The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Wednesday, August 16, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

Kentucky's bad boys anger party

By Bill Bartleman bbartleman@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

The vice chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party said party leaders aren't being political bad boys for putting pressure on presidential candidate Al Gore to adopt positions more favorable to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the state's tobacco farmers and the coal industry.

"Anyone who sees this pressure as disloyalty doesn't know what is going on," said Tom Osborne, a Paducah attorney and party vice chairman. "It is the duty of political leaders and elected leaders to do what they can to assist the people of Kentucky.

"We have critical needs, and we need those addressed. For whatever reason, we can't sit down with top officials and get it done. We can't ignore the scope of the problems at the Paducah plant, we can't ignore coal issues and we can't ignore the tobacco money issue for farmers. We hope this will get the vice president's attention."

Tobacco farmers blame Gore and President Clinton for major cuts in tobacco quotas, and leaders in the coal industry say tough environmental regulations are making it difficult for them to make profits.

Osborne also said Gore and Clinton have refused to follow a congressional mandate to build a conversion plant in Paducah to recycle 36,000 drums of depleted uranium. Building the conversion plant "is a no-brainer," Osborne said, because the recycled material can be sold at a profit, it would clean up the environment and it would help the western Kentucky economy by providing more jobs. "Those are three things that every politician loves," he said.

Osborne said if Gore wants to have any chance of winning Kentucky this fall, he must visit the state and address those issues face to face with voters, and take positions to help Kentucky.

Kentucky's delegation to the Democratic National Convention is attracting national attention amid allegations of disloyalty.

Danny Briscoe, a political consultant, told the Courier-Journal in Louisville that he has never seen such turmoil in a delegation. The pressure has taken the form of comments by Gov. Paul Patton, and Briscoe also said it is embarrassing that Osborne, 1st District congressional candidate Brian Roy, 4th District incumbent U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas and 6th District candidate Scotty Baesler are not attending the convention.

Osborne said he isn't being disloyal. "I couldn't go because of obligations to my clients in my law practice," he said. "I told the governor why I couldn't be there, and he understood."

Roy and Baesler said they didn't go because their time can be better spent campaigning in Kentucky. Lucas, who would have been an at-large delegate, said he stayed home because he wasn't going to cast his delegate vote for Gore. He planned to abstain because he doesn't like Gore's anti-tobacco stand.

Chuck Todd managing editor of the Hotline, a daily electronic report of political news told the Louisville newspaper that he knew of no other delegation that is so disrupted. Others said it appeared as though Kentucky's Democratic leaders, especially those who aren't at the convention, are trying to distance themselves from Gore.

For his part, Roy said he decided months ago not to go to Los Angeles. He said he isn't staying at home because of differences he has with Gore, however.

"We want to focus on the district to generate grass-roots support," Roy said Tuesday as he prepared to leave his campaign headquarters in Benton for a campaign swing into Monroe, Allen and Simpson counties. "It is more important that we meet voters in the 1st District than it is to meet people in Los Angeles."

Briscoe said Roy is missing an opportunity to make contacts in Los Angeles that could help his campaign, especially to raise more money. Roy disagreed.

"There are thousands of people out there aspiring to be elected to office or aspiring to move up in the national political party," Roy said. "It would have cost $2,000 to $3,000 to go out there, and I'm not sure of what the investment would have returned. I'd rather spend my time in Monroe County, meeting hundreds of potential voters. The only cost to that is the sweat equity of getting in the car and driving there."

Roy said he hopes to have another opportunity to go to a national convention. "If I am elected to Congress, I may go and have fun. But right now, I have more important work to do at home."

Nick Allard, who this week was appointed director of Gore's Kentucky campaign, said there is nothing wrong with Kentucky Democrats' airing their points of view regarding campaign issues.

"We're messy, we're not pretty, but we're going to be able to get the job done," he told the Courier-Journal. He rejected suggestions that Kentucky's delegation is disloyal.

Terry McBrayer a former Democratic candidate for governor, former state party chairman and former state representative said the delegation is reacting to the reality of how it has been treated by Gore and Clinton.

"We have been hammered on," he told the Courier-Journal. "We feel neglected." He said it is important for Gore to come up with solutions facing Kentucky, especially on tobacco.