Wednesday, June 28, 2000

CROWLEY: Why we matter

Pols fish for votes in N. Ky.

        There was a day when the big-name pols out of Frankfort either couldn't or wouldn't find their way to Northern Kentucky.

        Now, they can't stay away.

        Funny how a booming economy, a changing political landscape and an open governor's seat in 2003 can give folks a new sense of direction and a thirst to roll into Boone, Kenton or Campbell counties just about any chance they get.

        For years Northern Kentucky residents and officials complained about a lack of attention from Frankfort. But as the area's population, economy and political activism grew over the last two decades, so has interest from candidates seeking statewide office.

        Which brings us to the steady stream of Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls gracing us with frequent visits.

        Attorney General Ben Chandler was, again, in Northern Kentucky Tuesday night, speaking at the Covington Business Council Dinner.

        House Speaker Jody Richards, of Bowling Green, was here a couple of weeks ago to speak to a gathering of county clerks.

        Lt. Gov. Steve Henry — a.k.a. Mr. America — was in Newport last month to speak to Campbell County Democrats.

        Louisville businessman Charlie Owen has been here and will be back in his role as Kentucky chairman of Al Gore's presidential bid.

        We haven't yet seen Kentucky House Floor Leader Greg Stumbo, of eastern Kentucky, or former Gov. Brereton Jones yet. But if either decides to test the waters for a gubernatorial run, we will.

        Everybody wants Northern Kentucky because, at least for now, we don't have a Democrat willing or ready to get into the governor's race.

        We have plenty of lieutenant governor possibilities. Some of the aforementioned Dems have privately thrown some names around as potential running mates, including Erlanger lawyer Bill Robinson, Edgewood lawyer and Democratic Party strategist Mark Guilfoyle, state Appeals Court Judge Dan Guidugli of Alexandria, House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan of Wilder and Boone County Commissioner Lance Lucas of Richwood.

        Northern Kentucky will be in play in the Democratic gubernatorial primary because the region is basically up for grabs. With no likely candidate from here, everyone will make a run for the votes here.

        “It can put somebody over the top if they win Northern Kentucky,” said a local Democratic Party official, who didn't want to be named because he is being worked for his support by a couple of possible candidates.

        “If you are from Louisville or Central Kentucky or Eastern Kentucky, you assume you win your home region, and then you'll need one other part of the state to win the nomination,” the Dem said. “That's why we're seeing, and will continue to see, a lot of focus on Northern Kentucky as the candidates line up their support.”

        Northern Kentucky Democrats aren't the party they used to be. As the area has grown, so has the Republican Party. In many ways, particularly the number of new voters registrations and elected officials, the GOP has clearly put a beating on the once mighty Dems.

        So the attention from some gubernatorial hopefuls will be good for the party's collective political ego. And the region could end up having a homegrown Democrat in the lieutenant governor's mansion in Frankfort.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics. He can be reached at 578-5581, 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.