Friday, August 25, 2000

GOP gains regional strength in N.Ky

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Population growth in Northern Kentucky, its pervasive conservative leanings and an easy-to-use motor-voter system all helped push the number of registered Republican voters close to the Democratic totals for the region.

        Democrats still hold their historic, overall advantage. But recent trends show Republicans winning more offices, carrying the region for statewide and federal candidates, and gaining in voter registrations.

        “This is a conservative area, growing in population, so it makes sense that more people are becoming Republicans,” said Campbell County GOP Chairwoman Barb Haas, of Fort Thomas.

        “The truth is, we've been a Republican area here all along, it's just in the last few years we're having a lot of success with our candidates.”

        Just 10 years ago in Kenton County, there were 34,636 Democrats compared to 18,894 Republicans, nearly a 2-to-1 advantage. Today the gap has narrowed significantly — 42,372 Democrats to 35,159 Republicans.

        From July 1999 to August 2000, the GOP gained voters in Boone and Kenton counties, while the Democrats lost registered party members in both counties.

        For the same period in Campbell County, both parties lost voters — mainly because of people taken off the active voting rolls — but the Democrats lost more than the Republicans.

        The registration tallies were as of Aug. 17, gleaned from the clerk's offices in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

        The shift in Northern Kentucky toward GOP dominance started years ago as the region began to grow, but it picked up momentum in the mid-1990s, about the time Republicans took control of Congress.

        Local observers say Republicans are gaining because Northern Kentucky is generally a politically conservative region, where so-called Reagan Democrats — the moderate to conservative Democrats who supported the former Republican president — in 1980 and 1984 — vote Republican. Some also are now registering as Republicans.

        And many of the new residents are more affluent and tend to register Republican, said Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor.

        “There hasn't really been a big onslaught of party changers, but there have been a lot of move-ins that are registering Republican,” said Mr. Aylor, a Democrat.

        Mr. Aylor, a Democrat, said he has “no doubt” the Republican presidential ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will win Kenton County in November.

        “I expect it to be 2-to-1 for the Republicans regardless of the party affiliations in this county,” he said. “I don't know what that means for the rest of the local candidates on the ballot. It may hurt the Democrats.”

        Motor voter, the 4-year-old federal law that allows people to register to vote when they receive or renew their driver's license, has also played a role in the Republican gains in voters, Mrs. Haas said.

        “That law just makes it easier for people to register to vote, and it really makes it easy to change your registration because you can do both at once,” she said.

        Statewide, 32,470 people registered to vote from January through June, using motor voter registration. That accounts for 57 percent of new registrations, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State's Office.

        The number of voters not stating a political party preference - officially listed as “others” in state and county records — also declined in Northern Kentucky. Those voters are typically inde pendents, but in some cases are Reform Party supporters, according to county clerks.

        Here is closer look at some of the numbers:

        • Boone County continues to be the largest GOP-controlled county in the state, with 20,897 voters, a gain of 631 since last July. The Democrats stand at 19,729, a loss of 97 voters over the last 13 months.

        • In Kenton County Republicans picked up 435 voters, while Democrats have lost 862.

        Republicans would have probably had more voters, and fewer Democrats would have been lost, but hundreds of voters — including felons who aren't allowed to vote and residents who have died or moved in the last year — were taken off the voter rolls, Mr. Aylor said.

        • The Campbell County clerks also removed several hundred residents who have not voted in recent elections. That resulted in fewer voters for both major parties, but the Republicans lost fewer than the Democrates. According to the clerk's office, Democrats still outnumber Republicans, 25,748 to 21,426.


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