Friday, December 01, 2000

Lucas avoids taking stand on election

GOP protesters disappointed

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — A group of Republicans who have dogged Democratic U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas for a comment on the presidential election legal battle in Florida finally got an audience with the congressman Thursday.

        But they didn't get the answer they wanted to hear.

        “We didn't get any answer,” said Tami Wilson, 33, among the mostly GOP group that staged minor protests Tuesday and again Thursday at Mr. Lucas' 4th District field office in Fort

        The group has demanded that Mr. Lucas make a statement about whether he supports the legal fight being waged by Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in Florida. Mr. Gore has used a series of court challenges to contest the election in the state, which was carried by Republican George W. Bush.

        Mr. Lucas refused to say Thursday where he stood on the election. But his posture as a conservative got a boost Thursday from an article in the Wall Street Journal.

        The newspaper quoted Bush campaign insiders saying that Mr. Lucas could be among a group of Democratic members of Congress offered positions in a Bush administration, possibly an agriculture-related post.

        Mr. Lucas smiled at the suggestion Thursday, saying he has had no contact with the Bush camp and would not take a position with any administration.

        “I'm very happy being a member of Congress,” he said.

        But privately, Mr. Lucas' staff was thrilled with the article, sensing it confirmed the congressman's reputation as a conservative because Republicans were apparently reaching out to him even as he fended off attacks from the local GOP.

        However, the article stated that the Bush camp could be using speculation about the appointments as a way to reach out to Democrats.

        Mr. Lucas, who met briefly with seven of the protesters Thursday at his field office, refused to comment either way on the Florida situation.

        Though the chances appear remote, the U.S. House of Representatives could end up deciding the presidential election if legal remedies and challenges are exhausted.

        An 1887 law established procedures for counting electoral votes requiring a majority vote of the House and a majority vote of the Senate to settle disputes.

        Because of that possibility, Mr. Lucas said, he does not want to make a public statement on where he stands on the issue.

        “I am mindful that I may in fact have to sit in judgment of this election,” Mr. Lucas said in a statement given to reporters and protesters.

        “For this reason, I will not succumb to partisan pressures from either side to enter the fray,” he said. “As congressman, I have approached issues of national importance as an independent thinker, putting the interests of my constituents and the nation ahead of partisanship.”

        “This doesn't answer our question,” said Jay Hall of Florence, one of the protesters and a member of the Kentucky Republican Executive Committee.

        “We want to know if when (Democratic House leader) Dick Gephardt said the Democratic caucus was united behind Al Gore, was he lying,” Mr. Hall asked Mr. Lucas.

        “Have you seen a copy of my statement?” Mr. Lucas asked the group.

        “I've seen a copy of it, sir,” said Boone County GOP Chairman Ed Moore. “But it seems generic versus taking a stand.”

        The protesters also gathered at Mr. Lucas' office Tuesday. But the congressman was on vacation with his family, returning Wednesday.

        Mr. Lucas, re-elected Nov. 7 in a congressional district carried by Mr. Bush, made national news when he did not go to this summer's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, citing differences with Mr. Gore on issues that included abortion and gun control.


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