• U.S.

ELECTIONS: Kentucky: Exit Old Bear

2 minute read

Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District,where Abraham Lincoln was born, last week voted Republican for the second time in its history (first time: in the 1928 Hoover sweep). It was ready to go Republican anyway. But with J. Dan Talbott as the Democratic candidate in a Congressional by-election, the Fourth gave the G.O.P. a landslide.

J. Dan Talbott is a gruff, rough political boss who has ruled the Fourth as his father-in-law (and now his enemy) Ben Johnson, 85, did before him. He stage-managed the rise of Senator Albert B. (“Happy”) Chandler. Arbitrary with his patronage, he antagonized many a ward heeler, earned the nickname of “The Old Bear.” No one knew why he decided to run for Congress just when the Democratic ship was rocking in Kentucky. But retiring Governor Keen Johnson (no kin to Patriarch Ben) obligingly arranged for Talbott to be nominated. At the polls Talbott was exposed to “bullet votes” from disgruntled party hacks and from citizens who resented his highhandedness.

The extent of the dour “Old Bear’s” unpopularity could easily be gauged. Month ago, Kentucky elected its first Republican Governor since 1927. But the G.O.P. failed by 229 votes to capture the Fourth District. Last week, the G.O.P. swept the Fourth by a 12,600 majority.

The Republican victor was Chester O. Carrier, 47, longtime Grayson County attorney. Quiet, slow-spoken and slightly rotund, Carrier had punched cattle in Wyoming, railroaded in Pennsylvania, sold Bibles in the Appalachians. Outside Grayson County, no one knew much about him. But they did know Dan Talbott.

Democrats tried to dismiss Kentucky’s clincher as “local issues.” The New York Times’s Arthur Krock, who used to live in the Fourth himself, judiciously summed up: “If the result did not foreshadow a certain Republican victory next year, it increased the prospect.”

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