A former Kentucky congressman whose political career ended in scandal some 20 years ago is attracting big money from donors who want to help him win a seat in the state Senate where he began a tumultuous trek in 1968. Democrat Carroll Hubbard is hoping voters in far western Kentucky will overlook past transgressions that landed him in prison for a couple of years and give him another shot at public service.
"This is one last try for proving that people are capable of forgiveness and that there is such a thing as redemption," Hubbard said.
Hubbard faces Trigg County Judge-Executive Stan Humphries in what has become this year's most expensive Kentucky legislative race. Both candidates had banked more than $130,000 by early October in a race that is expected to see total spending by the candidates exceed $300,000.
Humphries said he was surprised that Hubbard has been able to raise so much campaign cash despite the criminal record.
"You don't have to verse the people in the 1st District about his past," Humphries said. "I think everyone who has kept up with politics knows Mr. Hubbard."
The Democrat's push to beef up its Frankfort delegation has given Hubbard a shot at election despite his past misdeeds.
Hubbard, 75, of Mayfield, represented Kentucky in Congress for 18 years, beginning in 1975. He lost his 1992 re-election bid after being caught up in the House banking scandal. He pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and went to prison in 1995.
Only a handful of Senate candidates have topped $100,000, most of them in lopsided ventures. They include Democrat Joey Pendleton and Republicans Robert Stivers and Damon Thayer. Also, Louisville businessman Chris Thieneman, a Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Perry Clark, has about $160,000.
House candidates who banked more than $100,000 include Robert Damron of Nicholasville, John Tilley of Hopkinsville, Jeff Greer of Brandenburg, Jim Glenn of Owensboro, and Jody Richards of Bowling Green. All are incumbent Democrats.
Democrats hope to cut into the Republican majority in the Senate. And Republicans, sensing that this year's political climate favors them, have been touting the possibility of winning enough House seats to take majority control from the Democrats.
Kentucky has 47 contested House races and 10 contested Senate races.
Republican leaders insist they entered this political season with a distinct advantage because the head of the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama, remains an unpopular figure in Kentucky. They're counting on voters who go Republican at the top of the ticket to also go with GOP candidates down the ballot.
But political analyst Danny Briscoe said the Kentucky GOP needs more than Obama's negatives to change the power structure of the state legislature. They need serious campaign cash, _ far more than has materialized so far.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has been lending his support to Democratic legislative candidates. He's done fundraisers and campaigned across the state, including for Hubbard in western Kentucky. Beshear also is appearing in TV ads for Democratic hopefuls and has done recorded phone calls for them.
With an affinity for politics, Hubbard ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2006 and 2008. He lost the first race by fewer than 60 votes and the second by some 3,000 votes. He's hoping for success this time or he'll simply fade away.
"This is my last race," Hubbard said.
Hubbard's opponents have launched unrelenting attacks, reminding voters of his criminal record. Undaunted, Hubbard continues his campaign.
Humphries, who lives on the eastern end of the district, has spent a lot of time campaigning in the westernmost communities that are in Hubbard's backyard.
"He got a lot of name recognition," Humphries said. "He certainly has that on me."
Hubbard recalled the elation of winning his first congressional election by upsetting eight-term incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Albert Stubblefield. Hubbard wonders how overcoming his past to return to the state Senate would compare to that victory.
"It would be an equal thrill," he said.