From Fancy Farm to Frankfort — the top five stories from this year’s political coverage

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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These are the top five stories I enjoyed on the politics beat. Our editors tasked reporters with finding the stories they most enjoyed or impacted the community or us. 

I chose various stories that I think will have a major impact on the region and state. 

It was tough to narrow the list as it’s been an exciting year reporting on the region where I grew up, but 2023 has plenty in store with what is sure to be one of the most watched gubernatorial races in the country. 

  1. Deep Dive into House Bill 9 — the charter school bill
This site across from the Ovation Project has been identified as the number one site for a private or charter school, according to some local leaders. The Newport Housing Authority owns the site, which used to be part of the Peter G. Noll Housing Complex. Photo by Mark Payne | LINK nky

There is no bigger hot-button issue than charter schools in Northern Kentucky and the state. The topic drew fervent division from both sides of the aisle — on social media and financially. 

There will also be continued coverage on the subject for years to come, as the legislation will most likely end up in the court system, and it will have a significant impact on the region and the state for decades.

For LINK nky, tying the pieces together in NKY is essential, as there is a lot of context and nuance involved in the subject. It’s also crucial to hold those accountable for their roles — good and bad — in the legislation and to bring the school to the region. 

Also, it really is a team effort working on powerful stories like this, so it’s interesting to see how reporters’ and editors’ minds come together to produce something worth reading. 

  1. One-on-one interview with Governor Andy Beshear
LINK nky Government and Politics Reporter interviews Gov. Andy Beshear at the state capitol. Photo by Cam Miller | LINK nky

As a first-time statehouse reporter, I made mistakes covering my first legislative session. 

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Perhaps the funniest, in retrospect, was my first day covering one of Gov. Andy Beshear’s press conferences. Not knowing the protocol of how reporters ask questions at these things (do we raise our hands?), I attended, and it turns out there’s a press list for the governor to call out to individual reporters. 

I wasn’t ready for this and was red-faced when the governor called my name, and I didn’t have a question. 

Luckily, the governor’s office still reached out to LINK nky for an end-of-year interview with the governor. This was the first time I sat down one-on-one with Kentucky’s governor — or any governor, for that matter. 

  1. Primary and Midterm Election Coverage
LINK nky Chief Content Officer, Michael Monks, and Politics and Government Reporter, Mark Payne, prepare for live midterm election coverage at LINK’s offices in Covington. Photo by Meghan Goth | LINK nky

Before I started at LINK nky, I was, and still am, an avid listener of WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition. 

So, to get a chance to work with the former host, Michael Monks, providing live election coverage was exciting (and nerve-racking). We also hosted numerous election forums, and the Frankfort LINK live weekly during the 2022 legislative session.

Michael has been one of the most talented journalists in our region for a long time, and I’m grateful to have worked with him for a short time. 

He’s leaving for Los Angeles, but I’m sure it won’t be the last time we cross paths. I’m also giving some parting advice — the same he did to me before sending me down to Frankfort — “Don’t f*** it up.”

  1. Omnibus Abortion Bill
Pro-choice advocates protest in the Kentucky statehouse, as the legislature overrides Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the omnibus abortion bill. Photo by Mark Payne | LINK nky

There is a lot of important legislation passed at the Kentucky state house — arguably, all of it is. However, some bills have a significant impact on people’s lives. One of those bills is the omnibus abortion bill that passed the legislature in 2022. 

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I’m not here to give my opinion. I want to report the facts. But, when protest chants reverberated through the House and Senate chamber walls as the legislature voted to override the governor’s veto, it made me fully realize the importance (if I didn’t already) of decisions made in these rooms. It also hit home how important it is to have reporters covering these significant decisions. 

  1. Fancy Farm
Attendees at the 2022 Fancy Farm Picnic. Photo by Mark Payne | LINK nky.

The Fancy Farm picnic is an annual event that features barbeque and campaign rallies on the property of the historic St. Jerome Catholic Church in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, in the far western part of the state. 

It was a fun end-of-summer political treat filled with barbeque, bingo, and political jabbing. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I make the 5-hour drive to the furthest reaches of the state, so I can hear the state’s top political brass make jokes at each others’ expense. 

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