Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Jonathan Miller: A Kentucky Democrat

I wrote this for my newswriting class last semester and I apologize for the delay in putting this up--DS

ETA on 12/14/2006: The campaign site for Miller-Maze can be found here.

It may be hard to be a Democrat in Kentucky today. The Democratic Party has hope in the future with someone being hailed as a future governor or senator of Kentucky. Jonathan Miller is the state treasurer of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He is a rising star in the Democratic Party and was named such by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council in 2000 and 2003. The Democratic Leadership Council was founded in the 1980s as a New Democrat movement.

Miller has politics in his blood. His father, the late Robert Miller, was always involved in politics and public service and “marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.” His mother, Penny Miller Harris, is a political science teacher at the University Kentucky.

Miller says he entered the public arena because “I knew from the time I was a child that I wanted to be a part of the political system. Spiritually, my drive comes from the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam—the biblical mandate for every person to make the world a better place.”

The results were very empowering from the 2003 general election as Miller received the most votes of any Democratic candidate and might or might not influence if he runs in 2007. Miller said, “The support I received in 2003—especially considering the Republican tide I was up against—is very empowering, but my decision on what to do next will largely be driven by my family’s interests and my ability to make a difference.”

Miller got his true start in politics as the national director of Students for Gore in 1988, when then-Sen. Al Gore was running for president. For him, “the 1988 campaign was perhaps my favorite political experience. As a college student, to play a significant role in such an important endeavor was breathtaking.”

While he did work for Vice President Gore, he has not used him that much in his campaigns as he is independent and can stand on his own record. In 1998, when Miller lost in the primaries in a crowded field, Gore wrote a letter of support during the run for Congress.

Young members of the community always ask politicians for political advice. When they ask Miller, he tells them to “DO IT! Whether it is to work on a campaign or actually run for office, young people have an incredible opportunity to make a real difference in their community and the world.”

Miller realizes that Kentucky has a growing number of conservative Democrats who tend to split the ticket in the general election. With the increasing number, many loyal Democrats are asking themselves if the Democrats will ever win the South again in a presidential election. With regards to Kentucky, Miller believes, “Of course. We voted of for Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Unfortunately, Gore and Kerry abandoned Kentucky. With a strong centrist candidate like Bayh or Edwards, we can win Kentucky in 2008.”

At the 2000 Democratic National Convention, Miller had the chance of a lifetime to address the delegates in attendance on the behalf of Vice President Gore. He will address the delegates in the future “only for a candidate in whom I deeply believe. For example, I would love to speak on behalf of Evan Bayh.” Sen. Evan Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana, has been widely mentioned as a potential 2008 Democratic candidate since Sen. Kerry lost the election.

Miller has run in three campaigns. He said that they were all difficult. He was new in 1998. It was difficult in 1999 because he had just run the year before. In 2003, everyone took his election for granted, not considering the looming Republican tide. However, as difficult as campaigning can be, he has enjoyed all the races so far.

The next presidential election may be a few years away but speculation is out there as to the potential candidates in 2008. Miller believes that Sen. Hilary Clinton of New York State and retiring Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina have to be the favorites but the dark horse is Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

There has even been some speculation about Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky., running for the Oval Office. Miller laughed off that speculation as being “silly.”

Midterm elections take place in 2006. Miller believes that the Democratic frontrunners in each district except the sixth will include former State Sen. Bob Jackson (KY-1), Steve Newberry (KY-2), Jack Conway (KY-3), Heather French Henry (KY-4) and Dr. Daniel Mongiardo (KY-5).

Miller believes that Kentucky will have a Jewish-American governor someday as Louisville’s Democratic Mayor Jerry Abramson is a popular official in the state. He thinks that a centrist African-American like Tennessee’s U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Memphis, or New York native Colin Powell, a Republican, could be elected President someday.

Miller, like everyone Democrat in the nation, believed that election night cast a bad image for the Democrats. Almost immediately, people were calling on Chairman Terry McAuliffe to step down. Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer, a Lexington lawyer, stepped down by the weekend.

“I can only comment on how the party is viewed in Kentucky, which is very poorly. Most people here think the national party has drifted too far to the left, and this hurt our candidates even at the state legislative level. For that reason, Dean would be a real problem for Kentucky Democrats,” Miller responded to the calls for McAuliffe to step down. “I heard a rumor that Simon Rosenberg, a friend of mine from the 1992 Clinton campaign and the chair of the New Democratic Network, is being proposed. He is young, dynamic, a great fundraiser and a centrist.”

Miller believes that the Democratic Party as a whole cannot continue to write off the South, or the party will forever be known as the minority party in Congress. In Kentucky, taking back the state Senate will take some time and the party needs to revamp itself.

This year, the Republican Party attacked Democrats on religious values. Miller, who is Jewish, says that “We, Democrats, need to do a better job of articulating why we are the party of morality and values. Once we do, we can win back religious voters.”

Miller has shown he can work with Republicans like Trey Grayson, the Republican Secretary of State. “I have enjoyed working with Jonathan on the Cradle to College Commission, a bipartisan effort to address financial aid for higher education. This follows on the heels of his successful effort to lead a bipartisan coalition to create KAPT, Kentucky's Prepaid Tuition Plan. I only hope I never have to run against him in the future!” remarked Grayson, a Boone County native.

Former Los Angeles Congressman Mel Levine has praise for Miller. “Jonathan is a rising star in the Democratic Party; a gifted and talented public servant doing a great job now with an exceptionally bright future,” Levine said.

New Hampshire State Rep. Peter Sullivan (D-Manchester) has nothing but praise for his fellow member in the Democratic Leadership Council. “Jonathan Miller is precisely the sort of leader the Democratic Party needs. He understands that government can be a catalyst that helps people achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency, and he has an ability to frame the issues in a way that speaks to people's core values. If the Democratic Party wants to learn about what it takes to win in a ‘red state,’ then they should start by listening to folks like Jonathan,” Sullivan said. Sullivan also agrees with Miller on their candidate of choice in 2008: Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

For more information on State Treasurer, visit www.MillerKY.com or www.kytreasury.com.

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