jack Abramoff foursome returning from a Scottish golfing trip. One of his top advisors in 2003, Larry Townsend, followed Lunsford's lead in supporting George W. Bush, and even took it a step further by co-chairing "Democrats for Bush" with Zell Miller.
Now Kentucky faces a scenario where Mitch McConnell's friend Bruce Lunsford is trying to masquerade as a Democrat and put a stop to the Ditch Mitch efforts in 2008. The contrast could not be clearer. In 1996, Steve Beshear opposed mitch McConnell in a race for the United States Senate. Bruce Lunsford has been one of Mitch McConnell’s top supporters.
If Bruce Lunsford succeeds, he will help McConnell stay in power and continue pushing George W. Bush's efforts to escalate the war in Iraq. It’s time for all Democrats in Kentucky to make sure that McConnell and Bush are not allowed to hijack the Democratic Party in Kentucky. Keep their friend Bruce Lunsford out of the Statehouse. Support a true Progressive in Steve Beshear on Tuesday.