During Republican administrations dating to Ronald Reagan's, Sen. Mitch McConnell has used his clout to help presidents decide on the appointments of federal judges, U.S. attorneys and other key officials in Kentucky, and to steer patronage jobs to friends and supporters.We shall certainly see what happens now.
But now, with Democratic Sen. Barack Obama about to occupy the White House, much of that clout will shift from McConnell -- and his fellow Kentucky Republican, Sen. Jim Bunning -- to state Democrats, including U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth and Ben Chandler.
Although Obama's transition team hasn't contacted Yarmuth, Chandler or Gov. Steve Beshear to talk about appointments, people familiar with the process said they will now gain much of the influence that McConnell has had.
"I think Congressman Yarmuth and Congressman Chandler are very well-positioned, not only because of being Democrats, but because they were early supporters of Senator Obama," said Rick Northern, a Louisville lawyer who worked at the White House for a year in 1979-80.
After filling cabinet positions and other top jobs, Obama's administration is expected to turn to Kentucky's Democratic congressmen, and Beshear, as they make choices for other government posts, including:
U.S. attorney, the top federal prosecutor, in both the Eastern and Western court districts of Kentucky.
U.S. marshal, the top federal law enforcement official, in both districts.
Vacancies in the federal judiciary in Kentucky and on commissions and agencies that affect the state, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development agency.
Former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, who retired in 1998, may also play a role in making recommendations for such appointments, Northern said.
But he noted that some lesser-known names also will have the administration's ear. For example, there's Louisville businessman Matthew Barzun, who according to published accounts raised more than $500,000 for Obama.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Kentucky gaining clout in Washington?
That's what the CJ seems to say. When you have Democrats in power, you want Democrats in office.