Sunday, August 01, 1999

Bush scores W in Ky. cash

Bluegrass green ensures return visit for GOP contender

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Don't be surprised to see Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush — who some East Coast pundits and papers simply call “W” — returning to Kentucky to campaign and raise money.

        Some local GOP leaders say a visit to Northern Kentucky, either before or after winning the nomination he seems to already have locked up, is in the works.

        Kentucky, especially Northern Kentucky, has become fertile fund-raising territory for Republican candidates. Mr. Bush raked in $655,000 during a fund raiser last week in Louisville, and even before that had received $228,849 from Kentucky residents, according to campaign finance reports.

        No other candidate is even close to Mr. Bush when it comes to raising money from Kentucky residents. That includes Newport native Gary Bauer, who has raised just $10,190 from contributors in his home state.

        But it's more than money that will attract Mr. Bush to the Bluegrass State.

        Even though it has a small number of electoral votes at eight, Kentucky is considered a bellwether state because of its uncanny knack of picking presidential winners.

        Kentucky has gone with the winner in the last nine presidential elections, dating to Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

        That means pollsters, candidates and the media will be paying plenty of attention to Kentucky once the field of candidates is knocked down to a few.

        Just think back to 1996, when Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Elizabeth Dole all made campaign and fund-raising trips to Kentucky. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole even came to the state in the last three days of the campaign.

        Here are the Northern Kentuckians who have made campaign contributions to a presidential candidate through June 30:

        • To Mr. Bush: Ashland Inc. Chairman Paul Chellgren and his wife, Sheila, $1,800; Clem and Gloria Fennell of Fort Thomas, $2,000; Homebuilder Henry Fischer and his wife, Elaine, $2,000; Benjamin Homel of Kenton Hills, $1,000; Jim and Bert Huff of Huff Realty, $1,000; Eric Steinman of Fort Thomas, $1,000.

        • To Mr. Bauer: Susanna Wehrman of Crestview Hills, $1,000.

        • To Elizabeth Dole: Contractor Paul Hemmer Jr. of Edgewood, $1,000; Jack and Joyce Steinman of Fort Thomas, $2,000; Dr. Creighton and Carolyn Wright of Covington, $2,000; attorney Wil Ziegler of Fort Mitchell, $1,000.

        • Kaiser back to work. Former Campbell County PVA Bill Kaiser, a Southgate Democrat who resigned from office in April amid a criminal and state investigation into misappropriated funds, has gone to work for Democratic Party leader Terry Mann.

        Mr. Mann, a former Kentucky state lawmaker and local party official, operates a Newport business called Kentucky Alternative Program. The business provides various services to district courts around the state, including supervising people ordered to go through treatment or counseling.

        Mr. Kaiser is working part time as an accountant for Mr. Mann's business.

        A state audit released last week said Mr. Kaiser should repay almost $50,000 to the office, which he did last week. The Newport police have accused Mr. Kaiser of stealing funds from the PVA's office, and the Campbell County commonwealth attorney's office plans to seek an indictment against Mr. Kaiser.

        Mr. Mann and Mr. Kaiser grew up together in Newport, attending St. Stephens Elementary and Newport Catholic High School. They also worked on one another's campaigns over the years.

        “I'm not bashful about helping out a friend who has had some problems,” Mr. Mann said. “Bill is working for me in an appropriate professional capacity and is perfectly capable to work for me.”

        • Disenchanted Dems. Just as the Campbell County Republican Party seems to be coming together, some disgruntled members of the county Democratic Party are consid ering forming a new wing.

        A self-described group of “old-line Campbell County Democrats” say they are concerned over the direction of the party, which they claim is driven by politics rather than policy.

        The group is still small — fewer than 10, say those involved — and they aren't ready to go public yet. But they are thinking about eventually opening up and backing a candidate or two in future elections.

        “You don't hear Democrats in Campbell County talking about Democratic issues anymore like affordable housing, education and trying to revamp the inner city,” said one of the splinter group's ringleaders.

        “You have so-called party leaders and officials worried about being elected and running a good 'ol boy network, and some people in the party are tired of it,” he said.

        The movement wasn't prompted by the recent election of two young brothers from Southgate, Reno and Nathan Deaton, to leadership posts in the party.

        “This has more to do with how just a few people control the party,” said the group's leader. He points to the recent selection by the Democratic executive committee to make Mariann Guidugli Dunn the party's candidate for property value administrator.

        She was appointed in June to take over for the aforementioned Mr. Kaiser. But she is also part of the Guidugli family, a powerful group of Democrats who are close to Gov. Paul Patton and who appointed Mrs. Dunn to the office.

        Campbell County still boasts the strongest, most successful stable of Democratic officials and candidates in the growing Republican bastion of Northern Kentucky.

        And for the last several years factions of the county Republican Party have battled one another, hurting some candidates' chances of winning county office.

        But the county GOP seems to be coming together in recent months. So the last thing the Democrats need is a rogue group dividing the party and possibly eroding its base and support.

        We'll keep a close eye on this one to see if the movement has any legs.

        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