Marzian withdrew. Here’s what I (really) told WLKY.

Marzian withdrew. Here’s what I (really) told WLKY.

In a year where the primaries are pretty much the only exciting elections, the primary for the 41st House District just got… a little less exciting. After 28 years, including 14 elections (including 6 unopposed and 8 landslide wins), Mary Lou Marzian has withdrawn from this primary.

In a press conference that was more like a temper tantrum, Marzian lashed out at the Republican establishment. She claims they are afraid of her and her colleagues and specifically targeted female lawmakers in the redistricting. In her new district, she would be opposite Josie Raymond in the new 41st Democratic primary. Of course, every political blog and radio show in the state and every news outlet covered the story. And one of them decided to talk to someone else with skin in this game – me.

I received an email from WLKY’s Gladys Bautista asking if I would meet her to “respond to a press conference held by a group of Democratic women lawmakers from Jefferson County saying the state’s GOP party is trying to silence them with gerrymandering.” I’ve been familiar with this argument since December and was ready to share my perspective, so I agreed to meet her. We sat at Sunergos in the heart of the 41st and chatted for several minutes about this issue. What came out of it was this story.

I readily admit it – I am very new to politics and forgot to walk into an interview with mainstream media with all my guard up. I thought, I know what I want to say on this topic. I’ll say it, and they can air what they want.

So much for journalism.

For the 5 o’clock news, they aired some silent video of me talking while they voiced a comment about Raymond’s Republican opponents. For the 6 o’clock news, they aired a 3-second clip that made it look like I agree. They broadcast one of the first things I said in the interview, which was that “the aggravation with the maps was valid.” 

Here, with you, I can say what I want. I can go on the record with my full comments, and no one else gets to edit them. So let’s go.

In the absence of facts, go ad hominem.

When you are planning a campaign based on a specific set of circumstances, such as a map, and then you are surprised by very new circumstances, it takes you aback. I told Ms. Bautista that this is what happened to Marzian, and to me. I had decided to run in the 34th district against Marzian because she so often has no opponent, and I had no other option on my 2020 ballot. Then, I was drawn out of the 34th, and the 34th still has no Republican option. Several of my nearby friends who were excited about my candidacy suddenly were no longer in my district. It was a lot to wrap my mind around, and I just got here – imagine Marzian’s perspective, facing this change after 28 years in Frankfort.

Still, it’s disingenuous and frankly rather immature (the phrase “hissy fit” comes to mind) for these women to continue this narrative. The GOP men did not deliberately draw the districts to target women, particularly the women of Jefferson County. They cite the incumbents that are facing each other. They mention the other female representatives who are leaving the legislature. They make all kinds of nasty accusations. In the absence of actual facts, Marzian’s comments went completely ad hominem. She called it “their sadistic and misogynist game of pitting Democratic women against each other.” She called it an “ultra-extreme, right-wing (attack) on every female in the House and every female in this commonwealth.” She told the GOP, “Shame on all of you Republicans for disgracing the legislature. Shame on you for castigating Louisville’s voice in Frankfort, and shame on you for hurting Kentucky, Kentucky’s women and children.”

So what are the facts? We could start with the obvious one: it’s not possible for anyone to draw a political districting map that eliminates women. There are plenty of women on both sides of the aisle ready to step up and run for these offices. I’m one of them. Can you see Jerry Miller sitting down at his desk in Frankfort and telling his cronies, “Look, guys, I think I’ve figured out how we can make sure there aren’t any more vocal, Democrat women in the House.” No. The man had a complicated enough job on his hands without trying to somehow draw a district that was entirely populated by men.

I did make that point with Ms. Bautista. Then I talked about the actual facts of who is running in these districts in 2022, and who is going to represent Louisville after this election cycle.

Did the GOP eliminate these women?

In no particular order…

  • Regarding the four specific districts that were significantly redrawn to form the new 41st, there are 11 people running in the primary. Seven of them are women.
  • In addition to the 41st, Lisa Willner and Mackenzie Cantrell were drawn into a district together. (There were also two sets of Republican incumbents who would face each other, so it’s even all around.) Yes, Cantrell has decided to not run again, in order to run for a judge position. Willner will take her district completely unopposed.
  • For the 34th District seat vacated by redistricting Marzian into the new 41st, this race has no Republican. There is a Democrat man, and a Democrat woman.
  • In Raymond’s old district, the 31st, she ran unopposed in 2020, and in 2018 she won by over 19 percentage points. This year, there are two of each party running in this primary. For each primary, one candidate is a man, and one is a woman.
  • Yes, Joni Jenkins is leaving, also after a 28-year run. The story here is that the GOP lawmakers increased minority-majority districts from 3 to 5 (who is telling that story?) and Jenkins’ district now boasts a majority of residents who are part of a racial/ethnic minority. She is withdrawing to let the current mayor of Shively take that seat, and that Democratic woman will do so completely unopposed.
  • Yes, Attica Scott is leaving, because she decided to run for Yarmuth’s vacated Congressional seat. Of her old district, part is now the 42nd, which will be taken by Keturah Herron, completely unopposed. Part is now the 43rd, where Pamela Stevenson is the incumbent woman. Her challenger in the primary is a Democratic man, but there is no Republican in that race.
  • Tina Bojanowski, the progressive Democrat in the 32nd District, is completely unopposed.
  • Nima Kulkarni, the soft-spoken Democrat in the 40th District, is completely unopposed.
  • Elsewhere in the state, sometimes Kelly Flood’s name gets brought up. After 13 years representing part of Lexington, with a series of landslide or unopposed election wins, she is retiring from the legislature. There is no Republican in that race for ‘22; her successor will be a Democrat, and she has endorsed the woman running for the seat.

Let’s review. Lisa Willner, Nima Kulkarni, Tina Bojanowski, and Keturah Herron will retake their seats with no opposition. Beverly Chester-Burton will take Jenkins’s seat. Pamela Stevenson will very likely defeat her Democrat challenger and win her seat again. A Democrat will take Marzian’s old 34th seat, with a woman vying for that one as well. If previous cycles predict correctly, in all probability a Democrat will take Raymond’s old 31st seat (50/50 chance it’s a woman). Here in our new 41st, Raymond has a strong chance to win the new 41st (well, you know I’d like to have something to say about that).

If the men in Frankfort were trying to get Louisville’s vocal Democratic women out of the State House, they did a really lousy job of it.

Are the GOP men afraid of women?

As you can see from the press conference, Marzian isn’t leaving Frankfort with anything that can be called grace. Instead, she keeps the narrative of ad-hominem attacks, as well as talking about her colleagues being afraid of her. When the maps were originally released, she asked, “What are they afraid of?” Last week, she said she was “a voice that the Republicans wanted to get rid of because they were afraid of truth to power.” (I’m not even sure what that means.)

I don’t believe this is true. I don’t believe anyone in Frankfort is afraid of Marzian or her colleagues. Before this election cycle, she didn’t even vote on half the bills. She didn’t vote on the new maps. And when I bring up my race and mention Marzian and Raymond – to sitting representatives – the reaction I often get is, “Who?

Don’t get me wrong – I sharply disagree with both Marzian and Raymond on much of what seem to be their primary platforms. They say, spend more money. Let women do whatever they want to their unborn children. Advance the LGBTQ cause at the cost of any constitutionally guaranteed liberty. But I believe in many areas, they genuinely care about Kentuckians. I think they care about the children in our schools, the hungry on our streets, the neighbors shopping with SNAP benefits. It doesn’t matter, though. Because they camp on such widely opposed platforms the majority of the time, lawmakers ignore them on everything else, too.

At least WLKY did print that point from my interview, buried in the print far below the video:

They’re very vocal but at the same time, they’re extraordinarily voiceless. As soon as they open their mouths, Frankfort plugs its ears.
If the 41st actually wants to actually be represented by someone, they need to elect someone who is not far-right, which is my primary opponents, but not on the Democratic side, because with all the valid things that Josie and Mary Lou have to say, no one is listening to them.

Fact-checking Josie Raymond’s bizarre opposition to lower taxes

Fact-checking Josie Raymond’s bizarre opposition to lower taxes

Recently, the Kentucky House passed HB8, one of the most transformative bills to be considered the House floor in decades. The members who brought the bill forward had campaigned on tax modernization and worked to make this bill a reality for years, and at last, it was time to debate the facts.

Essentially, HB8 intended to use the extra money in Kentucky’s coffers to provide tax relief to Kentucky’s workers by reducing the personal income tax from 5% to 4% in 2023. Then, if certain financial triggers were met, meaning that the increased sales tax on certain services like ride sharing and personal investment services made up for twice the triggered drop in income tax, the tax would continue to drop, until it was zero. In other words, if there was an additional $1B in the bank after a revenue cycle, Kentucky’s workers would see another 1% drop, representing approximately $500 million. These drops would continue at regular intervals until our income tax was zero.

Much of the two-hour-plus debate centered on specific questions about inflation (answer: the trigger is twice the next drop in income, and only a war would push inflation that high), comparisons to other states with no income tax (is it all about tourism? what did Kansas get wrong?), and particular new taxes on services (why monitoring of home security?).

The primary question on this bill is why. Why cut personal income taxes? How can that benefit a state? First, I agree with the presenting sponsor Representative Jason Petrie (District 16) who said over and over that the surplus in Kentucky’s budget, in contrast to what Jefferson County’s Democrats believe, are dollars that belong to the people of Kentucky. Our legislators’ responsible spending in Frankfort is saving us money. The answer is not to appropriate extra funds to the government for spending; the answer is to get them back to the people. Second, as many House GOP members reiterated on the floor, we must have an eye on the future. That means attracting people to move into our great Commonwealth, the way people have flocked to our neighbor Tennessee. Of the top ten fastest growing states in the last census, four of them have no income taxes (Texas, Nevada, Washington, and Florida). (In her comments on this point, Mary Lou Marzian declared Kentucky to be a “hateful state,” asked why anyone would want to come to Kentucky, and finally exclaimed, “Do not come to Kentucky!”)

Want more people? Have more babies.

Democratic Representatives had various arguments why a cut in income taxes would not inspire people to move to Kentucky, mostly involving our lack of Dollywood, warm winters, and curiously, the Permian Basin. Louisville’s Josie Raymond (candidate for the new KY 41) had a different, rather bizarre line of reasoning: Stop focusing on getting to people to move here, and start having babies instead. Quote: “If we want population growth, we’ve got to get the birth rate up.”

“We’ve got to get the birth rate up.”

Naturally, Raymond had ulterior motives for this argument. She’s not on the front lines of promoting more procreation in the Commonwealth; in fact, I found the reasoning rather ironic for one of the legislature’s most passionate proponents of pro-choice legislation. So, why talk about getting the birth rate up? It was to put in a plug for her spending priorities in Frankfort, languishing under the GOP majority’s desire to return the extra money to the people instead of spending it.

Specifically, Raymond wants Frankfort to spend more money on “things that can make millennials and Zoomers feel secure enough to reproduce.” In her opinion, these things are paid leave, childcare, loan forgiveness, and climate protections. The problem is that this position is completely unfounded, most notably and recently debunked in the book Empty Planet, meticulously researched and presented by two (liberal) Canadian journalists.

Let’s take a look at real numbers, comparing our birth rate to that of countries that actually have these supposed comfort provisions for baby-making millennials. Kentucky’s birth rate is 62.6 births per 1,000 women aged 18-45. But it’s more helpful to use the U.S. fertility rate for comparison purposes, since that’s the statistic readily available for other countries as well. The United States, the only country among these 41 nations that does not offer paid parental leave, now has a fertility rate of 1.7 births per woman, significantly below the replacement rate of 2.2. If providing paid leave, childcare, loan forgiveness, and climate protections inspires more childbearing, then countries who do those things should have a higher birth rate. But that is simply not true.

First, take Germany. It’s fairly high on that list. When you are pregnant, your employer doesn’t have to pay for your leave, but you apply to receive money from the government instead of your salary. The leave is a total of 14 weeks, 6 weeks before birth and 8 weeks after. In Berlin and Hamburg, parents receive free childcare from birth. The German government also offers paid college, and the country leads in climate-saving strategies, aiming to become greenhouse-gas neutral by 2045 and cutting emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030. What is Germany’s fertility rate? German women have 1.54 children, almost 10% lower than the U.S. rate.

Finland and Sweden are close behind Germany in the nice, long, guaranteed leave for women having babies. In Sweden, college education is free, and additional childcare is free from ages 3 to 6. Also, it’s the land of Greta Thunberg, the land that is the leader of all the leaders in climate change action. The independent Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) ranks the world’s countries based on a variety of climate criteria. In 2020 Sweden tops the list again, for the third year in a row. What’s Sweden’s birth rate? It is 1.7. – the same as the U.S. And as Sweden has developed a socialistic society much like what I believe Raymond would like to see here in Kentucky, the socialism has decidedly not boosted the birth rate.

Source: Google

Let’s do one more- Finland. Finland guarantees paid leave to both parents for up to 13 weeks, with leave overall guaranteed for 164 days. Not only is attending university free in Finland, but also students are provided a monthly stipend of roughly 500 euros. On the climate issue, Finland aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. And Finland’s birth rate is an abysmal 1.37 births per woman.

Representative Raymond, check the income level in District 41, which includes some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, which are also some of the most childless. Income is not why people are not having children. It’s because they do not want children. As Bricker and Ibbitson note in Empty Planet, people have more children because they need them, or want them, often because of a faith background. This is often actually a character issue. When we see a child as an eternal treasure that is worth losing sleep, gaining weight, and dropping a quarter of a million dollars on, then we’ll see more children playing in our yards and parks.

What the rich will & won’t do with extra $$

Arguing for home-grown increase in population wasn’t Raymond’s only bizarre opposition to tax cuts. She also went for the Democratic party line of tax cuts mostly benefiting the wealthy. Because these cuts are a percentage cut, of course, she’s right – the more money you make, the more money you’ll keep with these cuts to personal income tax. And like all good Democrats, Raymond seems to oppose the wealthy. She made three main points about how the wealthy use their money, and all three of them were baseless.

First, she said, “Those folks likely won’t create jobs with it.” I’m not sure what made her an expert on what the wealthy do and don’t do in creating jobs, because she didn’t offer any background for this line of reasoning. Here’s my question: Who do you think creates jobs, people with money, or people without it? The answer is obvious, and if the rich people who save money here choose to create jobs with it, Kentucky wins.

Her second argument was that “they won’t spend it; they’ve already got everything they need.” Again, there was no evidence for this thought. I’m not sure what she thinks the wealthy do with their money, but I see a lot of expensive landscaping, home improvements, luxury cars, pricey wine, and fancy handbags as I wander around District 41. They do spend it, and when they do, they pay sales tax – and Kentucky wins.

Third, she declared what she thought they would do with their money: “They’re likely going to invest it and create more generational wealth for their own families.” My first thought is that’s their prerogative. It’s their money. Good for them. But within the context of the argument on sales tax, she just boosted the GOP sponsors’ point. Did you catch what I mentioned above that was added as a service sales tax within this bill? It’s personal investment services, which someone else in the debate pointed out is used primarily by wealthy people investing outside their retirement 401Ks and pensions (which are not part of this tax). So in conclusion, Representative Raymond, if you are right, and the wealthy who save money with this tax cut do not create jobs, and do not spend it, but instead choose to invest it for their families, they’ll pay taxes on that service, and you guessed it – Kentucky wins.