Jacob Conway on Chris Thieneman vs. Perry Clark: '37th District senate battle will be as dramatic as anything on TV'
(Editor’s note/full disclosure: Insider Louisville pays Jacob Conway as a political commentator. Conway’s web design and political consulting firm works for – or has worked for – local candidates from both political parties including Sen. Perry Clark.)
By Jacob Conway
Most of my friends are not very political.
In fact, I found out in March that two of my closest friends were not even registered to vote, something I changed very quickly.
They say it is boring or they don’t care – they don’t know what they are missing!
State and local races can prove to be the most exciting and can get pretty nasty, yet receive little attention from the media.
The 2004 race for the 37th District State Senate Seat is one that comes to mind. Longtime state senator and former Senate President Larry Saunders was retiring and Dana Seum Stephenson – daughter of State Senator Dan Seum – was running as the Republican against longtime Democratic Party leader Virginia Woodward.
A few days prior to the election, Woodward filed a suit asking the court to disqualify Seum Stephenson as a candidate due to the fact Seum Stephenson didn’t meet the residency requirement to serve as a member of the state senate.
That caused a lengthy court battle as well as a showdown in the senate over who should be seated.
Finally, the courts nullified the election and the governor called a special election in the winter of 2006 to fill the seat. The Republicans nominated a schoolteacher, whose husband is a member of the Metro Council and the Democrats nominated then-State Rep. Perry Clark. Clark won the election and was re-elected in 2008.
Clark is truly a maverick who tells you exactly where he stands on an issue and why.
(Editor’s note: Clark is, ah, famous for calling for the resignation of President Barack Obama, and for his ties to Lyndon Larouch. That said, Clark also supports the EPA and other regulatory agencies. Go figure.)
During the re-districting fiasco earlier this year the Republicans tried to get rid of Clark by putting him in the same district as another Democratic state senator. When those maps were tossed out, Clark was able to run for re-election.
Clark will be facing off against real estate developer Chris Thieneman. Thieneman finally was able to secure one of the two major party’s nomination after trying three different times for three different offices in two different parties.
This election could end up being a repeat of 2004. Thieneman’s residency has been called into question. Apparently, the wealthy real estate developer lives in a storage locker.
The address he listed on his filing papers is the location of Fort Locks Self Storage, LLC a company owned by Thieneman which has a principal office on Fern Valley Road.
To further complicate things, last year he voted at an address different from the one he used to file for this office. That address, which is a house, not a storage locker, is located in a different state senate district. Candidates are required to live within the district for one year prior to the election.
During his primary campaign against former Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins, Thieneman’s residency was challenged in court twice.
He won both of those challenges. Those cases focused more on whether he lived at the locker, not whether he lived within the 37th district for the appropriate amount of time.
The Democratic Party can’t afford to lose this seat; the Democrats are already in the minority and need to protect its incumbents like Clark who have the chutzpah to stand up to Senate President David Williams.
They especially can’t afford to lose the seat to an outspoken, charismatic, handsome, political loose cannon like Thieneman. This could and should cause the Democrats to look at the cases he won, find a flaw in those cases and file another challenge to his residency.
Clark will have a fight on his hands. But Thieneman, a former football standout, has a habit of fumbling the ball so to speak. He dropped out of the 2008 GOP third district congressional primary, endorsed Democrat John Yarmuth only to withdraw his endorsement and hop back into the race.
Clark’s views are often eccentric or outside of the box, but at least he’s constant in those views.
However, all the support in the world won’t matter if Thieneman is in violation of the residency requirements and is removed from the ballot. Clark wins by default.
Even if Thieneman is not removed, the simple fact that his residency has been called into question several times could give a few voters a reason to vote against him.
On a race as close as this one, a few votes could make all the difference.
Even if you think politics are boring, I’d pay attention to this race because it is shaping up to be just as dramatic and exciting as anything you’ll see on television.
About Jacob Conway: Jacob Conway has been actively involved in local and state politics since he was 16 years old. Conway has managed or consulted on a host of local, state and judicial campaigns since the 2002 election cycle. He currently is a partner at Website Mentors, a locally owned and operated web design and digital marketing firm and a member of the Louisville- Jefferson County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee.