Thursday, May 20, 1999

Contenders in line for shot at Lucas

Jim Kidney could join GOP field

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two weeks ago, the Republican Party couldn't find a candidate to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas next year. Now, the hopefuls are lining up to run against the Boone County Democrat, though none of the candidates thus far has the official blessing of the party.

        The latest candidate pondering a run against Mr. Lucas is Fort Thomas attorney Jim Kidney, a former Newport Board of Education member who ran third in last year's GOP primary for the 4th District seat.

        Last week, Oldham County Republican Don Bell said he will likely run against Mr. Lucas. For a time last year, Mr. Bell ran Mr. Kidney's congressional campaign.

        That is until the two had a pretty nasty blow-up over philosophy and campaign styles and parted ways before the May primary, where Mr. Kidney finished third and last in a race won by Boone Countian Gex (Jay) Williams.

        But neither has spoken ill of the other — at least not yet — in this new campaign cycle.

        “I respect Don. I think he would make a good candidate,” Mr. Kidney said Wednesday from his Newport law office.

        “But I don't think Don will stay in the race,” he continued. “So I'm getting ready just in case I do decide to run. I've pulled my campaign materials out of storage.”

        Few took Mr. Kidney seriously when he ran in last year's primary, but he turned out to be a better candidate that most political watchers expected.

        He performed well on the stump, was very good in a couple of debates and candidate forums, and though he drew only about 8 percent of the vote in the race, his total was about double what a lot of people expected.

        Mr. Kidney knows his campaign would be “an uphill struggle” as he put it, mainly because he believes Mr. Lucas is “doing a good job.”

        “I won't run just because I'm a Republican and he's a Democrat,” said Mr. Kidney, adding he plans to closely study Mr. Lucas' record and stance on several issues to see what differences exist between the two.

        Meanwhile, the official Republican Party apparatus has gone underground trying to recruit a more high-profile candidate to run against Mr. Lucas.

        Though party leaders love to say they don't get involved in primary races, the fact is most political party officials are often actively involved in trying to woo people into races even when a member of their own party is already in the race.

        The situation with the local Republicans is they made their recruitment efforts well-known earlier this year. After being burned a couple of times in the press, and after candidates turned them down, they decided to conduct their recruitment efforts pretty much in private.

        By the way, the word on the street is that Sen. Katie Stine, R-Fort Thomas, is being pressed to run. She says that's not true.

        Asked if she plans to run, Mrs. Stine would only reply, “someday.”

        Is it November on Dudley Pike? There's not much of a primary election next week — only two major statewide races for Republican governor and Democratic state treasurer — but there is one heck of a campaign going on in Edgewood.

        Residents in that Kenton County suburb are fighting to keep the county fiscal court from building a jail on 3L Highway near the city.

        Edgewood residents have circulated petitions, packed fiscal-court meetings and public hearings, printed fliers, knocked on doors, made phone calls, stayed in touch with the media, held a big rally, enlisted Bengals kicker Doug Pelfrey to join the group for publicity and kept the pressure on the politicians who will decide where to build the jail.

        “We've had to remind the fiscal court that Edgewood is not going away, and they better be careful not to spend our tax dollars on the (3L) jail site,” said Edgewood resident Mark Wehry, one of the opposition group's leaders.

        Opponents to the jail have also put up campaign signs all over the city, particularly on Dudley Pike, the main east-west thoroughfare through the city.

        “The signs are great,” said Mr. Wehry, who gave a rousing speech at Tuesday night's anti-jail rally. “It looks like the No vember campaign season.”

        Some credit, however, should go to fiscal court — Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd and Commissioners Adam Koenig, Barbara Black and Dan Humpert. They actually inherited the site from the previous court.

        After Edgewood residents complained about the site, court members delayed the decision on building the jail.

        They've held hearings to give the community its say, investigated other sites and are now considering four other possible locations for the facility.

        Of course if the site near Edgewood is chosen, those efforts will be forgotten around election time. But nobody can accuse fiscal court of trying to ram the jail down Edgewood's throat.

        In fact, the court seems to have bent over backward to explore and investigate other locations. Wonder if Edgewood realizes and appreciates that?

        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.