Monday, November 22, 2010

Michael Lewis: Kentucky's Chief Independent Organizer in the Hornet's Nest

Michael Lewis, chief organizer and chairman of Independent Kentucky, collected way more than enough signatures to run as an independent in the November general election for representative in KY House District 35.  Lewis brought national attention to the demand from independents for open primary elections (a bill for open primaries was introduced into the State House by Rep. Jimmy Higdon) when CNN followed him into the “hornets’ nest” of the statehouse in Lexington during his campaign for election reform. During this segment, former governor and Senator Juliann Carroll said "if you don't like the way America runs its political system, then you need to move to another country."

Below is Lewis’s account of one moment of his campaign for fair elections.

I was honored when I received a message from “The Hankster” asking if I wouldn’t mind telling everyone about my interesting election day. However to start at the Election Day would be unfair to anyone interested, so please allow me to fill in the dots to those outside of Kentucky.

Exactly 5 weeks before the election, I was out on the campaign trail walking neighborhoods when I got a very unsettling call from my wife.  As she started to explain what we just received in the mail, I couldn’t help myself to the feeling of being kicked in the stomach by a donkey! As it turns out I really was being kicked by a donkey…or a few, really. I was just served a legal summons, filed by attorney Jennifer Moore, former Kentucky Democrat Chairwoman. The plaintiff Greg Reddington is the former senior advisor to Louisville’s current Mayor Jerry Abramson (D) who has been in office for over 20 years.

Independent Kentucky in action. (Lewis is seated at the right)
My first thought… Wow, I’ve walked into the hornets’ nest! I was in disbelief, how could this be happening? After taking a moment to reflect on what I had done throughout the year and what I was there to accomplish. At that moment I decided I had already won a major victory!

As an Independent candidate, I shouldn’t have held the attention of my Democrat opponent for even a minute. However something made him or his party, take notice. Whether it was my message was clear “It doesn’t take a party to listen and respond to the needs of the people” or my active campaign of walking neighborhoods that haven’t been walked by a candidate in 8 years.

Nonetheless, as an independent, I was required by state law to submit 100 signatures of registered voters from my district. Just for the record my Democrat opponent only had to produce 2 signatures. I submitted 164, of which the lawsuit and courts ruled only 93 were valid. I did produce evidence that 100 were in fact registered but 7 registered after they signed my petition, but were still allowed to vote in the election.

So at the point of the final judgment where I was informed my votes wouldn’t count, there was 1 week until the election. So I did what any good candidate would do, I went campaigning! I wasn’t going to allow a bully tactic to take me away from taking a message to the people in my district. I think everyone appreciated the drive as well.

Now onto the original request Election Day!

While most candidates have a busy election day with “Get Out the Vote” efforts, this candidate quickly switched gears back to his Independent Kentucky Chairman role and began working to secure our progress from earlier in the year with our “Semi Open Primary Campaign”.

In 2010 Independent Kentucky had positioned our semi-open primary bill as a win/win for everyone in Kentucky and the state GOP was on board from the start. So I continued to build off our overwhelming win in the Senate and decided to work towards more success in the House where we have been stonewalled for the last 3 years. Independent Kentucky has faced overwhelming opposition in the House because of the controlling party’s unwillingness to consider the 185,000 independents in the state that they have chosen to isolate.

My wife and I were invited to several “Victory” parties on election night. We chose to attend the GOP event in downtown Louisville because the Republicans were looking to make history and pick up a large number of seats. It only took a few minutes to settle in and start working the crowd before we met up with Republican Wade Hurt who had won his race on the same technicality I lost my race. I was able to get a good amount of time with Wade and was able to get a commitment for support and an open door to Independent Kentucky and our movement. After listening to a great speech by a defeated Mayoral Candidate Hal Hiner, I was able to track down Republican new comer Mike Nemis who was able to celebrate a large victory by beating out a long time Democrat incumbent. His campaign was very impressive and a true grassroots achievement. Rep-elect Nemis has taken a big interest in Independent Kentucky and their activates and we are looking forward to working with him in the future!

As the night began to come to an end and the winners and loser thought about their campaigns, I thought about my election day and I was very proud of the outcome. I didn’t spend my election day campaigning for myself but for the 185,000 independents statewide who are looking for a voice in Kentucky!

You can reach Lewis at

No comments: