Sunday, March 19, 2000

GOP pair score points with faithful




BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Today's political lesson, brought to you by Republican Sens. Dick Roeding and Jack Westwood, is how to please the two major factions of the Republican Party in Northern Kentucky.

        Mr. Roeding, of Lakeside Park, and Erlanger resident Mr. Westwood are both in for what could be tough elections this year.

        Mr. Roeding is challenged in the May primary by Boone County Commissioner Robert Hay, a star of the hard right who rarely passes up a chance to infuse his Christian beliefs into politics.

        Mr. Westwood is opposed by Independence Democrat Jaimie Henson, who does not have a lot of political experience but has put together a tough, smart and aggressive campaign team.

        Mr. Westwood and Mr. Roeding will need strong turnouts from the two major types of Republican voters to win their elections:

        • The Christian Coalition, faith-based GOP voters who have helped Mr. Hay make a name for himself and often use opposition to abortion as a litmus test for candidates;

        • Country club/suburban Republicans, the voters who are often close to business interests and chamber of commerce types.

        Well, the senators took shrewd steps last week to grease both groups.

        The pair were applauded by the business community for stepping up and voting in favor of legislation allowing the fiscal courts in Northern Kentucky to raise the region's hotel tax. The money to be raised by the tax would be spent to promote tourism in Greater Cincinnati.

        Then on Friday, both came hard with a bunch of anti-abortion legislation in Frankfort, pleasing the ultra-conservatives in Northern Kentucky.

        “It's a great day,” Bob Cetrulo, head of the Northern Kentucky Right to Life Association, told the Associated Press.

        Mr. Westwood and Mr. Roeding have long been opponents of abortion and have fought for legislation restricting abortions.

        But with the session running out — just two weeks to go, thank the Lord — it was time to make sure that the anti-abortion crowd back home was appeased.

        The move was particularly important for Mr. Roeding, who has been wrongly accused by Mr. Hay of not working hard enough to introduce and pass anti-abortion bills this session.

        Well, now Mr. Hay won't be able to make that charge, at least not truthfully. And Mr. Roeding has a feather he can stick in his hat when talking to conservative voters.

        There's your lesson. Class dismissed.

        Meanwhile, GOP political and media consultant Marc Wilson of Florence was in Frankfort last week shooting campaign commercial footage for two of his clients, who happen to be Mr. Roeding and Mr. Westwood.

        Wonder if abortion will be mentioned in those ads?

        Are you kidding? That's more of a lock than Winthrop getting beat in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

        Could Northern Kentucky be in line for a visit from George W. Bush?

        U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Louisville Republican chairing Mr. Bush's Kentucky campaign, was in Northern Kentucky Friday talking presidential politics.

        With Kentucky being a bellwether state Mr. McConnell said we can expect plenty of attention.

        “There isn't any question that both Kentucky and Ohio will be pivotal states in the fall election,” he said. “We'll be right in the cross hairs of both campaigns ... so that means lots of visits by the candidates, lots of television commercials by both sides.”

        But when asked specifically if Mr. Bush would be coming to Northern Kentucky for a campaign visit or fund-raiser, he was coy.

        “I can't comment on that right now,” he said.

        At least it wasn't a “no.”

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