Sunday, November 05, 2000

Politically involved racing toward goal

Last weekend to sway voters

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT WRIGHT — Northern Kentucky's political candidates and party faithful are busy making their final pitch to voters before Tuesday's election.

        Candidates and their surrogates are fanning across Northern Kentucky, staging campaign events and knocking on doors, placing radio and TV ads or sending out one more mailer to voters.

        “If there is one weekend you work hard, this is it,” said GOP strategist Hayes Robertson. “You don't want to be on the sidelines; you want to be out working.”

        Interest appears high in races from the presidency down to city council level. Northern Kentucky county clerks expect voter turnouts as high as 75 percent.

        “I've been hearing nationally there is not much interest, but here it seems like there is,” said a harried Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor.

        Four years ago, 2,150 Kenton County residents voted absentee, he said; this year that number will be more than 3,000.

        “We'll have big numbers this year,” he said.

        Turnout is expected to be only slightly lower — in the

        mid-60 percent range — in Boone and Campbell counties, clerks in those counties said.

        “We'll be ... probably 63 to 67 percent, because we don't have as many local races” as Kenton County, said Campbell County Clerk Jack Snodgrass.

        “But as far as absentee ballots go, we're up about 200 over our total in 1996, so we're going to have a healthy turnout.”

        The local push for Republican voters got a major boost Friday, when a group of high-powered elected Republicans wrapped up a three-day bus tour of the state with a rally at a hotel near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        The tour was designed to drive interest in presidential candidate George W. Bush, who has opened up a double-digit lead over Democrat Al Gore in Kentucky.

        “We're going to deliver Kentucky big for George Bush,” Kentucky Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said as the bus rolled toward Northern Kentucky late Friday afternoon.

        Also on the tour were Kentucky's U.S. senators, Mitch McConnell of Louisville and Southgate's Jim Bunning.

Hottest statehouse race
               In Northern Kentucky's hottest statehouse race - the state Senate contest between Republican incumbent Jack Westwood of Erlanger and Independence Democrat Jaimie Henson — both candidates were active Saturday.

        Mrs. Henson held a rally in Latonia attended by Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and his wife, former Miss America Heather French Henry.

        Mr. Westwood did not hold a public event but had dozens of volunteers knocking on doors throughout the 23rd Senate District, which covers much of Kenton County.

        Both candidates also advertised on cable television and local radio this weekend.

        Democrats also were going door-to-door for several of the party's candidates, said Kenton County Democratic Party Chairman Shirley Huelsmann.

        “We're also getting people on the phone and asking them to vote Democrat on Tuesday, from the top of the ticket down as far as they can go,” Mrs. Huelsmann said.

        The always-aggressive Kenton County Republican Party sent 40,000 pieces of mail that hit voters' mailboxes Saturday, said Kenton County GOP Chairman Greg Shumate.

        Party members also visited the homes of likely GOP voters gleaned from information compiled by the party's technical expert, Fort Wright City Councilman David Hatter, co-owner of a Cincinnati computer firm.

        “We're going to have a big day in Kenton County on election day,” Mr. Shumate predicted. “We had so many requests for Bush/Cheney signs that we ran out and had to go down to Owensboro to get some more.”

        Some candidates tried unusual tactics to rise above the clutter and flurry of last-minute campaigning.

        Fort Mitchell Democrat John Stephenson, who is trying to unseat entrenched Republican incumbent Sen. Dick Roeding of Lakeside Park in the GOP-domi nated 11th Senate District, put a campaign sign on the side of his van.

        He then spent rush hour Friday parked on overpasses along Interstate 75 in Kenton County.

        “People are beeping, waving, flicking their lights and calling me on their cell phones,” he laughed. “This was my best idea yet.”

        Mr. Stephenson also has tried to make up for a lack of campaign money by making many appearances on cable access programs and at senior citizens homes.

        Mr. Roeding's campaign settled for knocking on the doors of likely Republican voters in Kenton and Boone counties this weekend.

        “We take our appeal right to the voters,” said Mr. Robertson, who is managing Mr. Roeding's campaign.


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