Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Is Rep. Bill Farmer Beatable?

A reader raised the question of Bill Farmer’s vulnerability today. The short answer, in my opinion, is "YES. A good candidate has an excellent chance to beat Bill Farmer."

Farmer, now deeply into his second term, has given the 88th a lackluster performance. Having the same name as a popular city councilman helped him gain the office, but any candidate who is willing to dispel the connection between Representative Bill Farmer and Councilman Bill Farmer, Jr. would rob him of those votes and force him to run on his record.

Farmer's is not the sort of legislative record a candidate could boast of when running for reelection. The handful of bills he sponsored rarely make it out of committee. His most successful efforts have been on the coattails of other legislators, such as his signing on to the collective bargaining bill introduced by Rep. Kathy Stein. In most cases, he simply votes the Republican Party line and does nothing for the district at large. He did manage to get one of his bills through the legislature. It was an exciting piece of legislation allowing businesses to fax signatures into the state government. While useful, his business legislation impacts only a small number of constituents.

We need a Representative of all the people in the 88th. Farmer is hampered by his reluctance to meet and mingle with voters. He may represent the Republicans of the district, but he does not represent me. In fact, he doesn't even talk to me. On the occasions I have called his office or written him Rep. Farmer has not even bothered to reply. I have not met him in person, ever, although I attempted to visit his office once. It seems I chose a day when my representative was too busy to see me. This kind of distance from the voters makes him vulnerable to a candidate who is willing to be up close and personal with citizens of the 88th. If a candidate is willing to step up and walk the neighborhoods of the 88th could seriously cut into his numbers.

Let's look at those numbers. A cursory glance at the last election makes Farmer's seat seem secure. After all, he carried the 88th with 67.2% of the vote, but look a little closer. Farmer was an incumbent Republican legislator, with strong party support and a well-funded campaign, running against a virtual unknown with no money and little assistance in an election year with a strong Republican president. Yet, Farmer garnered only 67% of the vote. Ordinarily, candidates running in this kind of race have captured virtually all of the votes cast. Even in a presidential election, Democrats tend to simply skip over the legislative race without a strong democratic candidate. According to the Kentucky Board of Elections, 20,508 votes were cast in the 88th, but only 13,776 votes went to Farmer. Less than 13% of the votes cast for Farmer came from outside his party. The makeup of the 88th district makes this fact extremely important. The 88th District is 46% Democrat, 44% Republican, with a healthy 10% of voters not belonging to either major party.

If someone out there would like to run against Farmer in 2006, I offer him or her the following advice: First, make sure that the voters understand the difference between Bill Farmer and Bill Farmer, Jr., the popular city councilman. Then get out and pound the pavement. Talk to every voter you can. Most of all, run with a plan. Let us know why you want the office and what you would do when elected. Yes the 88th is winnable. The 88th is crying for a real leader to step forward. Are you listening?


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