Endorsements show Trump influence continues to push Kentucky over the edge Skip to content

Endorsements show Trump influence continues to push Kentucky over the edge

As the Trump Party replaces the Republican Party, our state moves further and further to the right – and right over the edge. As noted in the article, Rosalyn Carter’s quote seems to apply more and more.

5 min read

Erstwhile President Donald John Trump is converting Kentucky into his own personal playground. If you want to frolic in the bluegrass, it seems, you must first answer to him.

Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for president, doesn’t live in the Commonwealth and is unlikely to visit anytime soon unless the state possesses something he wants. Yet in many ways he has supplanted Kentucky’s old guard Republican Party, built brick-by-brick by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville, with the Trump Party, placing his ignominious brand on the Commonwealth’s body politic.

His fingerprints are everywhere.

Recently, for instance, Trump endorsed four of the Commonwealth’s five sitting Republican congressmen seeking re-election this year – Jamie Comer of, well, your guess is as good as mine; Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green; Andy Barr of Lexington; and Hal Rogers of Somerset. They undoubtedly were as giddy over their canonization by the Pope of Mar-a-Lago as a bunch of eighth-grade schoolboys in possession of a Pornhub password, even though Rogers was the only one facing primary opposition, a bump in the road he would have easily navigated without Trump’s blessing.

The endorsements, announced on the Trump-controlled Truth Social website shortly before the May 21 primary, offered pretty standard boilerplate with references to the economy, immigration, the Second Amendment, and yada yada yada, even though you could easily get 5-to-1 that Trump couldn’t pick Brett Guthrie out of a line-up.

“Thank you for your support, President Trump!” was the typical response, this one from Barr, perhaps the most obsequious of the bunch as he rabidly seeks the great man’s anointment for a future Senate run. “Hard-working Kentuckians are ready to vote for an America First agenda this November.”

The lone wolf in this bunch, and it should come as no surprise, was Rep. Thomas Massie (R-SomewhereOrOtherLewisCounty), who is likewise thought to be prepping for a Senate run. His great apostacy was endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Trump in the presidential primary. While DeSantis is certainly just as malevolent as Trump, he simply didn’t possess the charm of a burlesque house emcee, a persona that Trump has mastered in spades, that makes present-day Republican voters swoon.

Massie won despite being ignored by Trump. But in the near term he’s likely to be the exception to the rule.

Kentucky doesn’t make it a habit of changing incumbent congressmen anyway. The most recent officeholder to lose his seat was former Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Versailles), who lost in what was a rematch with Barr in 2012 in the Sixth District. An incumbent losing in a primary is almost unheard of. The last time it occurred was in the old First District in 1986 when former Rep. Tom Barlow (D-Paducah) beat Rep. Carroll Hubbard (D-Mayfield) when the latter’s political peccadillos came home to roost.

Barlow served one term and then he was gone.

Regardless, Republicans now, understandably, treat a Trump endorsement as the gold standard and, in many cases, the feeling is a GOP candidate in a competitive race can’t win without it. That’s why Barr is so willing to prostrate himself before the golden calf in his slobbering search for the party’s Senate nomination in 2026 should McConnell, as expected, retire. Massie, obviously, is an unlikely recipient, and while Trump endorsed a third possibility, former state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, for governor last year, he lost, and Trump doesn’t associate himself with losers. Besides, Cameron is still closely connected to McConnell, and let’s not go over that brouhaha again.

Barr isn’t the only one hoping to make hay with a Trump endorsement. Comer, the blithering fool who has made himself a laughing stock — and raised questions nationally about the seriousness of Kentucky voters who sent him to Washington — over his humiliating effort to impeach President Biden, is considered a likely candidate for the Kentucky gubernatorial nomination in 2027. A Trump endorsement in his hip pocket could only enhance that effort.

Regardless, the endorsements and the reception of same are an indication that McConnell’s Republican Party no longer exists, replaced by a Trump Party that offers as its high muckety-muck a rapist fraudster who intends, should he win a second non-consecutive term in November, to sic the Justice Department on his long list of enemies both real and imagined.

Trump has essentially won a long, bitter feud with McConnell. The two squared off over the events of Jan. 6, 2021 when Trump instigated a riot that led to the storming of the U.S. Capitol as he sought to overturn the presidential election results that found him losing to President Biden. McConnell is stepping down as Senate Republican leader after the November election and is likely to retire two years hence. In large part because of Trump’s influence, McConnell is the country’s least popular senator, with only 33 percent of Kentuckians questioned for a Morning Consult poll giving him a passing grade.

Despite the bad blood, McConnell has non-sensibly endorsed Trump for president. Whoever Trump endorses as his replacement, should the slot open as expected, will be favored.

And the Commonwealth’s voters, like the congressmen, have developed a strong case of Trump fever. It isn’t that they’ve already voted for him twice, providing him with more than 60 percent of the vote each time; it’s that they are consistently electing Trump clones lurching ever further to the right.

By any comparison, except in Tennessee, where the legislature has gone absolutely bonkers, the Kentucky General Assembly these days is a pretty conservative place where Black people, women, gay folks, and particularly trans individuals are directed to the back of the bus. Yet, in the recently concluded primary, Republican voters ousted two state lawmakers who apparently failed to display sufficient orthodoxy to the extreme right wing cause that Trump champions.

In Western Kentucky, Rep. Richard Heath (R-Mayfield), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, lost his re-election bid to Kimberly Holloway, who was supported by the Kentucky Liberty Caucus and Raise Your Voice Kentucky, which appear to be the remnants of the old Tea Party movement.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Holloway campaigned on Heath being insufficiently conservative and that he — get this — supported McConnell, which one might normally expect given their party affiliation.

Not these days.

Meanwhile, in Central Kentucky, state Representative Killian Timoney (R-Nicholasville) lost to businessman Thomas Jefferson, who, like Holloway, carried the support of the Kentucky Liberty Caucus, Raise Your Voice Kentucky, and the notoriously right-wing Jessamine County Republican Party. It was a massacre, with Jefferson getting 72 percent of the vote.

The move against Timoney may be owed to the fact that he voted against overriding Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a mean-spirited anti-trans bill. Timoney, who holds a position in the Fayette County school system, has probably become aware that young people encountering issues with their sexual identity need compassion instead of derision.

Not in Trump world.

Kentucky has always been a fairly conservative place, even when the Democrats held sway for decades. Under Trump’s influence it’s sliding further over the edge. The late former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once attributed the popularity of former President Ronald Reagan to his ability to make people “comfortable with their prejudices.”

Trump is the same only more so. Aggressively more so.


Written by Bill Straub, a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Cross-posted from the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

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