There has been a lot of uncertainty leading up to this Election Day. Distrust about who’s leading in the polls. Speculation about how long it might be after Tuesday before we have a clear presidential winner. Unease about method like mail-in ballots.
But in Kentucky — and specifically Pulaski County — one thing never seemed in great doubt: Hal Rogers.
The Fifth District Congressman representing eastern Kentucky in Washington D.C. has been the textbook definition of a constant, one of the true rarities in politics. Waves changed, red and blue, but silver — the color of Rogers’ head of hair — never seems to go anywhere on Election Day except into the winner’s circle.
Rogers, a native of Wayne County who calls Somerset home, was first elected in 1980. As he often reminds those who attend the many functions at which he speaks, he came in with President Ronald Reagan.
That was 40 years ago. In that time, we’ve had eight years of Reagan, 12 years of the Bush family, eight years of Bill Clinton, eight of Barack Obama, and four of Donald Trump in the White House. Just consider that for a moment. Whole eras of American politics have come and gone — “It’s Morning in America,” the first Black president, the “TEA Party,” multiple Gulf Wars and 9/11 — and here in Kentucky, Rogers just keeps chugging along, serving his district and representing our humble community on the nation’s ever-complex chess board.
This year, Rogers faced a Democratic challenger, Matthew Ryan Best. With all due respect to Mr. Best and all the others who have taken on Rogers over the years, it feels a bit like a “Mortal Kombat” video game. Challenger after challengers takes their shot at the champion at the top of the tower, and challenger after challenger takes their fall. This year, the Associated Press called Rogers’ contest against Best before 7 p.m. It was the first race called nationwide.
Or recall a recent Republican rally at their temporary campaign headquarters on West Ky. 80, people were urged to put up yard signs supporting GOP heavyweights in more serious battles like Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump. Yard signs for Rogers seemed an afterthought to this bunch; his chances at victory, practically axiomatic.
Indeed, it’s become easy to take Rogers’ presence in Congress for granted. Yet even 40 years after his first election, it does not appear that Rogers has ever taken his home turf for granted in turn. Even this year, he’s still been heavily involved in making the Mill Springs Battlefield part of the National Park System, protecting the once endangered plot of historical significance. It was only two years ago that he spearheaded the transformative effort to bring four-year degree programs to Somerset through the University Center of Southern Kentucky. And every time you turn around, he’s securing money for this project or that cause all over the wide swath of eastern Kentucky that he represents.
Rogers has become the longest-serving Kentuckian ever elected to federal office. He has served in one of the most influential positions in Washington, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. His name decorates any number of this region’s programs, roadways and buildings — including the building so many Pulaski Countians voted in this extended election season, the Hal Rogers Fire Training Center. Consider that — people going to vote for you in a building that bears your name. That’s the kind of impact Rogers has on this area.
There will come a time when Rogers is no longer our representative in Washington. It is difficult to imagine such a time, frankly, but it is inevitable. Even the most ardent of constants is due to see its day of change. For now, let us simply sit back in awe and appreciation of Rogers’ consistency, his political dominance, and his dedication to this area, and let us not take it for granted. Rogers is set to begin his 21st term as our Congressman, entering his fifth decade in that role.
Few things are certain in politics these days, but Rogers remains rock-solid. Congratulations on yet another victory, Mr. Congressman.
THE COMMONWEALTH JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD consists of Mark Walker, General Manager; Jeff Neal, Editor; Steve Cornelius, Sports Editor; Bill Mardis, Editor Emeritus; Mary Ann flynn, Advertising; Shirley Randall, Production; and Christopher Harris, Staff Writer.