Friday, August 25, 2000

GOP makes gains in N.Ky.

Region's growth, conservatism key

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 — 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.

        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.

        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, 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.


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