Thursday, September 02, 1999

Governor's race prime political entertainment

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It is the political comment we hear more than any other as we approach Labor Day and head into the November campaign season:

        “Doesn't seem to be much of a governor's race this year,” or variations of that, is on the minds of lots of disinterested voters.

        People are talking about what is being perceived as a non-race just about everywhere. At Mitch McConnell's fund-raiser. At the Guidugli family picnic. At the Highlands football game, a Saturday morning soccer game at Pendery Park and in the produce aisle at the Fort Thomas IGA.

        “What is there to write about?” apathetic voters are asking. “What is there to care about?”

        With all due respect ... you have got to be kidding!

        Sure, the race looks like a cakewalk for Democratic incumbent Gov. Paul Patton. He has the money, organization, energy, name recognition and the bully pulpit of incumbency to beat back a trio of lesser-known, underfunded challengers running as a Republican, a reformer and a write-in.

        Even some of the Northern Kentucky Republicans who chose Republican Larry Forgy over Mr. Patton four years ago are now going with the governor, who has exhibited a pro-business attitude and shown a great interest in the region since being elected.

        No, the real story of this year's gubernatorial race won't be who wins. It will be the personalities of those who don't.

        Because those running against the front-runner are far more — let's put this as delicately as we can — interesting and colorful than the governor.

        • Let's start with the man they call Hoby.

        Hobert W. “Hoby” Anderson is a two-term state representative from Flatwoods, a Greenup County city near Ashland that also produced country singer and line-dancin' fool Billy Ray Cyrus of “Achy-Breaky Heart” fame.

        Hoby got his campaign off to a swell start back in January, when, five minutes before the filing deadline, he and Republican State Sen. Virgil Moore showed up at the secretary of state's office to supposedly file as a governor/lieutenant governor ticket.

        The two milled around in John Y. Brown III's State Capitol office and never did fill out the paperwork to get in the race. Mr. Moore said he was just there as a joke, but Hoby said he was serious.

        Apparently serious enough to enter the race as a write-in candidate, because that's what he has done. But maybe serious isn't the best adjective to use in describing Hoby.

        He intends to legally change his name to — what else — Hoby, a move he described as a “marketing tool.”

        He then asked state election officials whether voters could cast ballots for him on Election Day by just writing in “Hoby.” No, the officials said, no votes would be counted unless his last name was included.

        “If they'd have some flexibility and be reasonable,” Hoby complained, “I wouldn't have to do something stupid.”

        Seems a little late for that.

        Hoby is at least out on the campaign trail. He was working the crowd at last month's Fancy Farm picnic handing out yardsticks.

        “You give somebody a bumper sticker and they fold it up and put it in their pocket,” Hoby explained. “You give somebody a yardstick, and they remember you because they're carrying around a yardstick with your name on it.”

        He recently went to election officials and asked whether peel-off “Hoby” stickers could be pasted onto the write-in spaces on Election Day. That way, voters wouldn't have to take the time to actually write his name on the ballot.

        He got a no-go on that idea.

        • Next up is Gatewood Galbraith, a bright, funny Lexington lawyer, who ran in 1991 on a platform that included legalizing marijuana.

        Don't ask him too much about pot this time around. He got a little testy with a TV reporter who wanted to know whether legal weed was still a part of his agenda. Gatewood called the reporter a nasty slang word.

        Singer Willie Nelson, who is known for “supporting” — if you know what we mean — certain planks of Gatewood's platform, is in Lexington to perform a free concert tonightand hold a rally for him.

        Gatewood is now on the Reform Party bandwagon and is getting help from the campaign team that helped to elect former pro wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura governor of Minnesota. We might even get a campaign visit from The Body before the election.

        That would be fun if some of the candidates bumped into one another at a campaign event. Imagine the introductions.

        “Hoby. The Body. Body. Hoby.” “Here, Body, have a yardstick.”

        • Then there's Peppy, as in Peppy Martin, the prom-dress-wearin', lead-foot-drivin', campaign-promisin' self-proclaimed “Kentucky Gal” running on the Republican ticket.

        In the few months she's been on the campaign trail, Peppy has managed to:

        • Anger U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the state's leading Republican, by slurring his wife's Asian ancestry.

        • So inspire GOP voters that a whopping 5 percent of them turned out for the May primary, where she barely beat a candidate who didn't campaign, raise money or give interviews.

        • Duck questions on abortion, a major issue with Bluegrass Republicans.

        • Admit she frequently speeds in her Mercedes and does not see the need for state police to run speed traps.

        • Espouse a campaign platform that includes cutting all taxes by 75 percent, with no plan to make up the revenue, and persuade state workers to quit their jobs and serve as volunteers for the state.

        This isn't a governor's race. It's a Fellini movie.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. His column appears Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at