Could Political Fallout Hurt Other Kentucky Democrats?
September 22, 2002 at 10:58 PM CDT - Updated June 29 at 9:05 PM
In a state where seventy-percent of registered voters are Democrats, some of them are calling Kentucky Governor Paul Patton's admitted affair a "black eye" for the whole party. Now the question is, could the political fallout hurt other Kentucky Democrats running for office?
Like any governor, Patton has always had his critics among Kentucky voters, some of whom surfaced at this year's Fancy Farm picnic to chant, "Sit down Paul! Sit down Paul!" But it was something else that started to surface at that picnic, involving Heartland resident Tina Conner, that could earn the democratic leader many more critics. "Strangely, Tina's now ex-husband, Seth, approached the governor and apologized for the things his wife was saying about the governor and for her behavior," says Heartland political expert Gerald Watkins. "Apparently she was saying then what she's now saying publicly, and (her husband) didn't believe her. Someone else informed the governor at that time too, and I guess perhaps he didn't think it would all come to this," Watkins shakes his head. "Now everyone knows."
Watkins is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Paducah Community College. He says not only does everyone now know about the governor's admitted affair with Conner, many people now wonder what it will mean for other Kentucky Democrats running for office. "But I don't think you can transfer personal scandals to another candidate, no matter how close someone in the same party might be to that person," he states. "I think Paul Patton has hurt the Democratic party and the state of Kentucky. But I think it will be a passing thing. I don't think it's going to be a factor in coming elections for other Democrats."
On the other hand, Watkins says if it turns out that Governor Patton abused his power to punish Tina Conner through her Clinton nursing home, "that" could be bad for the whole Democratic party. Right now, Kentucky's Executive Branch Ethics Commission is investigating Conner's allegations that the governor cracked down on Birchtree Healthcare to get back at her for breaking off their affair. If that's true, Watkins says it would change Governor Patton's problems from mere personal shortcomings to political crime. That, he points out, is enough to make some voters lose faith in other Kentucky Democrats.
Governor Patton's term in office expires in December of 2003. He had planned to run for U.S. Senate in 2004, but now Watkins says the Kentucky Democratic party will probably rethink their decision to support him.