Sunday, January 30, 2000

Hay supporters jumping ship




BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Robert Hay is the captain of the Titanic. Every where he looks, people are jumping ship.

        The defections from his 5-day-old campaign started just moments after news leaked out that the Boone County Commissioner and foot soldier of Northern Kentucky's Christian right movement would be taking on popular state Sen. Dick Roeding in May's GOP primary.

        First came the expected loyalty from inside the Roeding camp. Then, some elected officials and party leaders fled from Mr. Hay and pledged allegiance to Mr. Roeding.

        On Friday the floodgate opened, with all sorts of people Mr. Hay was counting on for support publicly backing Mr. Roeding.

        Mr. Roeding's campaign issued a press release saying, “The campaign for Kentucky state Senator Dick Roeding ... announced Friday the near unanimous endorsement of elected officials and GOP party activists from Boone and Kenton counties.”

        Now, as we all know, political campaigns are about as straight as a Grant County back road when it comes to accurately portraying the facts of a situation. They don't call it spin for nothin'.

        But that statement from Mr. Roeding's political team — mostly co-campaign managers Hayes Robertson and Paula Miller — seems to be understated, which I didn't think was possible for a campaign.

        Among the names on that list that Mr. Hay was hoping would take his side: State Sen. Jack Westwood, state Reps. Charlie Walton and Paul Marcotte, Kenton County Commissioner Barb Black and GOP activists Emily Shelton and Craig Hendricks.

        Other names include Rep. Jon Draud, Kenton County Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn, Rep. Jon David Reinhardt, 4th District GOP Chairman Jay Hall and longtime Boone County Republican Party official Odell Berry.

        But the show-stopper, the butt-kicker, the name that made jaws hit the ground was that of former state Sen. Gex (Jay) Williams.

        If Mr. Hay needed any more indi cation that his challenge of Mr. Roeding was the worst political move since Gary Hart told some reporters, “Go ahead and follow me,” the diss by Mr. Williams was it.

        Mr. Williams and Mr. Hay have been practically interchangable on the local political landscape over the past few years. Both have big families. Both home school their kids. Both seemed to just show up in Northern Kentucky in the 1980s and then got wrapped up in hard right GOP politics.

        Both practiced, with varying degrees of success, grassroots campaigning. And both promoted anti-abortion legislation and attitudes above anything else in their respective political repertoires.

        Mr. Hay helped Mr. Williams win election to the statehouse; Mr. Williams helped Mr. Hay get elected to the Boone County Fiscal Court. Many people assumed it was Mr. Williams who helped talk Mr. Hay into running.

        But now that Mr. Williams has slid over to the Roeding side, Mr. Hay is out there alone. Just he and the guy who helped get him in the race, Covington attorney Bob Cetrulo, the head of Northern Kentucky Right to Life.

        Republicans are working behind the scenes to talk Mr. Hay out of the race. Even Mr. Williams is involved, according to Kenton County Republican Party official Ted Smith of Park Hills.

        Who knows if Mr. Hay will listen? He's stubborn and strident when it comes to politics, standing his ground and not wavering when he believes he's right.

        Yet the pressure could begin to take its toll. No matter how effective he is at grassroots campaigning, without any party apparatus behind him Mr. Hay won't be able to raise much money.

        Mr. Roeding already has $75,000 in the bank, an amount that will be easy to pad now that he has become a cause celebre among the well-heeled, check-writing GOP crowd in Boone and Kenton counties.

        There also is concern about what would happen to the GOP in Boone County should Mr. Hay win.

        That would open a vacancy on the all-Republican Fiscal Court in Boone County, a vacancy that Gov. Paul Patton — a Democrat — would get to fill with an appointment.

        There also is the Democrats' inevitable challenge of the residency of Mr. Hay's fellow commissioner Rob Arnold, who is commuting to an out-of-state job.

        Imagine the Democrats prove that Mr. Arnold's primary residence is not in Boone County. Mr. Patton gets another appointment. And now the biggest GOP-controlled county in Kentucky has a split fiscal court.

        So much for the Republican agenda in that county.

        Not only would local Republicans be ticked at Mr. Hay for taking on and then beating Mr. Roeding, he would also be blamed for giving up the fiscal court to Democrats.

        Mr. Roeding's campaign managers say they don't need to hear such scenarios and speculation. Their candidate is going to beat Mr. Hay.

        Maybe. But many of the Republicans on that list are clearly spooked by the prospect of Mr. Hay's candidacy. You can tell that because most are going out of their way to say they aren't spooked by Mr. Hay.

        And, as we all know, politicians don't always mean what they say.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. His column appears Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 606-578-5581, or 502-875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at crowleys@cinci.infi.net.