Handicapping the 82nd District State Rep. race
With the battle lines drawn for the upcoming May Primary election, I thought now might be a good time to break down the only local race on the ballot, which pits incumbent 82nd Rep. Regina Bunch against challenger Alex Patrick. The winner will face Williamsburg teacher Bill Conn in the November General Election.
Could Patrick beat Bunch in the primary? Sure it’s possible, but I don’t see a real viable path to victory for him here.
My political assessment of Bunch has remained roughly the same for several years. I think she is vulnerable to a challenge from a strong candidate. For instance, someone like retired Whitley County Superintendent Lonnie Anderson, who is also a former magistrate.
However, I don’t see Bunch being beaten by a young first time candidate for office even though he has a political pedigree of having a father, Elmer Patrick, who previously served as state representative.
To her credit, Bunch has turned into a pretty savvy politician. She makes it a point to show up a lots of public events, shake hands, be seen and talk to people. She makes great use of Facebook to promote herself and her office.
Patrick appears to be a bright, young, enthusiastic young man, who genuinely wants to make a difference and hopes to change things for the better. I interviewed him a few weeks ago and think he would probably do well if he is elected.
His big problem is age. He is 24 years old and set to graduate from the University of the Cumberlands in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In other words, he is young, idealistic and wants to change the world. (I can still vaguely recall what that was like.)
To win, I think Patrick needs a lot of young people to show up at the polls on election day, which history has shown us most won’t do.
The reality is that older people are the ones, who regularly show up at the ballot box in large numbers and vote. Older people – those of us who are middle age or older – are normally less inclined to vote for someone, who hasn’t had time for the ink on their diploma to dry yet. We still remember just how much we still had to learn after we got out of college.
So is Patrick wasting his time running against Bunch? Probably not. Let’s take the example of Bunch’s late husband, Dewayne, whom she replaced as state representative after his death.
If memory serves me correctly, Dewayne Bunch ran for office three times against entrenched incumbent Charlie Siler before winning.
If Patrick is smart, then I think he could be laying a similar foundation here that would put him in a good position to beat Bunch a few years down the road. It could also position Patrick as the logical heir apparent in the minds of many voters to replace Bunch should she decide to retire in a few years, which is a realistic possibility.
The winner of the Bunch-Patrick race will face Democrat Bill Conn.
Conn is a good guy, but I think it would be an understatement to say that he has a steep uphill climb if he wants to beat whoever the winner of the Republican Primary is.
Conn is a teacher at Williamsburg Independent School and knows a lot of people in Williamsburg. Like Patrick and Bunch, Conn is an intelligent person, hard working and someone else, who I think sincerely wants to make this city, region and state a better place.
His biggest problem is voter registration numbers of Republicans to Democrats in Whitley County, which is about three to one in favor of Republicans.
Conn’s past run at public office illustrates the point.
In December 2012, he lost a special election to replace David Williams as state senator.
Conn, who was the Democratic nominee, garnered 1,440 total votes in all six counties compared to Republican Sara Beth Gregory’s 6,244 votes.
Perhaps more telling than that is the fact that Gregory, who is not from Whitley County or anywhere very close to here, garnered 1,444 votes just in Whitley County, Conn’s home county, to Conn’s 768 votes.
Conn’s best chance at getting elected in November is if Patrick pulls off the upset in the May Primary, and he is battling someone, who isn’t an entrenched incumbent. Even then, he still has a tough road to victory.
The good news for voters is that we have three good people running and should be in good shape no matter how the race turns out, which isn’t always the case.