Sunday, January 02, 2000

A carnival full of sideshows

Party lines jumped; local issues abound

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This observer's view of the top Northern Kentucky political stories of the year:

        • Peppy power: Gov. Paul Patton became the first governor in two centuries to win a consecutive term in November by beating Republican Peppy Martin, who embarrassed her party with wild allegations and even wilder outfits, and pro-pot Reform Party candidate Gatewood Galbraith.

        This wasn't an election. It was a sitcom.

        • Campbell County GOP: The county's Republican Party finally took some steps toward unity when Barb Haas of Fort Thomas was elected chairwoman in December. Maybe the Republicans in Fort Thomas and those in the rest of the county can start getting together and getting along.

        • We're in charge here: Thanks to a couple of Democratic defections, Republicans now control the state Senate in Frankfort.

        • Rogue PVAs: County property valuation administrators' offices never get much attention. But this year in Northern Kentucky, two PVAs — Bill Kaiser in Campbell County and Boone County's David Turner — resigned and were convicted of taking money from their offices.

        In November, Democrat Mariann Guidugli Dunn easily won the Campbell PVA race. Boone County will elect a PVA next year, but Mr. Patton is expected to appoint someone to fill the office next month.

        • Small-town soaps: In 1998, it was city councils in Alexandria, Crescent Springs and Independence giving us sideshows with petty politics and miniscandals. In 1999, it was Villa Hills and Ludlow.

        • Take this jail and shove it: Community groups in Elsmere and Edgewood used lobbying, grass-roots organizing, political contacts and media campaigns to persuade Kenton County Fiscal Court not to build a new county jail in their cities.

        The court must now decide where to build the jail, which will certainly be one of the big stories of 2000.

        • Thou shalt take on the ACLU: Communities across Kentucky flouted the U.S. Supreme Court by posting the Ten Commandments in schools and courthouses. Fiscal courts in Boone and Grant counties pondered doing the same, and then backed off.

        The Kentucky General Assembly will take up the issue this year, but this one looks as if it's headed back to court.

        • “I'm not a Republican, but I play one in Congress”: U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat, lived up to his “common-sense conservative” campaign slogan by voting with the GOP on lots of issues. That may explain why no Republican in Northern Kentucky has stepped up to challenge Mr. Lucas this year.

        The only contender so far is Republican Don Bell, who lives in Oldham County at the far western fringe of the 4th District.

        • It's about time: Ron Washington, chief Kenton County deputy sheriff, became the first African-American member of the county's Republican Executive Committee.

        • The election is when? In one of the earliest starts to a political campaign in recent history, Republican Eric Deters announced his plan to run for Kenton County attorney — more than three years before the election.

        • Jack vs. Jaimie: In what will probably be the only contested Statehouse race in Northern Kentucky this year, Independence Democrat Jaimie Henson announced in November that she will run against Republican State Sen. Jack Westwood of Erlanger.

        • Newport on the Potomac: Newport native Gary Bauer made national news throughout 1999 with his run for the Republican nomination for president this year. Mr. Bauer made his formal campaign announcement at his alma mater Newport High School in April but ended 1999 still polling in the single digits with little hope of winning the nomination.

        • Sewer plant issue stinks: Residents of western Boone County waged a battle to stop construction of a sewage treatment plant along the Ohio River, near the small town of Belleview Bottoms. As of year's end, the plant was still on track for the site, but residents filed several lawsuits to try to force construction elsewhere.

        • Mitch makes the pitch for Bush: Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the state and one of the leading members of the GOP nationwide, agreed to coordinate George W. Bush's presidential campaign in Kentucky.

        • GOP juggernaut in Boone: In the spring, Boone County became the biggest county in Kentucky that is controlled by the Republicans, and over the summer, two longtime Democratic elected officials — Sheriff Mike Helmig and Commonwealth Attorney Willie Mathis — jumped ship to the GOP.

        • A gamble on gambling: Mr. Patton proposed in his re-election campaign that Kentucky should consider legalizing gambling. The idea found virtually no support within the legislature or among the public, and looks to be dead as lawmakers head into the 2000 legislative session.

        • The future of the GOP: Two Northern Kentucky Republican leaders were elevated to new party posts.

        Fourth District GOP Chairman Damon Thayer became vice chairman of the state party, while Boone County Republican Chairman Jay Hall took over for Mr. Thayer in the 4th District slot.

        Businessman Ed Moore became the Boone County chairman.

        • A leader in Boone: Lawyer Kristi Nelson became the chairwoman of the Boone County Democratic Party. She is the daughter of Dr. Floyd Poore, the former secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet who ran for governor and Congress during his political career.

        • Get in line: The race for Covington mayor heated up during 1999, with a number of candidates in the hunt. They include City Commissioners Butch Callery and Jim Eggemeier, former Covington police officer and current Deputy Sheriff Ray Murphy and former Mayor and County Commissioner Bernie Moorman.

        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