The Lexington Herald-Leader is Out of Touch with its Readers; None of its Endorsed Candidates Will Win in Kentucky

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File

We have previously noted that the Lexington Herald-Leader is way, way, way out of touch with its readers. In 2014, the newspaper endorsed then-Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes for the United States Senate over Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell; Mr McConnell stomped Mrs Grimes 806,787 (56.2%) to 584,698 (40.7%).

But Mrs Grimes did carry 10 of the Bluegrass State’s 120 counties, including the two largest, Jefferson and Fayette. That would be better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, when she was thrashed by Donald Trump 1,202,971 (62.5%) to 628,854 (32.7%), carrying only two counties, Jefferson and Fayette. Naturally, the Herald-Leader had endorsed Mrs Clinton.

In the same year, the editors endorsed Lexington Mayor Jim Gray over incumbent Republican Senator Rand Paul; Senator Paul trounced Mayor Gray 1,090,177 (57.3%) to 813,246 (42.7%).¹

Come 2018, the editors heartily endorsed Democratic nominee Amy McGrath Henderson¹ for the Sixth Congressional District seat held by Republican Andy Barr. Mr Barr was a solid, if unspectacular, congressman, and in 2018 the Democrats were pulling out all the stops to take the House of Representatives from Republican control. In this, they succeeded, but not by unseating Mr Barr. Thanks to massive out-of-state contributions, Mrs Henderson raised $8,542,352 for her 2018 congressional race, spending $8,274,396, according to the 2018 year end report. Mr Andy Barr raised $5,238,577 spending $5,580,477. Despite outspending Mr Barr by almost $3 million, she lost 51.0% to 47.8% in the closely watched race.

So, there have been no surprises this year, either. The Herald-Leader has endorsed Mrs Henderson against Senator McConnell and Josh Hicks against Representative Barr. The editors seem to always endorse Democrats, the more liberal the better.² They have yet to make their presidential endorsement, but you can bet the farm that they will endorse former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump.

In their endorsement editorial for Mrs Henderson, the editors stated:

As is his practice, McConnell ignored the Herald-Leader’s request for an interview with the editorial board.

Well, of course he did; why ought he to waste his time when the editorial board’s endorsement was a foregone conclusion?

As was the case in her losing 2018 campaign for Congress, Mrs Henderson has been a fund-raising machine, having rolled up $84.2 million, the vast majority of it from out-of-states, vs Mr McConnell’s 53.6 million. Mrs Henderson greatly outspent Mr McConnell, $33.1 million to $18.4 million in the last quarter, and has more cash on hand. But she also outspent Mr Barr in 2018, and still lost.

One question that is not answered by candidate financial filings is whether either can use the money to actually win the election. The latest public polling doesn’t bode well for McGrath, though it’s been nearly a month since any polls on the race have been released. A Data for Progress poll in the field from Sept. 14 to 19 found McConnell with a seven percent edge over McGrath. That’s among the closest she’s come. A poll conducted from Sept. 11 to 20 had McConnell up 15.

Forecasters don’t give McGrath much of a chance either. FiveThirtyEight’s model gives McConnell a 96 percent chance of winning and Cook Political Report classifies the race as a “likely” win for McConnell.

In my own small county, I have seen exactly two yard signs for Mrs Henderson and Mr Hicks, as well as Mr Biden, all on the same two adjacent houses, on a side street heading for my Catholic church³; signs for Mr Barr dominate, because he has some larger ones, as do those for 91st District state Representative candidate Bill Wesley. But signs for President Trump and Senator McConnell are all over as well.

I’ve said it previously: the editors of the Lexington Herald-Leader are completely out of step with their readership. It’s little wonder the newspaper’s parent company, McClatchy, filed for bankruptcy protection just eight months ago, before COVID-19 hit the economy, and abandoned its own printing facilities in 2016, laying off 29 printing employees and eventually abandoning it’s landmark building on Midland Avenue.

The editorial board, which one would expect to vigorously support — please pardon the split infinitive; it just sounds better than “to support vigorously” 🙂 — freedom of speech, does not. In the same editorial in which they endorsed Mrs Henderson, they complained about Senator McConnell’s support for freedom of speech in the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. The decision which ‘allowed’ corporate spending on political campaigns displeased the editors, but are they not engaged in corporate spending — as part of McClatchy — in political campaigns with their endorsements of political candidates? The editorial board seems only opposed to other corporations spending money in support of political candidates.

The Herald-Leader serves one, and only one, important function: it does a great job in covering University of Kentucky sports! For those of us who are UK graduates, this is pretty important, and for the hundreds of thousands of UK fans in the newspaper’s service area who are not UK alumni, the same is true. But the people in its readership area sure do not seem to vote the way the editorial board would like.

¹ – Mrs Henderson hasn’t enough respect for her husband, Erik Henderson, to have taken his name, but my website, The First Street Journal, does not show similar disrespect, and always refers to married women by their proper names.
² – The Herald-Leader endorsed state Representative Charles Booker over Mrs Henderson in the Democratic primary, saying that Mrs Henderson is “playing it safe as a moderate Democrat.” As we have pointed out previously, Mrs Henderson only plays a “moderate Democrat” within the borders of the Bluegrass State, having stated that “I am further left, I am more progressive, than anyone in the state of Kentucky,” at a fund-raising event . . . in Massachusetts. Is she the moderate Democrats she has told the voters of Kentucky she is, or the far left progressive she told potential donors in one of our bluest states?
³ – Mrs Henderson claims to be a Catholic, but she fully supports abortion.
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