David Williams and the angry inch

Even though Gov. Steve Beshear signed the partisan, vindictive and possibly unconstitutional redistricting bill for the state legislature last Friday, the past week has been full of news surrounding the push back against it

In Lexington on Saturday, a rally of around 125 people protested the redistricting plan that will disenfranchise about 90,000 people in their downtown area for two years, as well as effectively kick their senator Kathy Stein out of office at the end of this year without any chance of running for re-election. Here’s video of Stein speaking at the rally shot by Jim Pence.

On Tuesday, shortly after a penguin shit on David Williams’ desk, Kathy Stein stood up and called out Williams and the Republican redistricting plan, to cheers from about 25 people from Lexington in the gallery.

After Sen. Robert Stivers tried to say that this is justifiable retribution for what Democrats have done to Republicans in the past, Louisville Sen. Tim Shaughnessy reminded Stivers of what the actual facts are, adding: “You did it, you own it. The actions that you took in this chamber are unprecidented, and we all should be ashamed of them.”

Following the recess, the crowd in the gallery exited down the stairs, which pass directly by Williams’ office. One person confronted Williams as he walked into his office, saying, “You might have thought you did this to Kathy Stein, but you did this to the people of Lexington.” This person, Stephen Trask — who lives next to Stein and wrote the rather awesome music for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” — was grabbed by the throat by a still unidentified man who then went into Williams’ office.

State troopers then manhandled and arrested Trask, before going on to shove several people behind Trask — unprovoked — who were simply filing out of the gallery. (The lesson being: If you say something to David Williams that he doesn’t like, or are merely standing near someone who does, expect to get roughed up.)

Sen. Stivers then accused Stein of inciting a riot and said that she should be censured by the Senate, though he later backed off this ridiculous request after Democratic Sen. RJ Palmer told him to calm down.

And this morning, Rep. Jeff Hoover backed up his promise to fight HB 1 in court — as the bill also stuck it to Republicans in the House — as he filed an injunction against it in Franklin County Circuit Court. Stein is expected to follow suit soon, though there’s not much time to waste at this point, with current filing deadlines for state legislature races coming up on Jan. 31.

And in another twist this morning, Dr. Dan Mongiardo (formerly Lt. Dan) blasted the redistricting bill in a press release. He particularly focused on David Williams and Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, who voted to disenfranchise people in her own city. Is Mongiardo keeping his name in the news to set himself up for a run for governor in 2015, or is he setting himself up for a challenge against Kerr in 2014, as he spends a good amount of his time in Lexington? Or, for those less cynical, just doing the right thing? Regardless, here are the highlights from his press release:

HAZARD – Former Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo publicly criticized the newly adopted House and Senate redistricting maps today saying, “While many will say redistricting is just politics as usual, it is much more than that. The redistricting plans recently passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor was an exercise in hyper-partisanship that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of citizens and should be overturned. It is this type of unnecessarily divisive partisan politics that further weakens our political system’s ability to solve the difficult problems confronting our state and nation.”

Mongiardo announced his support for legislation creating an independent commission. Mongiardo said, “After such a raw display of rank partisanship, it is time the people of Kentucky assign the responsibility for redistricting to an independent commission that puts the interest of the citizens of this Commonwealth before the self-serving interests of the politicians or either political party.”

Mongiardo said he believes the House plan splits too many counties and precincts, while violating the notion that districts should be relatively compact to reflect shared community interests to the extent possible. He said the Senate plan was equally egregious, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of citizens and potentially weakening minority representation in Jefferson County.

Mongiardo called the elimination of Fayette County’s 13th Senate District an ‘injustice,’ reserving his harshest criticism for Senate President David Williams and State Senator Alice Forgy-Kerr.

Mongiardo said, “I sympathize with what Senator Stein and the citizens of Fayette County are going through. In 2002, Senate Republicans led by David Williams tried to punish me by moving my senate district from Perry County in southeastern Kentucky to northern Kentucky simply because I, like Senator Stein, was outspoken and vigorous in my opposition to certain policies advocated by the Senate President and the Republican majority. Clearly, President Williams remains the same petty and vindictive politician today that he was then. What happened to Senator Stein and her constituents is an injustice, just as it is for Senator Ridley and his constituents.”

“For Senator Alice Forgy Kerr to place her loyalty to David Williams above her loyalty to the people of Fayette County and vote to eliminate the only other state senator from Fayette County is shameful. The fact that she didn’t have the courage to publicly and openly cast her ‘yea’ vote at the time is even more shameful. Senator Kerr’s decision to eliminate the only state senator representing Lexington’s downtown core and the UK campus area is mystifying. Her constituents, those citizens living in Lexington’s suburbs, are inextricably linked to the success of Lexington’s downtown and the University of Kentucky. It is my hope that the citizens of Fayette will demand from Senator Kerr a public explanation as to why she voted to eliminate her fellow hometown senator and disenfranchise more than 100,000 citizens in our Commonwealth’s second largest city. An even bigger mystery is why she did not have the political courage to publicly and openly cast her vote at the time the vote was taken, instead waiting until the next day to quietly record her vote with the Senate Clerk’s office,” Mongiardo concluded.

Beshear, Stumbo, Williams and Thayer all hoped that this issue would go away once the bill was signed, but it doesn’t appear to be, especially if a judge grants Hoover’s request for an injunction.

And then there was this bit of news reported last night:

Senate State and Local Government Chairman Damon Thayer of Georgetown said Wednesday he is “strongly leaning” toward sponsoring Gov. Steve Beshear’s constitutional amendment to expand gambling.

*****

“Sen. Thayer and I have agreed on language for the bill, which will be introduced in the Senate very soon,” Beshear said in a statement.

“We will spend the next few days laying the groundwork for its introduction. We are hopeful that our senators will give this bill the full consideration it deserves, since repeated polls show that Kentuckians are demanding an opportunity to vote on this issue.”

Well isn’t that interesting. Beshear signs Thayer’s redistricting plan that ousts Kathy Stein — saying we need to move on to the gambling bill — and then Thayer is all of a sudden saying he’s likely to sponsor Beshear’s gambling plan, which is his No. 1 priority.

Interesting how Frankfort horse trading works, isn’t it?

It’s a wicked little town.

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