Paul E. Patton: Wikis


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Paul E. Patton

In office
December 12, 1995 – December 9, 2003
Lieutenant Steve Henry
Preceded by Brereton C. Jones
Succeeded by Ernie Fletcher

In office
December 10, 1991 – December 12, 1995
Governor Brereton C. Jones
Preceded by Brereton C. Jones
Succeeded by Steve Henry

Born May 26, 1937 (1937-05-26) (age 72)
Fallsburg, Lawrence County, Kentucky
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Carol Cooley
Judi Jane Conway
Profession Executive
Religion Presbyterian

Paul Edward Patton (born May 26, 1937) is the president of Pikeville College in Pikeville, Kentucky and serves as chairman of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. From 1995 to 2003, he served as the 59th governor of Kentucky. Because of a 1992 amendment to the Kentucky Constitution, he was the first governor eligible to succeed himself in office since James Garrard in 1800.

Patton attended the University of Kentucky where he received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1959. His father-in-law gave him his start in the coal mining industry in eastern Kentucky. Over the next twenty years, he became wealthy as a coal mine operator and gained name recognition for his leadership role in the coal industry. He sold most of his coal interests in the late 1970s and became involved in politics, serving briefly in the cabinet of Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. and chairing the state Democratic Party. In 1981, he was elected judge/executive of Pike County. He made an unsuccessful bid to become lieutenant governor in 1987. In 1991, he again sought the office of lieutenant governor and was elected to serve under Governor Brereton Jones. Jones appointed Patton as secretary of economic development, making Patton the first lieutenant governor to serve as an appointed cabinet secretary.

Four years later, Patton was elected governor over Republican Larry Forgy. He enjoyed a productive first term that included worker's compensation reform and improvements to the criminal justice system. His proudest achievement, however, was a major overhaul of the state's higher education system. He made the state's community colleges and technical schools independent of the University of Kentucky and organized them into the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. He then charged the University of Kentucky with becoming a "Top 20" research institution and the University of Louisville with becoming a nationally-recognized urban university.

Patton turned back a weak challenge from Peppy Martin in his re-election bid in 1999. However, shortly after the election, two Democratic state senators defected to the Republican Party, giving Republicans a majority in that legislative house for the first time ever. Also, the economic prosperity that fueled Patton's first term success faded into a recession in the early 2000s. Faced with a hostile legislature and a dire economic forecast, Patton was unable to enact much significant legislation in his second term. His situation was exacerbated in 2002 when news of an extramarital affair and allegations of a sex-for-favors scandal broke. After initially denying the affair, Patton later admitted to it, but continued to deny using his office to benefit his mistress. Later in his term, Patton was attacked for pardoning four of his political advisers who were charged with violating the state's campaign finance laws and for allegedly abusing his patronage powers. The successive scandals derailed any further political aspirations. In 2009, he was chosen to chair the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and in 2010, he was installed as the 18th president of Pikeville College.


Early life

Paul Patton was born in Fallsburg, Lawrence County, Kentucky on May 26, 1937.[1] The house where he was born was a retrofitted silo with no indoor plumbing, electricity, or telephone.[2] Patton was the only son of the three children born to Ward and Irene Patton.[3] The family moved often because Ward Patton, a teacher, was assigned to a different school every year.[2] When he was hired by a railroad in Pike County, he and his wife agreed that she would remain in Fallsburg with the children until they finished school.[2]

Patton attended Fallsburg Elementary School, a four-room schoolhouse in his hometown.[2] He was active in the 4-H club, where he began to develop his public speaking ability.[2] In 1951, he enrolled at Louisa High School in Louisa, Kentucky.[2] He was an honor student, a member of the drama club, played football and baseball, and was class president his senior year.[3][2] During his senior year, Patton and three classmates skipped school and took a joyride to nearby Huntington, West Virginia.[2] When their car had a flat tire, the classmates were caught stealing a spare tire from the unlocked trunk of another car.[2] Patton and his friends spent two nights in juvenile detention and were required to write an essay on the evils of stealing.[2] In 1955, he graduated with the third-highest grade point average in his high school class of 73 students.[3]

After high school, Patton matriculated to the University of Kentucky and unsuccessfully sought a seat in the Student Government Association in 1956.[4] Following his sophomore year, he married his first wife, Carol Cooley, daughter of a Floyd County, Kentucky coal mine operator.[2] They had two children together – Nikki and Christopher.[5] He borrowed money from his father-in-law to finish paying for his education.[2] In 1959, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.[1] He was later awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from the University of Louisville.[6]

After graduation, Patton went to work as a day laborer for his father-in-law.[5] In 1961, he moved to Virgie and founded a coal company with his brother-in-law.[2] In 1972, he purchased Chapperal Coal Company.[5] He became extremely wealthy during the coal boom that resulted from the 1973 oil crisis.[5] He became a leader in the coal industry, serving on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Coal Association, chairing the Board of the National Independent Coal Operators Association, and becoming a member of the Kentucky Deep Mine Safety Commission.[4] By 1976, he had become president of the National Independent Coal Operators Association.[5]

Patton was regarded as more moderate than most coal operators with regard to his relationship to labor unions.[2] Most of his mine workers were not unionized, and those that were generally belonged to the Southern Labor Union as opposed to the more confrontational United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).[2] Members of the local UMWA at Shelby Gap maintained that Patton was arrested for clipping a striking miner on a picket line with his pickup truck in the late 1970s.[2] Local law enforcement officials claim no recollection of the incident, and there is no record of an arrest warrant against Patton or the actual arrest.[2]

Patton denounced the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 as "right in its diagnosis of the problem, but wrong in prescription for the cure".[7] He railed against a federal regulation that would prohibit strip mining on slopes of greater than 20 degrees, which would have effectively ended that method of mining in the Eastern Mountain Coal Fields region of the state.[7] He also lamented the economic disadvantage imposed on Kentucky coal miners by the state's coal severance tax.[7]

On October 18, 1976, Patton filed for divorce from his wife, saying only that their marriage was irretrievably broken.[2] The divorce was final on February 25, 1977.[2] Later that year, Patton married Judi Jane Conway of Pikeville, a secretary at Patton's Kentucky Elkhorn mine.[2] Conway's father had been the sheriff of Pike County and was killed by two bootleggers in 1950.[2] In 1973, Conway had divorced her first husband, Bill Harvey Johnson.[2] Johnson and Conway had two children – Jan Harvey Johnson, Jr. and Bambi (Johnson) Todd.[5] In 1975, Johnson was murdered in what police described as an organized-crime-type hit.[2]

Political career

Patton was first introduced to politics by state senator Kelsey Friend.[8] Friend arranged for Patton to be a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention.[8] Later, Friend convinced Patton to help raise money for the congressional campaign of Walter "Dee" Huddleston.[8]

Patton sold most of his coal interests in 1978.[5] After a meeting with allies of his friend, First District congressman Carroll Hubbard, in Madisonville on September 20, 1978, Patton considered running for governor in 1979.[9] However, he later determined that he did not have time to organize a campaign before the May primary, and a letter leaked to the Paducah Sun indicated that he believed his support from Hubbard was waning.[9] He joined Terry McBrayer's campaign during the primary, and after McBrayer lost, he worked to elect John Y. Brown, Jr., the Democratic nominee.[10] Brown won the election, and Patton accepted his offer to become deputy secretary of transportation.[4] He served only three months before resigning in protest over Brown's proposal for a coal severance tax.[2]

In late 1981, Brown asked Patton to become vice-chair of the state Democratic Party.[11] He would serve under Dale Sights of Henderson.[11] The morning after Brown made the request, he contacted Patton again to tell him there had been a change of plans.[11] He had decided to appoint his father, a former U. S. Representative as chairman.[11] Brown's advisers later convinced him that such an appointment would be politically damaging, and Brown finally decided to appoint Patton as party chair.[12] June Taylor, daughter of former governor Ruby Laffoon, would be vice-chair.[12] The announcement was a great surprise to most political observers, who believed Dale Sights had been the odds-on favorite for the chairmanship.[12] Patton served as chairman until 1983.[5] During his tenure, he learned much about politics from Vice-chair Taylor and was introduced to Andrew "Skipper" Martin of Louisville, who would later become an important political adviser and ally.[12]


Pike County Judge/Executive

A large, brown building with towering windows, a clock tower, and a statue of a man in front
The Pike County courthouse underwent a $5 million renovation under Patton

In 1981, Patton ran for county judge/executive of Pike County, Kentucky.[5] En route to a victory in the Democratic primary, Patton outspent incumbent Wayne Rutherford $191,252 to $49,000.[2] In the general election, he garnered more than 75 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Jim Polley.[5]

Within six months of being elected, Patton instituted the state's first mandatory, county-wide garbage collection program to combat illegal garbage dumping, which was rampant in the county.[13] The program won Patton state-wide acclaim.[13] When Patton sought re-election in 1985, he again faced Rutherford in the Democratic primary.[5] Rutherford campaigned against the garbage collection program, promising to repeal it if elected. This stance may have hurt him, because although some county residents resented the mandatory fee for garbage pick-up, many more recognized the benefits, as illegal dump sites became less common. Patton won the primary again, and went on re-election. He won both races by much smaller margins than in 1981, however.[5]

Patton initiated an oil recycling program and established a work program for welfare mothers in day care centers.[1] He oversaw construction of a new jail and a $5 million renovation to the county courthouse.[14] He brought the county its first manufacturing company and stopped the practice of giving away gravel, drains, and bridge lumber from district warehouses to private citizens.[14] Among his other focuses as judge/executive were the construction of rural roads and recreation facilities.[4]

In 1987, Patton ran for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky.[1] In a crowded primary, his 130,713 votes placed him third behind Brereton Jones (189,058 votes) and Attorney General David L. Armstrong (147,718 votes), but ahead of state senator David Boswell and Superintendent of Public Instruction Alice McDonald.[14] In the most expensive primary in Kentucky history to that point, Patton spent more than $2 million of his personal fortune, but was outspent by Jones, who committed more than $3 million to the campaign.[14] (By comparison, Martha Layne Collins spent $140,000 to win the office in 1979 and Steve Beshear spent $250,000 to win it in 1983.)[15]

Following his defeat, Patton returned to Pike County and was re-elected for a third term as judge/executive in 1989, receiving over 70 percent of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary and winning the general election by nearly a three-to-one margin.[5] He immediately began building toward another run for lieutenant governor in 1991.[16] In the first campaign, the UMWA was vociferously opposed to Patton because employees in his coal mines had been affiliated with the Southern Labor Union.[16] Skipper Martin introduced him to Teamsters leaders, and Patton worked with these leaders to unionize Pike County employees.[16] He also worked with Kelsey Friend to pass the Kentucky Rural Economic Development Act, a measure giving financial incentives to companies who located in economically depressed rural counties.[17]

Lieutenant governor

Patton sought the office of lieutenant governor again in 1991.[1] In a crowded seven candidate field in the Democratic primary, the front runner was Attorney General Fred Cowan of Louisville.[2] Just days before the primary it was reported that Cowan's campaign had sent a fundraising letter to a firm that his office was investigating for criminal conduct regarding state contracts.[2] Patton surged past Cowan with 146,102 votes to Cowan's 104,337. (Other candidates included Steve Collins, son of former governor Martha Layne Collins, and former Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives Bobby H. Richardson.)

In the general election, Patton faced Republican Eugene Goss.[18] Goss blasted Patton for announcing that, if elected, he would seek the governors office at the expiration of his term.[19] Goss insisted that he would not seek the governorship if elected, and maintained that using the lieutenant governor's post as a stepping stone to the governor's office was a betrayal of the office and its authority.[19] Goss ran an unorthodox campaign, limiting individual contributions to his campaign to $300 and refusing to run television commercials.[19] Patton went on to a lopsided victory in the general election, winning 514,023 votes to 250,857 for Goss.[18]

Upon his election as lieutenant governor, Patton resigned his office as Pike County judge-executive. While presiding over the Senate in the 1991 legislative session, Patton notably voted against a mandatory seat belt law, breaking a 19–19 tie.[20] Patton was the last Kentucky lieutenant governor to preside over the Kentucky Senate.[20] A 1992 amendment to the state constitution created a new position, President of the Kentucky Senate, and relieved the lieutenant governor of his duties in that body.[20]

Governor Brereton Jones appointed Patton as secretary of economic development, making Patton the first lieutenant governor to serve as an appointed cabinet secretary.[4] In this capacity, he encouraged the use of tax incentives to bring new industry to the state.[2] Bill Bishop, a journalist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, criticized Patton's use of tax incentives, saying he too often used them to attract low-wage jobs.[21] Patton authored a series of essays in response to Bishop's criticism; while he never published them in the newspaper, he later compiled them into a book entitled Kentucky’s Approach to Economic Development.[21] He also completely redesigned Kentucky economic development efforts, securing the adoption of four new economic development incentive programs and the establishing the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership.[4]

Gubernatorial election in 1995

At the expiration of his term in 1995, Patton announced his candidacy for governor.[1] The 1995 gubernatorial election was unique in several ways thanks to a 1992 constitutional amendment passed under the Jones administration.[18] It would be the first election in Kentucky history in which the governor and lieutenant governor were elected as a ticket instead of separately.[18] Another new provision stated that, if no candidate received at least forty percent of the vote in his or her party's primary, a runoff election would occur between the top two candidates.[18] Most significantly, the winners of each race would be allowed to succeed themselves in office for another term for the first time in Kentucky history.[18] Also, as a result of campaign finance reform passed under Governor Jones, candidates would receive public campaign financing and would have their campaign spending capped, negating the advantage of wealthy candidates.[18]

Patton chose Steve Henry, a surgeon and county commissioner from Louisville, as his running mate. His major opposition in the Democratic primary came from secretary of state Bob Babbage and President Pro Tempore of the Kentucky Senate John "Eck" Rose.[18] Although sitting governor Brereton Jones did not officially endorse Patton in the race, Rose referred to Jones as Patton's "mentor".[22] Rose charged that, like Jones, Patton would not take a hard stand on the issues; referring to a nickname given to Jones in the 1991 campaign, Rose remarked "If you have liked Jell-O Jones, then you are going to be in a position to love Puddin' Paul Patton."[22] Particularly onerous to Rose was Patton's stated support of collective bargaining for public employees but his declaration that he would not fight for it in the upcoming 1996 legislative session.[22] Though Babbage and Rose were political veterans and solid campaigners, Patton won 152,203 votes in the primary, well over the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff.[18] Babbage ran second with 81,352 votes and Rose was third with 71,740 votes.[18] Two minor candidates split the remaining 33,344 votes.[18]

Patton entered the general election as a perceived underdog.[23] The previous year, Republicans had taken over both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and a majority of Kentucky's congressional delegation were Republicans for the first time in decades.[23] State Democrats were also tainted by the Operation Boptrot investigation that sent many of their legislators, including House Speaker Don Blandford, to prison on charges of political corruption.[24] With Democrats in charge of state government for the previous 24 years, Patton feared that the "time for a change" argument would resonate with voters.[24]

Patton's opponent, Republican Larry Forgy, hurt his campaign by aligning himself with the Christian right, alienating moderates in both parties, particularly in the city of Louisville.[23] He also openly opposed the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), passed in 1990 during the administration of governor Wallace G. Wilkinson.[23] Republican supporters of education reform deserted his campaign and helped form a bi-partisan coalition supporting KERA.[23] Traditional Democratic voting blocs such as organized labor and African-Americans, turned out in force for Patton.[23] He also used the Republican Congress' budget cuts to programs affecting the elderly against Forgy.[23] Taken together, these issues ultimately delivered a victory for Patton by a vote of 500,787 to 479,227.[23] It was the closest gubernatorial election in thirty-two years in Kentucky, and it marked the first time an eastern Kentuckian had won the governorship since Bert T. Combs in 1959.[23]

First term as governor (1995–1999)

Though Patton had ambitions of enacting education reform early in his administration, his financial adviser, James R. Ramsey, convinced him to propose a conservative budget in the first legislative session.[25] The two developed a plan to modernize the state government, making it more efficient.[26] State employees were leery of increased efficiency, believing it was a code word for cutting state jobs.[26] Patton dispelled this notion by promising no involuntary layoffs.[26] Patton also anticipated difficulty persuading legislators to invest an estimated $100 million in equipment and processes to realize improved efficiency.[26] However, when economists projected a budget surplus for 1996, Patton agreed to invest half of it in capital projects in exchange for using the other half for measures to improve government efficiency.[26] Patton formed an Office for Technology and made improvements in the compatibility and interoperability of the state's computer systems that were recommended by his son, Chris.[27] Investments of $23.3 million yielded a return of $300 million in state revenue.[28] By the time Patton's efficiency program was fully implemented, the state was realizing an annual return of 75 cents for every dollar initially invested.[28]

In December 1996, Patton called a special legislative session to consider the issue of worker's compensation reform.[29] Both Patton and the state's legislators believed that the generous benefits provided under Kentucky state law created an unfavorable business climate in the state.[30] The reform measures adopted in the special session included a substantial reduction in benefits, including those to coal miners who developed black lung disease.[30] Patton's support of this measure alienated labor leaders, especially in eastern Kentucky's coal mining communities – which had previously been among his strongest supporters.[30] As the law's effects began to manifest themselves, Patton himself agreed that it had gone too far, and his Secretary of Labor worked with representatives from organized labor to draft changes in the law.[31] Those changes were eventually made in the 2002 legislative session.[31]

Education reform

In the 1997 legislature, Patton began his mission of reforming the state's system of higher education.[32] Noting that the state's community colleges, under the control of the University of Kentucky, and technical schools, under the control of the state government, were too often competing with each other in the same community, he proposed removing the community colleges from the university's control.[33] Also part of the plan was upgrading the technical schools to colleges, allowing them to award associate's degrees, not just diplomas and certificates.[34] Control of the community and technical colleges would be invested in a new entity, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.[34] Patton believed that severing the community colleges from the University of Kentucky would allow the university to reallocate resources toward becoming a "Top 20" research university in the nation.[32] The plan also charged the University of Louisville with becoming a nationally-recognized urban university.[34] The state's Council on Postsecondary Education would help eliminate duplication of programs among the colleges and oversee the improvements in the state's two major universities.[34] Patton's plan was outlined in the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997, nicknamed House Bill 1.[6]

A red brick building with white columns and a clock tower on top
The University of Kentucky was charged with becoming a "Top 20" research university under House Bill 1

While supported by the state's smaller, regional universities, House Bill 1 immediately drew the ire of University of Kentucky president Charles T. Wethington, Jr.[32][35] Prior to becoming university president, Wethington had administered the community college system.[32] Most of the community colleges and the constituencies in their communities also opposed the plan.[32] Both the university and the community colleges ran ads encouraging opposition to the plan; Patton characterized the ads as "mean".[32] Patton was disappointed when Greg Stumbo, a leader in the Kentucky House of Representatives and former advocate of an independent community college system, announced his opposition the plan.[32] Stumbo represented the community of Prestonsburg, an eastern Kentucky coal mining town, and Patton surmised that he was still angry about the worker's compensation bill.[32] Prestonsburg was also the home of Prestonsburg Community College (now Big Sandy Community and Technical College.[32] Even in the face of this opposition, Patton negotiated with individual legislators until he was convinced that he had a majority in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly.[32] He then pushed forward and was able to get the legislation passed.[36]

In addition to winning approval of House Bill 1, Patton also secured passage of other higher education measures. In the 1998 legislative session, he proposed a $100 million bond issue to fund the Research Challenge Trust Fund, a fund that the state's universities could tap to hire researchers for special projects.[37] The program, later nicknamed "Bucks for Brains", required the universities to match any resources leveraged from the fund dollar-for-dollar.[38] The 1998 legislature also approved funding of the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program.[38] The program channeled funds from the Kentucky Lottery into a special fund for scholarships.[38] In order to qualify for a KEES scholarship, students must earn at least a 2.5 grade point average in high school and attend a college or university in Kentucky.[38] Awards are made on a sliding scale, with factors such as high school grades, scores on college entrance exams, and continued academic success in college affecting the amount of the award, which is renewable for up to eight college terms.[38]

Patton's education reforms were not confined to higher education. He also sought to make changes to the Kentucky Education Reform Act that would mollify its critics without gutting the law itself.[39] One of the major complaints regarding KERA was the inability to compare the scores to scores from other states to determine if progress was being made relative to the rest of the nation.[40] Opponents of KERA in the Senate passed a bill to eliminate the testing until something better could be implemented.[41] In the House, a more moderate measure advanced that added a component to the testing system that would allow students to be compared to national norms.[41] Patton supported the House version of the bill, which ultimately emerged from the conference committee and was enacted into law.[41] The administration's strong support of KERA kept it from being seriously challenged again during Patton's term.[41] One notable exception occurred in 2000 when legislators tried to repeal the anti-nepotism provision regarding school hiring.[41] The measure passed both houses of the legislature, but Patton vetoed it.[41]

Passage of his higher education reforms led to Patton chairing the Southern Regional Education Board from 1997 to 1998.[42] In 1999, he was chosen chairman of the Education Commission of the States.[42] Other educational organizations then sought Patton's leadership; he chaired the National Education Goals Panel and was chosen by the U.S. Secretary of Education to lead a commission to study the high school senior year.[43]

In the 1998 legislative session, the state enjoyed a $200 million budget surplus.[36] Patton was able to distribute this surplus to legislative allies, giving him substantial leverage for his proposals.[36] As one legislative leader opined, "Money buys a lot of silence."[44] Legislators were also reluctant to buck the administration for fear that Patton would be re-elected in 1999.[36] Consequently, Patton was able to gain approval of a very ambitious legislative agenda in 1998, including tougher criminal laws, improved economic development, reform for Medicaid, and further reform of the higher education system.[36]

Patton also used some of the budget surplus to provide computers for public classrooms.[45] Because of his commitment to education, Kentucky was the first state in the nation to have every public school classroom wired to the Internet.[46] Once this was accomplished, Patton charged his education secretary, Ed Ford, with developing the Kentucky Virtual High School, a system of distance education that would allow students in smaller high schools in Kentucky to have access to courses like foreign languages that were only offered at larger high schools.[46] The virtual high school was brought online in January 2000.[46]

The last plank in Patton's education platform was the improvement of adult education. This issue allowed him to work with a political foe, Republican senator David L. Williams, who had been pushing for additional resources for adult education since 1997.[47] In 1998, Patton personally chaired a task force on adult education, and 18 months later, the task force's recommendations were incorporated into a bill sponsored by Williams.[47] The bill, which increased and equalized funding and tied continuing funds to successful performance by individual adult education programs, passed both houses of the General Assembly unanimously.[47] By 2003, the number of adults completing their GED rose 17 percent, and the number of GED recipients who matriculated to college rose from 13 percent to 18 percent.[48]

Criminal justice reform

Also on Patton's agenda was a reformation of Kentucky's juvenile justice system. Under Brereton Jones, Patton's predecessor, Kentucky was one of only two states unable to qualify for federal grants because its system of housing and treating juvenile offenders.[49] Among the problems cited by the Department of Justice were abuse of juveniles by state employees and failure to hold juvenile and adult offenders separately from each other.[50] Governor Jones entered into a consent decree to ameliorate the situation, but his term expired before he could meaningfully address the terms of the decree.[49] Patton went beyond the terms of the consent decree, implementing mandatory training for state employees who dealt with juvenile offenders and setting up a hotline for juveniles to anonymously report abuse.[50] He shifted the responsibility for housing juveniles from local communities to the state, constructing nine new juvenile detention centers across the state.[50] In January 2001, Attorney General Janet Reno proclaimed Kentucky's juvenile justice system a model for the nation.[49]

Patton did not stop with the juvenile justice system, however. He encouraged passage of a bill that required that violent offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentences (up from the 50 percent previously mandated), while requiring that judges consider home incarceration for first-time, non-violent offenders.[51] The bill also allowed judges to sentence criminals to life without parole; previously, life without parole for 25 years had been the harshest non-capital sentence.[51] The bill passed the legislature in 1999.[52]

Second term as governor (1999–2003)

A man with long, gray, thinning hair wearing a white button-up shirt and a black jacket. He is facing left.
James Garrard was the only Kentucky governor to succeed himself in office prior to Patton, doing so in 1800

Due to a constitutional amendment enacted under previous governor Brereton Jones, Patton became the first governor in more than 200 years was eligible to succeed himself in office. James Garrard served consecutive terms in 1796 and 1800, but the Kentucky Constitution of 1799 barred any future governor from being elected to consecutive terms. In 1796, Garrard was chosen as governor by electors, not by popular vote, and thus Patton was the first Kentucky governor ever popularly elected to consecutive terms.[3]

Patton was unopposed in the Democratic primary.[44] Republicans nominated Peppy Martin, who many considered a weak candidate.[44] In fact, Patton's old Republican foe, David Williams, announced he would vote for Patton over Martin.[53] In the general election Patton garnered 352,099 votes, 60.6% of the total.[44] Martin finished with 128,788 votes, with 88,930 votes going to third-party candidate Gatewood Galbraith.[44] When asked why the Republicans had chosen such a weak challenger, Patton opined "They mistakenly believed I could not be beaten. They made a mistake."[44]

After the gubernatorial election in 1999, Louisville senator Dan Seum announced he would change his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, citing his conservative voting history, including opposition to the state lottery, KERA, and abortion.[54] This switch, which Patton learned of too late to intervene, equalized the number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.[55] Six weeks later, Paducah senator Bob Leeper announced he would also change his party affiliation.[55] Patton did travel to Paducah and meet with Leeper, but was unable to convince him to remain a Democrat.[55] Leeper had a history of conflict with Democratic Senate President Larry Saunders, but he insisted his party switch, like Seum's, was based on political philosophy.[56] Leeper's switch gave Republicans a majority in the Senate for the first time in the state's history.[44] David Williams was elected President of the Senate, and effectively held the Republican majority together.[44] Consequently, Patton faced a difficult task in maneuvering his agenda through a divided General Assembly.[44]

The rift between Williams and Patton became permanent during negotiations over the state budget in 1999.[57] Patton proposed to Williams a 7-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, with 1 cent of every 7 dedicated to counties with the most unpaved roads – usually heavily Republican counties ignored by past Democratic governors.[58] Patton claimed Williams told him he had 10 votes in the Senate for the increase.[58] But gas prices spiked before the measure came to a vote in the Senate, and Williams failed to deliver after the House passed the tax.[57] The administration and key Republican senators reached a compromise that saved Patton's budget with tax changes that were mostly revenue neutral.[59] Patton believed Williams had deliberately misled him, however, and the two never reconciled.[59]

Another issue confronting both Patton and the legislature was how to spend federal funds from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.[60] Kentucky's share of the settlement totaled $3.5 billion over 25 years.[60] Because tobacco was a major cash crop in Kentucky, Patton proposed that half of the settlement be used to diversify the state's farmers' crops.[60] One-fourth of the money would support health care and anti-smoking efforts.[60] The remaining one-fourth would address early childhood care and education, a cause important to Patton's daughter, Nicki, an early childhood educator.[61]

In November 2000, Kentucky voters approved a constitutional amendment adding a shorter legislative session in odd-numbered years to the longer sessions held every even-numbered year.[62] Most of Patton's proposals failed in the 2000 and 2001 legislative sessions.[62] The economic boom that had provided ample funds for Patton's programs during his first term slowed in 2001, and by 2002, the state was $800 million short of meeting its budget.[63] In 2002, Republicans in the General Assembly called for an end to public campaign finance as a way to save money.[64] Calling it "welfare for politicians", Republicans estimated that abolishing public campaign finance could save the state $30 million.[64] Ultimately, the issued derailed the biennial budget during the regular legislative session.[64] In April 2002, Patton called a special legislative session to approve the budget, but legislators were still unable to agree.[64] For the first time in the state's history, the fiscal year began without a budget.[64] This left Patton to run the state government for a year without a budget in place.[62]

Besides the budget, another measure that failed to pass in the 2002 session was a bill to eliminate the death penalty for juveniles.[52] The precedent for the juvenile death penalty had been set in the 1989 Supreme Court case of Stanford v. Kentucky,[65] wherein the court ruled that Kevin Stanford could be executed for the 1981 rape, sodomy, and murder of a gas station attendant in Jefferson County, Kentucky, even though Stanford was only 17 at the time of the crime.[66] In 2003, Patton announced he would commute Stanford's sentence.[52] Patton did oversee the execution of two adult prisoners in 1997 and 1999, making him the first Kentucky governor to do so since 1962.[52]

Tina Conner sex scandal

Already plagued by an uncooperative legislature, Patton's situation was exacerbated in 2002 when it was revealed that, during his first term in office, he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a woman named Tina Conner.[44] According to Connor, the operator of Birchtree Healthcare nursing home in Clinton, Kentucky, the relationship ended in 1999, but Patton continued to call her until she completely broke off the affair in October 2001.[67] After initially denying the affair, Patton admitted to it at a press conference at the Kentucky History Center on September 20, 2002.[62] The story made Patton the object of state and national ridicule, even becoming the subject of jokes by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.[62] The Louisville Courier-Journal called for Patton's resignation, stating that he was "too damaged as a moral authority to lead...[and] too powerless as a politician to compel."[68]

Connor alleged that Patton arranged regulatory favors for the nursing home while the affair was ongoing.[68] Two months after Connor said she broke off the affair, Birchtree Healthcare was cited by state regulators for numerous violations of health and safety rules.[67] By July 2002, the state had pulled all Medicare and Medicaid payments from the facility, which soon went bankrupt.[67] Connor further alleged that the state investigation of Birchtree was retaliation by Patton for ending the affair.[62] In a separate incident, Conner claimed that Patton helped a construction company owned by Conner obtain certification as a disadvantaged business, giving the company special preference when bidding for state contracts.[69]

The affair appeared to take a toll on Patton's marriage; his wife Judi was reported to be living in separate quarters in the governor's mansion and was rarely seen in public with him.[68] Key members of his cabinet also began to resign. Financial adviser James Ramsey left to become the president of the University of Louisville.[70] Attorney General Jack Conway resigned to challenge incumbent congresswoman Anne Northup in the 2002 congressional elections.[70] In January 2003, Executive Cabinet Secretary Crit Luallen also resigned.[71]

Patton had risen to national prominence, successively chairing the Southern Governors Association, the Democratic Governors Association, and the National Governors Association.[1] He was serving as NGA chair at the time the Tina Conner scandal broke, and planned to resign his chairmanship in November 2002.[42] Nevertheless, the other governors rallied around him, convincing him to remain in the position.[42] Together with his Republican vice-chair, Idaho's Dirk Kempthorne, Patton led the NGA effectively, securing federal funding to shore up state budgets and keeping the caucus from a partisan split in a vote over Medicaid.[43]

Conner filed suit against Patton in September 2002.[69] By late 2003, all but one of her charges against Patton had been dismissed; the remaining charge alleged "outrageous" conduct.[69] In March 2003, the state's Executive Branch Ethics Commission investigated Conner's claims and accused Patton of four ethics violations, charging that he "used or attempted to use his official position" to provide favors for Conner.[68] The favors included contacting the state transportation secretary with regard to Conner's disadvantaged business application, recommending a promotion for an officer who allegedly helped Conner avoid paying a traffic ticket, appointing Conner to the board of directors for the Kentucky Lottery, and appointing Conner's then-husband to the Agricultural Development Board.[72] Patton claimed that the favors he requested for Conner were the same kind of favors that he had requested for dozens of influential constituents.[68] He also claimed he had not profited financially from any of the requested favors.[68] He maintained that his attitude toward constituent services was "If you can do so legally and ethically, help them."[68]

Other scandals and loss of legislative influence

Due to the deteriorating economic situation nationally, Kentucky faced a severe budget shortfall in 2003.[73] Patton proposed an overhaul of the state tax system whereby tax revenue would keep pace with the state's eventual economic recovery.[73] Such reform would necessarily have meant tax increases, however, and with the 2003 gubernatorial election looming, legislators from both parties stuck strictly to a pledge not to raise taxes.[74] Consequently, in the 2003 legislative session, members of the General Assembly crafted a budget that completely disregarded any input from Patton.[68] The budget included repealing the campaign finance reform bill passed a decade earlier and supported by Patton.[74] Patton conceded "I have lost any ability to influence the legislature."[68]

During his final months in office, Patton drew criticism for abusing his patronage power.[75] Critics charged that he had appointed several of his family and friends who were in non-merit system jobs to merit system positions, increasing their chances of being retained when a new administration took over.[76] These charges were particularly damaging because, earlier in the year, the General Assembly had ordered Patton to cut 800 non-merit positions to help balance the budget.[76] The Lexington Herald-Leader opined that these charges were more serious than those of the Conner affair.[75] Patton maintained that his friends had followed proper personnel protocol in applying for and securing merit positions.[76]

In June 2003, Patton issued pardons for four men who were being investigated for violating campaign finance laws during the 1995 gubernatorial race.[75] The investigations stemmed from charges by then-candidate Larry Forgy that Patton had skirted campaign finance laws by coordinating expenditures with the Teamsters and the state Democratic Party.[76] A Franklin County grand jury returned indictments against the four men in 1998, but a circuit court judge dismissed them in 1999 on grounds that the campaign finance law was too vague.[76] An appeals court reversed that decision the following year, and in 2003, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the indictments by a vote of 5—1.[77] The Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal on June 13, 2003.[77] Two days later, Patton issued pardons for all four men.[77] State attorney general Ben Chandler lamented that the pardons would eliminate the possibility of determining whether Patton won the 1995 contest "honestly and openly".[75]

Later life

Patton had publicly stated that he was planning a run against Republican U. S. Senator Jim Bunning in 2004, but the scandals that plagued him near the end of his administration derailed those plans.[78] He retired to Pikeville, Kentucky after the election of his successor, Ernie Fletcher. He became a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Pikeville, the Big Sandy Regional Economic Development Board and chairman of the Pikeville/Pike County Industrial and Economic Authority.[4] Tina Conner's final claim against Patton – for "outrage" – was dismissed by a judge in May 2006.[79] In October 2006, Conner filed a second lawsuit against Patton alleging misconduct by a public official and government oppression; a Franklin County judge dismissed the suit, claiming it was an attempt by Conner to re-litigate the claims from her first suit.[79]

On February 1, 2009, Patton was chosen chairman of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).[6] On August 12, 2009, he was announced as the next president of Pikeville College.[80] In September 2009, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion that Patton could serve in both roles without a significant conflict of interest because the CPE wields very little oversight of Kentucky's private colleges.[81] He was advised to allow someone other than himself to be the official liaison between Pikeville College and the CPE and to recuse himself from CPE discussions on matters "that directly involve his private institution or that would affect his institution differently than any other similarly situated private postsecondary institution."[81]

Patton was formally installed as president of Pikeville College on February 16, 2010.[82] He also serves as a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in Public Policy and Leadership.[4] His term as president of the CPE expires December 31, 2013.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Kentucky Governor Paul E. Patton". National Governors Association
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Mueller, p. A1
  3. ^ a b c d Blanchard, p. 251
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Paul E. Patton". Hall of Distinction
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Blanchard, p. 252
  6. ^ a b c d "Paul Patton Bio". Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
  7. ^ a b c "Proposed Strip Mining Curbs Denounced By Coal Operators". Kentucky New Era
  8. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 22
  9. ^ a b "Patton Will Not Run For Governor In 1979". Kentucky New Era
  10. ^ Ellers, p. 24
  11. ^ a b c d Ellers, p. 28
  12. ^ a b c d Ellers, p. 29
  13. ^ a b Ellers, p. 27
  14. ^ a b c d Blanchard, p. 253
  15. ^ Ellers, p. 35
  16. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 31
  17. ^ Ellers, p. 32
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Blanchard, p. 254
  19. ^ a b c "Candidate for No. 2 Post Blasts Past Holders of Office". Daily News
  20. ^ a b c Donnell, p. 6A
  21. ^ a b Ellers, p. 33
  22. ^ a b c "Rose Gives Patton New Puddin' Moniker". Kentucky New Era
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harrison, p. 424
  24. ^ a b Ellers, p. 37
  25. ^ Ellers, p. 50
  26. ^ a b c d e Ellers, p. 53
  27. ^ Ellers, pp. 54–55
  28. ^ a b Ellers, p. 55
  29. ^ Ellers, p. 66
  30. ^ a b c Blanchard, p. 256
  31. ^ a b Ellers, p. 69
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Blanchard, p. 257
  33. ^ Ellers, p. 72
  34. ^ a b c d Ellers, p. 81
  35. ^ Ellers, p. 82
  36. ^ a b c d e Blanchard, p. 258
  37. ^ Ellers, p. 94
  38. ^ a b c d e Ellers, p. 95
  39. ^ Ellers, p. 100
  40. ^ Ellers, p. 101
  41. ^ a b c d e f Ellers, p. 102
  42. ^ a b c d Ellers, p. 165
  43. ^ a b Ellers, p. 166
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Blanchard, p. 259
  45. ^ Ellers, p. 103
  46. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 104
  47. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 106
  48. ^ Ellers, p. 107
  49. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 145
  50. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 147
  51. ^ a b Ellers, p. 149
  52. ^ a b c d Ellers, p. 150
  53. ^ Ellers, p. 117
  54. ^ Baniak and Brammer, p. A1
  55. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 118
  56. ^ Brammer, p. A1
  57. ^ a b Ellers, p. 120
  58. ^ a b Ellers, p. 119
  59. ^ a b Ellers, p. 121
  60. ^ a b c d Ellers, p. 131
  61. ^ Ellers, pp. 131, 133
  62. ^ a b c d e f Blanchard, p. 260
  63. ^ Ellers, p. 152
  64. ^ a b c d e Ellers, p. 153
  65. ^ 492 U.S. 361 (1989)
  66. ^ Ellers, pp. 150–151
  67. ^ a b c Long, "Undue influence may be major issue for Patton"
  68. ^ a b c d e f g h i Blanchard, p. 261
  69. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 181
  70. ^ a b Ellers, p. 161
  71. ^ Ellers, p. 162
  72. ^ Ellers, p. 182
  73. ^ a b Ellers, p. 163
  74. ^ a b Ellers, p. 164
  75. ^ a b c d Blanchard, p. 262
  76. ^ a b c d e Ellers, p. 184
  77. ^ a b c Ellers, p. 185
  78. ^ Kinney, p. 1K
  79. ^ a b Ortiz, p. D6
  80. ^ "Former governor is named president of Pikeville College"
  81. ^ a b Rodriguez, "Patton to be reappointed as state council head"
  82. ^ Sparkman, "Former governor is officially installed as college president"

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Brereton C. Jones
Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
1991 (won)
Succeeded by
Steve Henry
Preceded by
Brereton C. Jones
Democratic nominee for Governor of Kentucky
1995 (won), 1999 (won)
Succeeded by
Ben Chandler
Political offices
Preceded by
Brereton C. Jones
Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Steve Henry
Preceded by
Brereton C. Jones
Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Ernie Fletcher
Preceded by
John Engler
Chairman of the National Governor's Association
Succeeded by
Dirk Kempthorne


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