Paul’s victory Kentucky’s top 2010 story
Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 9:09 pm
By ROGER ALFORD
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A small town eye doctor’s rise from relative obscurity to become one of the most recognized political faces in the country has been selected by The Associated Press as Kentucky’s top news story of 2010.
Republican Rand Paul was swept into the U.S. Senate by a conservative political tsunami, trouncing Republican and Democratic contenders in the primary and general elections. Voters, exhibiting disdain for business as usual in Washington, backed the tea party favorite in what devolved into one of the most contentious, bitter political campaigns in the country.
Jerry Boggs, editor of the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville, said Paul’s “roller coaster ride” to the Senate was the “logical choice” for the state’s top story.
“His progression from virtual unknown to a national symbol of the tea party movement and overall political unrest among many voters was remarkable,” Boggs said. “His campaign itself was noteworthy due to the controversy it stirred.”
The race was filled with political curiosities, including an ill-fated political attack by Democratic candidate Jack Conway, who charged in a TV ad that Paul worshipped an idol god called “Aqua Buddha” during his college years.
Paul denounced the ad as false and chastised Conway for running it. The spot triggered a public outcry across the state and nation. And exit polling by the AP found that four out of five voters felt the religious attack was unfair.
Bolstered by tea party supporters angry with the Washington establishment, Paul easily won the Election Day vote count to replace the retiring Jim Bunning, a 79-year-old former major league baseball pitcher who opted not to seek a third term.
Journalists in Kentucky documented a variety of major news events in 2010, including what AP selected as the second most significant story of 2010: a tragic interstate crash in March that killed 11 people near Munfordville when a tractor-trailer slammed head-on into a van carrying a Mennonite family.
The dead included an engaged couple and several members of their family. Two children in the van were the only survivors of the crash on Interstate 65 about 75 miles south of Louisville.
After the collision, the truck smashed into a rock wall and burst into flames. The driver, the lone occupant, was also killed.
The crash was the deadliest single accident in Kentucky since a 1988 bus crash in which 27 people died when a church bus carrying a youth group was hit by a drunken driver.
The No. 3 story of 2010, a Louisville woman was convicted in August of demanding millions of dollars from Rick Pitino to keep secret their sexual encounter in a restaurant.
Karen Cunagin Sypher was found guilty of three counts of extortion, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of retaliating against a witness.
The case involved a 2003 sexual encounter between Pitino and Sypher at a table inside a popular Louisville Italian restaurant. Pitino testified she came on to him and the sex was consensual. After she was charged, Sypher told police it was rape but Pitino was never charged.
Pitino had received three threatening phone calls and two letters last year demanding cash and gifts for Sypher to keep the tryst secret. One of the letters showed to the jury was a handwritten note from Sypher that asked for cars, tuition for her children and her mortgage to be paid off.
A lawsuit by sexual abuse victims seeking to link the Vatican to the American priest abuse scandal imploded in August, ranking No. 4 in AP’s Top 10 list. The long-standing Kentucky case naming the Holy See as a defendant ended when the three plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss their own case.
The three men who were abused in their youth at Catholic schools in Kentucky abandoned the case after their attorney said they face “insurmountable hurdles” that included the Vatican’s sovereign status in the U.S. A Vatican spokesman applauded the ending of the Kentucky case, saying it “proved to be originating from an unfounded accusation.”
At No. 5, soldiers from Fort Campbell’s 101st Airborne Division saw much combat in 2010, racking up more than 100 casualties by mid-December.
A suicide bomb attack killed six more of the American soldiers in Afghanistan Dec. 12. They were all from the 101st Airborne Division. The attack vehicle, a minibus, was loaded with an estimated 1,000 pounds of explosives.
Fort Campbell has lost 104 soldiers this year in Afghanistan, where the division has fielded fighters in some of the country’s most violent regions. The most recent attack came less than a month after six Fort Campbell solders were shot and killed by a lone gunman from the Afghan Border Police during a training mission in Nangahar province.
Another political story made the list at No. 6. Kentucky lawmakers had been unable to agree on a budget during an annual legislative session, forcing Gov. Steve Beshear to call them back into special session in May to pass a $17.3 billion, two-year spending plan that included no new taxes.
Passage of the budget allayed concerns by Beshear that he’d have to impose a partial shutdown of state government.
A deadly trailer park rampage was selected the No. 7 story of the year. In September, a man facing eviction over his hostile temper became enraged by how his wife cooked his eggs and killed her, his stepdaughter and three neighbors with a shotgun before shooting himself.
Police said Stanley Neace, 47, killed the five people in two mobile homes in rural eastern Kentucky, then went to his home and turned the gun on himself. Neighbors said Neace stormed across the lawns of about seven homes in his pajamas and fired dozens of shots from a 12-gauge pump shotgun.
At No. 8, a jury acquitted former Kentucky Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert and prominent road construction contractor Leonard Lawson of bribery and other charges in January, ending a federal probe into allegations of corruption and cronyism.
Prosecutors had accused Nighbert and Lawson of scheming to steer millions of dollars worth of state highway projects to Lawson’s companies. They could have faced decades in prison if convicted on all counts.
The General Assembly passed a law in April that allows judges to require people who violate domestic violence orders to wear ankle monitors. That story ranked No. 9 on the AP’s list. The law will allow authorities to keep electronic tabs on domestic abusers in the most volatile cases.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the measure would prove to be one of the landmark achievements of the 2010 legislative session.
The bill is named after Amanda Ross, who was gunned down outside her Lexington home last year. Former state Rep. Steve Nunn has been charged with killing her and has entered a not guilty plea.
Rounding out the Top 10 stories of 2010, Louisville and Lexington elected new mayors in November. Businessman Greg Fischer takes over for longtime Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, who didn’t seek re-election. And, in Lexington, businessman Jim Gray defeated incumbent Jim Newberry to become that city’s first openly gay mayor.
Published in The Messenger 12.28.10