Back in 1984, a little-known warrior was catapulted from the local office of Judge-Executive to the halls of power in Washington. No one would have guessed that his name would be compared with Henry Clay and John Sherman Cooper as one of the greatest statesmen to ever grace the well of the Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol. Of course, I’m referring to Senator Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Republican Leader. Senator McConnell is a man of great distinction who deserves to be re-elected to a fifth term in the Senate in 2008.
Much has been made recently about Senator McConnell’s prospects for reelection. Pundits and prognosticators predict a tough race for McConnell one day and a pass the next. The opposition has yet to find a credible candidate. While most of you know Senator McConnell from his leadership of the Senate Republicans over the last 10 months, you may not know how Senator McConnell is viewed in Kentucky.
There’s a reason that after months of attacks from seemingly every left-wing special interest group in the country Senator McConnell is still as strong as ever according to a recent Bluegrass Poll conducted by the Courier-Journal in Louisville. The poll showed McConnell’s approval rating at 54% with 28% disapproving. The Senator remains popular in spite of the negative attacks, because he’s already defined in most Kentuckians’ minds as someone who delivers for the Commonwealth.
In Kentucky the fact that Senator McConnell is the Senate Republican Leader is a point of pride for our state, not a reason to throw him out of office as it is viewed by liberals around the country. Of the 67 U.S. Senators who have served Kentucky, McConnell is only the second to lead his party in the Senate. The first was Alben Barkley who later brought us Barkley Dam and the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and became Vice President under Harry Truman.
Around the country Senator McConnell may be viewed as Enemy Number One to those who would bring higher taxes or to those who would deny secret ballots in union elections or to those who support rewarding illegal immigrants with citizenship and benefits. But here in Kentucky we know of Senator McConnell’s accomplishments for our state. Let me share just a few.
For more than 20 years now, in the face of staunch opposition from the U.S. Army and the Pentagon under multiple administrations, Senator McConnell has fought to see that chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot will be destroyed in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. No community wants the most dangerous weapons on earth incinerated in their backyard. That’s what the Army wants to do, and Senator McConnell has seen to it otherwise since 1985.
It is an “Inconvenient Truth” to the left that Senator McConnell has earned the reputation as a responsible leader on environmental issues. He has worked to secure funding for riverfronts parks from Ashland to Paducah, the creation of Kentucky’s first national wildlife refuge, the Green River Conservation Enhancement Program, cleaning up nuclear waste in Paducah, and expanding Louisville’s Jefferson Forest. For his leadership on the 21st Century Parks project in Louisville, Senator McConnell was awarded the 2007 Fredrick Law Olmstead Award for Distinguished Leadership from the Trustees of the Olmstead Parks Conservancy.
Senator McConnell has been a leader for the agriculture community as well. To help tobacco farmers transition to new crops and other businesses, he negotiated a federal buyout of tobacco quotas, ending the program that had been started by the other leader from Kentucky, Barkley, decades before. The Senator made sure it was paid for by cigarette companies, not taxpayers. This doesn’t mean much to those from the left who target Senator McConnell, but a huge bipartisan majority of us in Kentucky are deeply grateful for an opportunity to transition our rural tobacco-dependent economy to a better and brighter future.
In addition to these major accomplishments at home, Senator McConnell has distinguished himself as a leader on international issues. He has long been an advocate of those fighting for freedom and democracy in Myanmar, and has been recognized for that work in the press recently with the focus being on that country and the latest crackdown on that nation’s citizens.
His detractors view Senator McConnell as vulnerable because of his support of our troops in the war on terror. While Iraq may be unpopular on the left, Kentucky is home to Fort Knox as well as Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne. The vast majority of military families are supportive of Senator McConnell and appreciative of this effort on behalf of our military families fighting the war on terror.
In Kentucky, Senator McConnell’s leadership has brought about a renaissance of the state Republican Party. Under his watch, the State Senate became Republican for the first time in history in 2000. The delegation to the U.S. House is now a majority Republican, he played an instrumental role in Jim Bunning’s election to the Senate in 1998, not to mention the election of the first Republican governor in over 30 years. On a personal note, he played a significant role in helping me get elected to the State Senate in a special election in 2003. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing what the Senator can do for Kentucky and for our country. He will be reelected next year not only because his record of public service warrants it, but also because the voters of Kentucky want to see him representing them for many years to come.