By Bill Robinson
The political importance of Madison County was evident as both major parties staged rallies in Richmond this week, the Democrats on Thursday night and and the Republicans on Friday afternoon.
“If I carry Madison County, I will win,” U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Sixth District, told a rally at the Madison County Fairgrounds on Thursday night.
Chandler won re-election two years ago by less than 700 votes despite losing Madison County by 1,162 votes.
The congressman, who was in Richmond the previous Friday to open the county’s Democratic headquarters, said he has been coming to Madison County “several times a week” to campaign .
Chandler’s Republican opponent this year is again Andy Barr, who was in Richmond late Friday afternoon to open his party’s county headquarters. (See Sunday’s Richmond Register for a report.)
“We’ve got a whole lot of problems in this country,” Chandler told more than 350 of the party’s faithful at the rally/bean supper Thursday. “We’ve got a whole lot of people running around telling tales.”
If she believed half of what his opponent’s TV advertisements say about him, “My mother wouldn’t vote for me,” the congressman said.
Republicans are trying “to do some serious harm” to Medicare and Social Security, Chandler said.
“I think you all know who was president when Social Security was started,” he said as he started what he called “a little history lesson.”
Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, started Social Security in 1932, and “Democrats have upheld it ever since,” the congressman said.
“And you know who was against it?” Chandler continued. “The Republicans,” the crowd called out in unison.
Republicans regularly try to repeal or pare back Social Security, he said.
“Do you remember when Bush was president and the Republicans tried to privatize (Social Security) and give it to the stock market? Now that wouldn’t have been a good idea would it?”
The crowd answered, “No.”
“Does anybody remember when Medicare was started?” Chandler went on. “Do you remember who was president.”
“Lyndon Johnson,” the answer came from the crowd.
“A Democrat started (Medicare) because seniors in this country could not get sufficient health care,” Chandler said. “President Johnson started Medicare so our seniors would be cared for during their golden years.”
Both Social Security and Medicare are in peril, the congressman said, because “The Republicans are at it again.”
The budget proposal of U.S. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, would privatize Medicare converting it to a voucher system, Chandler said.
The Republicans claim the proposal would preserve Medicare, but “Does anybody believe that?” Chandler asked.
A chorus of ‘no’ came back from the crowd.
“We’ve got to win this election to save Social Security and Medicare and to get this economy moving so people can work,” the congressman said.
The Democratic candidates for Madison County’s three seats in the House of Representatives were introduced, Bud Montgomery of Berea, Rita Smart of Richmond and JoEllen Reed of Winchester. Each spoke only for two minutes.
Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo spoke up for them, however. He singled out Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, for special criticism because she did not vote when House Bill 1, designed to eliminate “pill mills” from the state, was presented.
The Republicans’ belief that they can take over the state House of Representatives is worrisome, Stumbo said.
“When Republicans talk about taking over a house, it worries me,” he said. “The last time the Republicans were in charge, the George Bush and Mitch McConnell recession caused a lot of Kentuckians’ houses to be taken over by the banks.”
Stumbo said Republicans try to discourage Democrats by telling them they cannot be both good Christians and Democrats.
“We don’t know which party Jesus would belong to,” he said. “But Jesus was both a teacher and a carpenter, and about every teacher and carpenter I know are darn good Democrats.”
Jesus taught his followers to care for the least of those among them, which is what the Democratic Party believes in doing, Stumbo said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at email@example.com or at 624-6690.