For more than a decade now, citizens from all walks of Southwestern Indiana life have looked state Democrats in the eye and said, "If you persist in destroying our environment and the communities we love through your I-69 payoff to your political pals in Evansville, we will make you pay."

It's time for those citizens to make good on that pledge. Ignoring the common-sense 41-70 route is more than a thumbing of the nose at those citizens and their views by the O'Bannon-Kernan camp. It's giving them the finger. Proceeding with the new-terrain I-69 alternative would be one of the most egregious abuses of political power in Indiana history. It cannot be tolerated.

At this stage in the game, Joe Kernan is the politician who most needs to get that message. He's the one force in Indiana that could actually stop this multi-billion-dollar fleecing of Indiana taxpayers. Federal highway officials and judges could delay it again, but only Kernan can persuade O'Bannon to stop it.

If citizen outrage over the new-terrain I-69 manifested itself in Fernandez' Secretary of State campaign going down in flames, Kernan would get the message. If Democrats finally understand that I-69 threatens their tenuous hold on political power, they might show the people some respect.

The elements of such a campaign are those of any other: get the message out and then get out the vote.

The message must be that Fernandez does not deserve the people's support. Everywhere he campaigns for money or votes, citizens should share the sordid details of I-69 with the people. Truth squads should follow wherever he goes.

Between now and Nov. 5, editorial pages in Southwest Indiana should fill with letters and guest columns detailing the myriad impacts I-69 will have on local economies and the environment and Fernandez' responsibility for them. Editorial pages outside Southwest Indiana should fill with letters and columns explaining what the devastating impacts I-69 will have on local road and street budgets and Fernandez' responsibilities for them.

Citizens should carry the truth about I-69 to as many of their fellow citizens as is humanly possible, through door-to-door canvassing, direct mail, talk show calls, advertising, yard signs, and any other form of political expression they can imagine.

Finally, most important, citizens must get out and vote, and vote correctly. Those who can't bring themselves to vote for Fernandez' Republican opponent can simply not vote in the Secretary of State's race. Fernandez must receive the smallest vote total of any of the four statewide Democratic candidates on this year's ballot, and it must be abundantly clear that I-69 is the reason why.

If that happens, this multi-billion-dollar boondoggle might finally meet the fate it deserves. There's little chance otherwise.