Thursday, April 29, 1999

Wanted: Democrats to run

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Anybody else hear the Republican Party holler “uncle”?

        Some party leaders, elected officials and rank-and-file members have developed a bad case of thin skin. They've been complaining for the last few weeks about the pounding the party has been taking for not yet having a candidate to run against Democrat U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas in next year's 4th District congressional race.

        The scrutiny, the tough reporting, the jabs from the Democrats and the pressure will only get more intense until the GOP fields a legitimate opponent for Mr. Lucas, who beat rising Republican star Gex Williams in the brutal '98 race.

        But at the prodding of some bloodied party faithful, we're going to turn the tables and look at the woeful job the Democrats appear to be doing when it comes to finding candidates for next year's statehouse races.

        At this point, none of the GOP legislators up for re-election next year face opposition. That's a list that includes Sens. Jack Westwood of Erlanger and Dick Roeding of Lakeside Park and Reps. Jon David Reinhardt of Alexandria, Joe Fischer of Fort Thomas, Jon Draud of Crestview Hills, Paul Marcotte of Union and Charlie Walton of Florence.

        In fairness, none of the statehouse Democrats have any competition as of right now, either. And it's not uncommon for a legislative candidate to announce a candidacy in the days leading up to the late January filing deadline.

        The need to start raising money for a congressional race isn't there in statehouse races. A run for Congress is going to cost a Republican from $750,000 to $1 million, maybe more.

        By comparison, a state Senate race can be run for around $100,000, maybe a little more, while a House run will cost a candidate — or more appropriately the contributors — from $25,000 to $50,000.

        Yet there aren't many, or even any, Democrats snooping around at this point, or if they are, they are doing it way under the radar screen.

        You usually start to hear some names at this point, but its conceivable that, Mr. Roeding, Mr. Reinhardt, Mr. Marcotte and possibly Mr. Westwood, Mr. Walton, Mr. Draud and Mr. Fischer could get a pass from the Democrats.

        Don't forget, Mr. Marcotte, Mr. Draud and Mr. Reinhardt had no opposition last year. And with the Republicans gaining more and more voter registrations every year, it's not a stretch to predict that the Democrats will once again sit out those and other races.

        Fort Mitchell City Councilman Jeb Holbrook, a law student and host of an offbeat cable television program, is “thinking” about taking on Mr. Draud in what is one of the most Republican House districts in the state.

        Keeping thinking, Jeb. Running as a Democrat in that district would be a political kamikaze mission.

        Former Kenton County commissioner Bernie Moorman is pondering running against Mr. Westwood, but some Democratic Party insiders say Mr. Moorman might be better suited trying to win his old job back as Covington mayor.

        Though the Democrats like to paint Mr. Westwood, in his first term in Frankfort, as inexperienced and unsavvy politically, some are quietly boiling that Mr. Westwood has gotten so far out front in announcing his re-election, in raising money and in raising his profile by courting and dealing with the media.

        There are some apparently safe Democratic House seats, such as those held by Jim Callahan of Wilder, Arnold Simpson of Covington and Tom Kerr of Taylor Mill, who is practically a Republican now.

        But because of Republican gains in Northern Kentucky, the Democrats seem to just play defense every two years, holding on to the districts they can while slowly watching the GOP build its majority in the region's Frankfort caucus.

        Now, about that Congressional race. Has the “draft Gex Williams” movement already started? And if it hasn't, when will it?

        Betting on gambling interests. Mr. Marcotte, a Boone County Republican, is one of the most level-headed, rational members of the Kentucky General Assembly. He doesn't make rash statements and he takes it easy on the rhetoric, partisan bashing and hyperbole that so many of his Frankfort colleagues practice.

        So when he makes a stern prediction about campaign contributions from gambling companies pouring into Kentucky, it's time to listen.

        With race tracks pushing for casino-style gambling and Gov. Paul Patton making comments about how gambling revenue could be spent, Mr. Marcotte says gaming companies are going to take notice.

        “I've been watching this in other parts of the country, and the pattern is pretty much the same,” Mr. Marcotte said.

        “A state starts talking about gambling and pretty soon the political contributions from all these publicly traded gaming companies start coming to politicians.

        “Well, I won't take their money. I'll send it back. But it's coming. You just watch.”

        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.