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Kentucky: Establishment Versus Tea Party in Congressional Race

By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report

May 14, 2012

In Kentucky’s 4th District (Ashland, etc.), the GOP’s top dogs are taking sides in the May 22 primary to choose a successor to four-term US Rep. Geoff Davis (R). The Establishment Republicans are divided. Davis, former US Sen. Jim Bunning, and at least two former state Republican chairmen are backing State Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, while former US Rep. Ken Lewis is supporting Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore. For the conservative insurgents, US Sen. Rand Paul and his father, Texas Congressman/presidential candidate Ron Paul, have endorsed Lewis County Judge-Executive Thomas Massie, who also has the support of the Club for Growth and the Tea Party. In addition, a Texas-based libertarian super-PAC, Liberty for All, is spending $500,000 on television on Massie’s behalf. 

In addition to the ideological split that helps Massie, he gains from being from the relatively poor but traditionally Republican Lewis County in the rural part of the district, while Moore and Webb-Edgington will be dividing the suburban vote in the Northern Kentucky tri-county region across the river from Cincinnati. 

Because there is no runoff in Kentucky and only a plurality is needed to win the primary, Massie is the favorite to win the GOP nomination as well as the General Election in this heavily Republican district. 

Massie is “an intriguing figure,” says Al Cross, veteran Kentucky journalist, noting Massie’s career as an inventor and engineering entrepreneur. In addition to being the Lewis County Judge-Executive, Massie’s website notes that he “earned two engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He founded SensAble Technologies, Inc., based on his invention that made computers easier to use, and raised over $32 million of venture capital, created 70 jobs, and obtained 24 patents.” 

Moore is the Boone County Judge-Executive and a successful businessman (building supplies). Moore benefits from being an officeholder in the large and prosperous Boone County, as well as from being a good fundraiser and from his political ties. In addition to former US Rep. Lewis’s support, Moore has been endorsed by two Kentucky right-to-life groups.

Webb-Edgington has the support of a national anti-abortion group and has a background in law enforcement and national security. She “had a reputation in the legislature as a staunch conservative,” says Kentucky Roll Call publisher Lowell Reese, which probably helped her win an impressive array of endorsements from prominent Republicans. 

Walter Schumm, a businessman (real estate, construction), is also running, but he has not raised enough money to be a major factor.

The three leading Republicans – Massie, Moore and Webb-Edgington – are mostly in agreement on the issues, including the social conservatism prominent among Southern GOPers. In addition, agricultural issues are important here. The candidates favor lifting some EPA regulations that cause difficulties for farmers. Moore and Massie are also calling for legalizing the production of industrial hemp, which is the same species as marijuana, but is cultivated differently and does not produce psychedelic effects. (“You don’t see marijuana fields anymore,” says Cross; “It’s too risky.”) But industrial hemp used for manufacturing rope and many other items was once a major crop in Kentucky.  Federal regulations now prohibit it from being grown and harvested; Kentucky farmers would like to grow it again. Webb-Edgington is open to the idea, as long as law enforcement officials do not object. 

In the money chase, the leader is Moore, who had raised $238,000, with $200,000 cash-on-hand by the end of the 1st Quarter; in April, he raised another $37,000. 

Massie raised $233,000 with $157,000 on hand, then added another $75,000 in April; 

Webb-Edgington who raised $129,000 with $101,000 on hand, raised the most money in April - $80,000.

Schumm raised $39,000 with $15,000 on hand through the 1st Quarter, but did not make an April report to the FEC. 

Several minor contenders – Marc Carey, Brian Oerther, and Tom Wurtz – did not file FEC reports. 

There are two Democrats in the race. Attorney Bill Adkins, brought in $7,000 and had $1,000 on hand. Former Army medic Greg Frank did not file a financial report.


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