Democratic National Convention
Thursday, August 17, 2000

Lucas' decision cheered

        LOS ANGELES — Last weekend, after U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas doubly stunned members of Kentucky's Democratic delegation — first by saying he would abstain when it came time to vote for Al Gore on the convention floor and then by staying home — he looked liked a man without a party.

        Democratic Party officials were publicly and privately berating Mr. Lucas, a first-term Boone County Democrat running for re-election this fall in Kentucky's conservative 4th District.

        But as the week wears on, Mr. Lucas' decision is beginning to look not as bad as it first appeared, at least to the Lucas camp and some of the 4th District's voters.

        First, Mr. Lucas isn't the only Democrat to stay home from the convention.

        Two of the party's congressional candidates, Scotty Baesler of Lexington and Brian Roy of western Kentucky, remained in the state to campaign. Some delegates here say they are in tight races and couldn't afford to be away, but others suggested they didn't need to be saddled with Mr. Gore in a state that is going to be difficult for him to win.

        According to John Lapp, Mr. Lucas' chief of staff, Republicans in Northern Kentucky have been calling the congressman's district office expressing their support for Mr. Lucas' decision.

        Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties are loaded with Republicans and conservative Democrats who voted for Mr. Lucas and who won't vote for Mr. Gore.

        Mr. Gore is seen throughout Kentucky as a foe to tobacco, the No.1 cash crop in the state.

        Although tobacco is not a big issue in Northern Kentucky, it is in most of the other 19 counties Mr. Lucas represents in Congress. So tobacco farmers from places like Lewis, Owen and Shelby counties aren't losing any sleep over Mr. Lucas not coming to the convention.

Invite from GOP

               And how about this from Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson, who told reporters in Los Angeles this week that he would welcome Mr. Lucas to the GOP.

        While Mr. Lapp said Mr. Lucas has no intention of switching parties, he takes Mr. Nicholson's overtures as a total lack of confidence in Don Bell, the Oldham County Republican running against Mr. Lucas this fall.

        Kenton County Magistrate Steve Hoffmann, a member of the Kenton County Democratic Executive Committee who is in L.A. with the Kentucky delegation, said Mr. Lucas showed extreme courage and independence in what he did.

        “Look, he is elected to represent his constituents,” Mr. Hoffmann said. “As a Democrat I'm not thrilled at what happened but let's face it, there are a lot of Democrats in the 4th District who aren't going to vote for Al Gore. And what Ken Lucas did shows those voters he is an independent thinker who can can stand up to the top of the ticket.

        “That's what people want in an elected official, not somebody who will just follow the pack.”

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