Wednesday, October 25, 2000

State Sen., challenger meet today

Debate to be replayed on TV

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — A week after abruptly leaving a political debate before it started, Republican state Sen. Jack Westwood is set to meet his opponent today in a televised election forum.

        Mr. Westwood, of Erlanger, and Jaimie Henson, the Independence Democrat challenging him in Kenton County's 23rd District Senate race, are scheduled to appear together today on ICN6 cable news.

        The pair will be interviewed at ICN6's Covington studio by News Director Chris Zimmerman, but the program will not air live. It will be replayed for a week beginning Thursday each day at 7 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on cable channel 6.

        The broadcast forum comes as Mrs. Henson begins airing television ads todayon several cable channels in Northern Kentucky, including CNN and Lifetime.

        Mr. Westwood, a first-term lawmaker, has been running campaign ads for two weeks on local cable television.

        The forum has become one of the most widely anticipated events this election year, given the circumstances of the first scheduled debate between the candidates.

        Mr. Westwood and Mrs. Henson were scheduled to debate Oct. 18 in the community meeting room at Ninth Street Baptist Church in Covington.

        A crowd of about 60 people gathered to watch the debate. Mr. Westwood, however, refused to participate after arriving at the church because debate organizers allowed a cable-access television producer to tape the event.

        Marc Wilson, Mr. Westwood's campaign manager, said the Henson camp had agreed that no cameras would be present. The Republicans feared the Democrats would use the tape to make unflattering campaign commercials about Mr. Westwood.

        But Mrs. Henson said she agreed not to use the tape in any campaign commercials and was openly critical of Mr. Westwood for not staying to debate.

        That has given some added importance to today's program, which apparently will be the only time the two candidates in one of the state's hottest Senate races will face one another to discuss the issues.

        The video shot today cannot be used in commercials and the environment is more controlled. Only Mr. Zimmerman will be asking questions, while newspaper reporters and members of the audience were to ask the questions at last week's debate.

        “We're more than happy to show up and get information out to the voters,” Shannon Pratt, Mrs. Henson's campaign manager, said Tuesday.

        “We're excited. It's a shame that Sen. Westwood would not debate in his own district but shows up in his campaign commercial shaking hands on the lawn of the Boone County Courthouse,” Mr. Pratt said.

        But far from hurting Mr. Westwood's campaign, the incident over the debate has energized Republicans and the Westwood campaign, Mr. Wilson claimed Tuesday.

        “The reporting in the papers and the way the event went off, with Mrs. Henson and her campaign not living up to their agreement, shows that Jack Westwood is a principled individual,” Mr. Wilson said.

        “We've been getting calls from people who want to write letters to (newspaper) editors, who want to work in our campaign and we're getting help from Republican elected officials from outside Kenton County who know Jack Westwood is good not just for the 23rd District but all of Northern Kentucky,” he said.

        Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore and Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery campaigned with Mr. Westwood by going door-to-door Monday night.

        And Boone County Jailer John Schickel and Boone County Commissioner Cathy Flaig have also pledged to help.

        “That debate (last week) didn't hurt us,” Mr. Wilson said. “It fired our people up.”

        With the GOP in control of the state Senate for the first time in history, both sides are working hard to change the balance of power, which the Republicans hold by virtue of a 20-18 Senate majority.


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