Tuesday, October 17, 2000

FOP backs Lucas, Buring and Henson

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Three Democratic candidates, including U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, were endorsed Monday by the Covington Fraternal Order of Police union.

        Also endorsed were state Senate candidate Jaimie Henson of Independence and Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Don Buring of Villa Hills.

        Mr. Buring is challenged by Republican Bill Crockett, the chief prosecutor in the Kenton County Attorney's office. Mrs. Henson is running against first-term Republican Sen. Jack Westwood of Erlanger.

        Candidates often seek and relish police labor union endorsements because they feel it shows they are supportive of law enforcement and tough on crime.

        “We feel these candidates best suit the aims and objectives of our organization,” said Spike Jones, the immediate past president of the Covington FOP.

        Mr. Lucas, who is challenged this year by Oldham County Republican Don Bell, also received the union's endorsement during his first run for Congress two years ago.

        “I feel so strongly that we need to support police officers,” Mr. Lucas told a small gathering of union members. “We don't enforce our laws as much as we could. There's too much red tape, too much bureaucracy ... and that bothers me greatly.”

        Mr. Jones said Mr. Lucas has introduced and supported legislation designed to help and protect police officers and their families, including securing funding for bulletproof vests, providing education benefits for the family members of slain officers and introducing the national Mike Partin Enforcement Officers Protection Act.

        Named for a former Covington police officer who died on duty, the bill would encourage states to pass laws like Kentucky's making it a felony to flee from police officers.

        Eric Deters, Mr. Bell's campaign manager, had no comment when told of Mr. Lucas' endorsement.

        Mr. Jones said the death and legacy of Officer Partin also figured in the endorsement of Mr. Buring, the state's top criminal prosecutor in Kenton County and a 16-year incumbent.

        Officer Partin died when he fell from a bridge into the Ohio River in January 1998 while helping chase Shawnta Robertson, an Avondale man who was fleeing another officer.

        Mr. Robertson, 22, was prosecuted by Mr. Buring's office and sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter.

        “I promise I will always be there when you need us,” Mr. Buring told officers. “We did not (prosecute Mr. Robertson) as a favor to the police community. We did it because we felt it was the right thing to do.”

        Jeff Middendorf, Mr. Crockett's campaign spokesman, suggested union politics may be at play in Mr. Buring's endorsement.

        “It's not surprising that the FOP continues to support Demo crats when most of its officers support Republicans,” Mr. Middendorf said. “It seems that the FOP and labor unions almost always support Democrats, even if their members are supporting Republicans.”

        Mr. Jones said Mrs. Henson understands law enforcement because her first husband was a police officer killed by a drunken driver 14 years ago in Florida.

        “You are a family member to us,” Mr. Jones told Mrs. Henson. “You absolutely have walked the walk.”

        “I am eternally grateful for the FOP endorsement,” she said. “It gives me the opportunity to do something that might have prevented my husband from getting killed and help do something (that would have prevented Officer Partin) from getting killed.”

        Marc Wilson, Mr. Westwood's campaign manager, said he was surprised Mrs. Henson was endorsed “since Jack Westwood has worked with police officers from Covington and other parts of Northern Kentucky on getting bills introduced and passed in Frankfort.”


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