Sunday, April 25, 1999

Abortion foe eases up a bit with reporters

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bob Cetrulo was in a good mood Wednesday afternoon. So good he sat down to break bread — actually a Dixie Chili three-way and cheese coney — with a couple of reporters who have long butted heads with the passionate, committed, driven and sometimes vitriolic head of the Northern Kentucky Right to Life group.

        “This is kind of new to me,” Mr. Cetrulo said, smiling as he twirled spaghetti around his fork. “I don't often eat with the press.”

        That's mainly because the press, including this space, regularly and even especially chews on Mr. Cetrulo. Some of the criticism and heat is deserved. He brings a lot of it on himself.

        But some of media scrutiny probably goes too far. Mr. Cetrulo — who never backs down from a fight, who can get in your face one minute and debate you under a table the next, who has the zeal and some say zealotry to defend his cause at almost any cost — is an easy mark for all of those reasons and more.

        Yet Mr. Cetrulo wasn't looking for a fight as he lunched on Monmouth Street with his new media buddies. Nor were the reporters.

        All were in Newport to hear native son Gary Bauer announce his plans to run for president. Mr. Cetrulo likes Mr. Bauer's staunch opposition to abortion.

        “He has courage,” Mr. Cetrulo said of Mr. Bauer, who was munching on his own Dixie Chili fare on the other side of the restaurant. Earlier, before a packed house at his alma mater, Newport High School, Mr. Bauer made his campaign announcement.

"It's outlandish'
        For the record, Mr. Cetrulo said there are four candidates seeking the GOP nomination that Northern Kentucky Right to Life, as well as he, could support: Mr. Bauer; New Hamsphire Sen. Bob Smith; and commentators Pat Buchanan and Alan Keyes.

        But it was more than Mr. Bauer's announcement that had Mr. Cetrulo in such a happy, even somewhat smug, mood.

        Mr. Cetrulo was enjoying the sweet taste of vindication.

        Early last week the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance dismissed 4-year-old charges against the local anti-abortion group.

        Ruth Bauman, the former head of the Campbell County Democratic Party, had accused Northern Kentucky Right to Life of making illegal political contributions and violating other election laws in the 1994 state Senate campaign of Boone County Republican Gex (Jay) Williams, a tight ally of Mr. Cetrulo.

        “It's comforting to be vindicated after four ... years of dealing with these unfounded charges filed by a disappointed politician who didn't bother to show up at any of the proceedings,” Mr. Cetrulo said. “We won.”

        Mrs. Bauman “did this just to make us jump through hoops and try to make us look bad. The charges were meritless. But we get it from the press all the time,” he said. “It's outlandish.”

        Mrs. Bauman did beat Mr. Cetrulo in one legal venue. After she filed her complaints with the state, Right to Life sued her in federal court. The suit was dismissed and Right to Life was ordered last year to pay nearly $15,000 in legal fees Mrs. Bauman owed.

Jack raising jack
        State Sen. Jack Westwood, a one-term Republican from Erlanger, doesn't yet have an opponent in next year's statehouse race. But he does have $15,000 in the bank with another $5,000 on the way.

        Contributors gave the former and pledged the latter Thursday night when Mr. Westwood held the first fund-raiser of his re-election campaign.

        Kenton County Democrats are trying to find a candidate to run against Mr. Westwood in 2000. Former County Commissioner Bernie Moorman says he might run, but he also may try to win back another political post he once held, mayor of Covington.

        And talk that a Republican might challenge Mr. Westwood in next spring's the GOP primary appears all but dead.

Murph the Surf
        Take the name of attorney Kevin Murphy off the list of Republicans considering running next year against U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a first-term Boone County Democrat.

        Mr. Murphy — an attorney, Recorder Newspaper political columnist and former head of the Kenton County GOP — said he has been approached by some party leaders about running.

        “But I supported (Mr. Lucas),” he said. “He's doing a good job.

        “Besides, I have young kids and the timing just isn't right for me.”

        So who will the Republicans get to run? Will the Republicans get anybody to run? The party could be in for some more bad news in a week or two. Stay tuned.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. His column appears Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at .

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for the Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort.