Sunday, October 01, 2000

Two can play this game

        A couple of weeks ago, Kenton County Democrats were in full outrage mode over a mailing Senate Republicans sent to voters in Sen. Jack Westwood's district.

        Republicans said the mailing was nothing more than a constituent newsletter, a way for Mr. Westwood and other Republicans to communicate with the folks back home.

        During a Friday afternoon speech to some Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce members, Senate President David Williams, a Burkesville Republican, said Mr. Westwood should be lauded for keeping in touch with his constituents.

        The Democrats dis- agreed, slapping Mr. Westwood with an ethics complaint for using taxpayer dough to send what pretty much looked like a piece of campaign material. Don't forget, Mr. Westwood is up for re-election in five weeks.

        So how do the Democrats and Gov. Paul Patton respond to the Republicans' alleged abuse of the system? Why, they go out and abuse it themselves.

        Last week, Mr. Patton rolled into Northern Kentucky for all kinds of events, from touring health clinics at Newport schools to raising money for Democratic campaigns.

        In between those stops, Mr. Patton held a press conference to sign an executive order on the so-called gender equity issue that has rattled around Frankfort for some time.

        Under the order, Mr. Patton
has the authority to reject nominations to state boards and commissions if no women are nominated.

        Diversity is certainly an admirable intention. And Mr. Patton has made an effort to put more women onto state boards.

        Since he took office five years ago, the percentage of women serving on boards has grown from 31 to 45 percent.

        But Mr. Patton's action also smacks of the same kind of politics Republicans were accused of in the Westwood mailing.

        First off, Mr. Patton signs the order in Kenton County, where Independence Democrat Jaimie Henson is trying to unseat Mr. Westwood. Mrs. Henson, by the way, just happened to drop by the order-signing ceremony, as did a couple of female Democratic lawmakers from Louisville and Lexington — Mary Lou Marzian and Ruth Ann Palumbo — who had pushed for a gender equity bill in Frankfort.

        Then some of the speakers at the event, including Ms. Marzian, made sure to mention that her gender equity bill passed big in the Kentucky House earlier this year but died without a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Mr. Westwood, of course, is in the Senate, and Ms. Marzian was trying to place some of the blame on him.

        That way the Democrats can try to paint Mr. Westwood as “anti-women,” a slam that will be augmented by the fact that his opponent is female.

        The ceremony had all the feel of a political event designed to boost Mrs. Henson's campaign, even though Mr. Patton wouldn't admit as much.

        “I did this here ... because of the fact that we need stronger support for this kind of issue in Northern Kentucky,” Mr. Patton said when asked if the signing was in Kenton County to boost Mrs. Henson's political fortunes.

        Then he and Mrs. Henson went off to knock on some doors in Covington's Wallace Woods neighborhood.

        The Democrats were just about right on labeling Mr. Westwood's mailing a campaign piece. But when they play the same game — using official actions to play politics — their complaints ring hollow.



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