Sunday, July 02, 2000

Bell's campaign all politics

Republican voice is needed, he says

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — Political candidates don't typically share their campaign strategies with members of the press.

        But congressional candidate Don Bell and his campaign chairman, Indepen dence lawyer Eric Deters, are happy to reveal their plan to try to unseat first-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas in November.

        “We're not going to have the money that Ken Lucas is going to have, and we're not going to have an elaborate campaign team with a lot of outside help,” Mr. Deters said last week.

        “This campaign is going to be about national Republican politics, and how (GOP presidential candidate) George W. Bush and Don Bell are better for this district and this country than Democrats Al Gore and Ken Lucas,” he said.

        Though issues, debates and events will certainly shape Northern Kentucky's congressional race, it is clear that Mr. Bell believes his only real chance to defeat Mr. Lucas is on the back of Mr. Bush.

        “I'm a qualified candidate who will vote like the people in this district want me vote, and that is to vote like a conservative,” Mr. Bell said.

        “But this a Republican district, and if people want a Republican in Congress and they want to help the Republicans hold the House, they need to vote for me,” he said.

        For years the 4th District was in GOP hands. Republicans won the seat in 1964 and held it until Mr. Lucas' win in 1998.

        The 4th District is still considered strong GOP terri tory. Even when President Clinton carried Kentucky in the 1992 and 1996 elections his Republican opponents — George Bush and Bob Dole — carried Northern Kentucky and the entire 22-county 4th District.

        Mr. Bell and Mr. Deters are hoping that George W. Bush will win the district by a wide margin and sweep them into office in the process.

        “People are excited about George W. Bush,” Mr. Deters said. “They are going to vote for him in November and just keep going down the ballot and vote for Don Bell.”

        Mr. Bell's campaign is also close to naming campaign chairmen in each of the district's counties and will hold its first Northern Kentucky fund-raiser in a few weeks — the date has not been set — at Mr. Deters' Kenton County home.

        “We're going to raise some money, probably a few hundred thousand,” Mr. Deters said. “We won't have the $1 million or whatever Ken Lucas is going to raise, but we'll have enough to get our message out.”

        Mr. Bell has never held office, but he was on the statewide ballot twice in the 1990s, running for auditor and state treasurer. He is a former Secret Service agent who says he is working hard to build a grassroots organization throughout the district, which stretches from Ashland to near Louisville.

        One of the major planks of the Bell campaign will be to paint Mr. Lucas as ineffective “and a man without a party.”

        Given the conservative leanings of the district, Mr. Lucas often votes with the Republicans in Congress and has shunned appearing with Mr. Gore when he visits Kentucky or Cincinnati.

        “Ken Lucas doesn't associate himself with the Democrats, and he's not a Republican no matter how hard he tries to be one,” Mr. Deters said.

        “He'll be ineffective. He's a man without a party.”

        Travis Sowders, Mr. Lucas' campaign manager, said Mr. Lucas' voting record in Congress makes him an effective voice for 4th District residents.

        “He doesn't always vote with the Democrats or the Republicans,” Mr. Sowders. “He looks at each issue and votes the way his constituents in the 4th District want him to vote. He's an independent voice, and that makes him very effective.”

        Mr. Sowders also disputes the Bell's campaign “straight ticket” theory that people who vote for Mr. Bush will automatically vote for Mr. Bell or other Republicans on the ballot in November.

        He points to Campbell County in the 1998 election, when native son Jim Bunning, a Southgate Republican, was on the ballot. Mr. Lucas ran in that election against Gex (Jay) Williams, a GOP House candidate from Boone County.

        “Jim Bunning carried Campbell County, but then people went over and voted for Ken Lucas instead of Gex Williams,'' Mr. Sowders said.


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