Saturday, August 12, 2000

Lucas won't go to convention

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Kentucky U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas has decided not to attend next week's Democratic National Convention, he said at a Crescent Springs fund-raiser Friday night.

        In a statement, he said “The Democratic Convention should be a time of party unity, and in no way do I want to be a distraction from that.” The announcement and statement followed a day of debate across the state and the country about the first-term congressman's decision not to vote for Al Gore at next week's Democratic National Convention.

        The legality — and the political propriety — of the decision had fueled debate Friday among officials of both major parties.

        Mr. Lucas, a Boone County Democrat and convention delegate, made national news Thursday by telling reporters he would abstain and not vote for Mr. Gore's nomination because the two differ on abortion, tobacco and gun control.

        Republicans responded by saying Mr. Lucas was bound by state law to cast a vote, while Democrats quickly paged through bylaws to make sure the first-term congressman could abstain.

        And while Northern Kentucky Democrats close to Mr. Lucas defended his actions, other party leaders and faithful, including Gov. Paul Patton, questioned his decision.

        “This is a convention to nominate Al Gore and Joe Lieberman for president and vice president. If I didn't intend to vote for him, I wouldn't go to the convention,” Mr. Patton said Friday while in Northern Kentucky.

        “(Mr. Lucas) has to do whatever he thinks is in his personal beliefs and what he thinks the people of this (4th Congressional) district want,” he added.

        “I think everybody has a responsibility to make a choice. I don't think just copping out and saying, "I don't like either one of them; I'm not going to participate' is living up to your responsibility.”

        Local GOP officials circulated a copy of statutes they said indicate that under Kentucky law, Mr. Lucas is bound to vote for the party's nominee.

        “All the delegates have to vote for the candidate that wins the primary, and that is Al Gore,” said Owen County lawyer Marc Carey, the chairman of the 4th Congressional District.

        Democratic party officials disputed that, saying that because Mr. Lucas is a so-called superdelegate — meaning he is a delegate by virtue of holding a congressional seat — he can vote how he pleases.

        “He can vote his mind,” said Rick Hess, a deputy press secretary with the Democratic National Committee.

        Added Harry Carver, executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party, “Ken Lucas is a superdelegate. He can choose to abstain or vote for anyone he wants.”

        Mr. Lucas' camp continued to try to put the best face on what will certainly be a lingering controversy throughout convention week.

        Edgewood Democrat Mark Guilfoyle, a political adviser to Mr. Lucas, said the congressman is showing independence by abstaining when Kentucky's roll call votes are announced Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

        Republicans said Mr. Lucas is just trying to distance himself from Mr. Gore, who is unpopular in the 4th District.


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