With David Williams down by a wide margin in the polls — and Steve Beshear refusing to engage him — things are beginning to look bleak for his gubernatorial campaign. The basic message of Williams’ campaign — that Beshear is providing no leadership to make tough decisions, whereas Williams would reform the tax code to something akin to Tennessee to create jobs — has yet to bear any fruit, according to every poll out in the public. Whether that has something to do with the fact that Tennessee actually has a higher unemployment rate than Kentucky, or just a general dislike of the messenger of this news (Williams), is up for debate.
Nevertheless, it looks like the Williams campaign is testing out a new strategy today that is… well, kind of old:
Administration emails indicate that Gov. Steve Beshear’s Administration is advising school districts to cease prayer during public functions. An email from the Kentucky Department of Education (attached) to the Bell County School District says that praying before a football game is unconstitutional and the district should “cease this activity immediately.” The advice was given to the Bell County school district after a liberal, out-of-state group threatened to sue the school over the tradition of praying before high school football games. (see article below for background).
“It is a travesty that Governor Beshear will not stand up for freedom of religion in Kentucky, and instead sides with an organization called ‘Freedom From Religion Foundation.’ I call on Gov. Beshear to denounce this attack on prayer at public functions and lead the efforts of state government to defend our citizens’ right to voluntarily pray anywhere they choose,” Senate President David Williams said.
The Republican candidate for governor added: “Steve Beshear has a troubling history of failing to protect our precious freedom of religion. As Attorney General, he ruled that posting the 10 Commandments in classrooms was unconstitutional. As Governor, he decided to call the state’s Christmas tree a ‘holiday tree.’ And now his administration has advised the Bell County school system to end the tradition of praying before football games. This pattern of failing to protect our freedom of religion is troubling to me and I am sure most Kentuckians.”
Not only does the Beshear Administration advise the school district to cease public prayers, the author of the advice even puts a smiley face after the last sentence denoting that Beshear’s administration is all-too-happy to dispense their opinion on the matter.
“As Governor, I will stand up against out-of-state liberal organizations who want to stomp on our freedom to voluntarily pray in public places. My administration will defend voluntary, public prayer, not side with out-of-state liberals who have no respect for our culture or our values,” Williams said.
Say what you want about Williams, but his general election campaign has been heavily focused on actual issues, whether you agree with his positions or not. But what we see here is just your basic evangelical fear-mongering that is no stranger to Republican (and some Kentucky Democrat) politics. It seems quite plausible that there’s been a realization within the campaign that “we need to be like Tennessee” is not working, and some old-time Bible-thumping is new last resort to start making up ground. And it’s not like Williams is a stranger to that stuff, as Frank Simon would surely tell you.
The reason that this tactic might not work is that Beshear has shifted (or stayed) so far to the right, as he gave a giant bear hug to the Flintstone Truthers at Answers in Genesis, putting the state seal of approval on their giant dinosaur boat with $43 million in potential tax breaks. Ken Ham even wagged his finger at Williams recently for doubting whether Ark Encounter will be built.
This shift in tactics also coincides with rumors flying around the state over the past two days that there is yet another shake up imminent in the Williams campaign staff and their media company. Scott Jennings has not responded to phone calls over the last two days seeking comment, but campaign chairman Gen. Donald Storm told LEO Weekly that the rumors of Jennings’ departure from the campaign yesterday are false. Storm says Jennings told him today that such speculation is created by Democrats “just to take our time up.”
Williams held a fundraiser last night with Mitch McConnell and special guest Jeb Bush, but no figures have been released on how much was raised for the campaign. Williams also revealed yesterday that union-buster extraordinaire Gov. Scott Walker (WI) will hold a fundraiser for the campaign this fall.
With Williams totally absent from the airwaves, and Beshear’s ads going unchallenged, they need to raise money and change the trajectory of the campaign in a hurry.