Not all is well in the kingdom of David Williams, Kentucky's State Senate President and the state's most powerful Republican not named Mitch McConnell. Republican Senators continue to drop like horseflies as a result of Williams' strident anti-slots view with another possible casualty coming up soon in the race between Democrat Jodie Haydon and Republican Jimmy Higdon.
As a former Republican leader, I can promise you this makes many among the party faithful nervous. An increasing number are wondering why we are choosing to die on this cross. Is this really a core Republican issue on the same par as lower taxes and less government? Shouldn't we have a pro-economic development stance on this issue instead of obstructing growth for political purposes? And in a state that already has pari-mutuels and a state lottery, haven't we already crossed the pro-gambling threshold anyways?
With the prospects for Republicans losing the Senate becoming more likely, conservatives in Kentucky are increasingly concerned about the consequences. Even more important than not controlling a single branch of state government, the redrawing of the US Congressional districts will be done by the Senate. If Democrats have control, they will change the make up of the Kentucky coalition of Congressmen for the foreseeable future. Most maddening, this all could have been avoided if David Williams hadn't decided to put all his eggs in this fringe issue's basket. This is the problem with the modern Republican party; we spend too much time on 50/50 divisive issues like gay marriage and slots at racetracks and don't concentrate on important “kitchen table” policy that people really want to hear about.
My former organization, with no prodding from yours truly, sent out an interesting email last night asking a few simple questions about the gaming issue. That in itself is not a huge deal, but the wording and sources cited make it clear that at least from the big city Louisville Republican perspective, Bill Farish's hope for a palace revolt may not be too far behind. Not only do they lay out the case for slots in Kentucky, but they use the facts page from KEEP, an organization most recently known for promoting expanded gaming in the Bluegrass State.
Having been on the receiving end of many disgruntled phone calls after the Senate debacle this summer, I can tell you the Louisville natives are restless. I was able to fully use my voice on this issue once I left my position as chairman. It's good to see the wind of change are allowing the Jefferson County Republican Party to begin speaking out as well.
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When people think about Kentucky they think about horses, and the Kentucky Derby. The horse industry employs over 100,000 people, and is Kentucky's largest agricultural cash crop. To learn more about the economic impact of the horse industry in Kentucky go to: www.horseswork.com/facts.htm.
But the horse industry in Kentucky is in trouble. Our racing stables and breeding stock are being moved to other states. The reason is simple economics. These competing states are subsidizing their thoroughbred industries with the proceeds from slot machines. These subsidies help them to attract racehorses from Kentucky with higher purses, and studs and brood mares with incentives for horses foaled in that state, and are seriously undermining the preeminence of Kentucky's horse industry. The importance of the horse industry to Kentucky is undeniable. The question is how we maintain our competitiveness with subsidized racing and breeding in other states.
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