Wednesday, December 06, 2000

Ken Lucas

Democrat should take a stand

        Ken Lucas is hot.

        The U.S. House member and Boone County Democrat, easily re-elected Nov. 7, seems to be on the short list for all kinds of gigs.

        The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Mr. Lucas could be offered a job by George W. Bush — should the Republican win the presidency.

        Though Mr. Lucas said he does not want a job, the Republicans showed interest in him because he's a Democrat who acts like a Republican.

        Also last week, a group of lobbyists at a retreat in Lake Cumberland mentioned Mr. Lucas as a possible contender for governor in 2003.

        Just like Mr. Bush, the Democrats are interested in Mr. Lucas because he is a Democrat who acts like a Republican.

        The Democrats haven't burned up the campaign trail in Kentucky in the last few elections. In fact, throw out the 1999 governor's race — an easy win for Paul Patton over Peppy Martin — and Mr. Lucas is the only Democrat in Kentucky to win a major election in the last three years.

        Mr. Lucas has shown how to win as a Democrat in a Republican district, a strategy some Democrats are eager to try on a statewide level.

        The days of Democrats running as old school Southern Democrats — big government, liberal programs, lots of patronage — are over. Look at the state's federal delegation — seven Republicans and Mr. Lucas, a Democrat who opposes abortion, favors guns and pushes tax cuts.

        Mr. Lucas refused to budge last week when a small, vocal group of Republican protesters staked out his office and demanded to know whether the congressman supported Al Gore's contest of the Florida election results.

        Lucas supporters wanted their man to get a Nobel Prize for refusing to jump into the partisan election fray that is dividing the country right now.

        That's one way of looking at it. But there's also those who believe if anybody needs to say where they stand, it would be a Democratic congressman in a Republican district.

        Is he going with his party or those who took him to the dance, that is the many Republican and conservative Democrats who elected Mr. Lucas?

        Don't forget, Mr. Lucas showed a lot of conviction when he refused to attend the Democratic National Convention because of his differences on policy with Mr. Gore, though more cynical voters and pundits saw Mr. Lucas' move as one designed to save his own skin with the 4th District's conservative voters.

        And what of the protesters? OK, so maybe the small band of GOP leaders, mothers, kids and babies didn't exactly stage the next Wounded Knee in the parking lot of Mr. Lucas' Fort Mitchell field office.

        But they made their point. It was a little showy and purely political, but it's not out of the realm of decency to ask an elected official where he stands on an issue that is captivating much of the country.

        Give Mr. Lucas credit for meeting with the protesters in the lobby of his office. But take away points for not taking a stand.

        Mr. Lucas basically said he wasn't going to play politics on the topic of Mr. Gore's contest.

        But that in itself was a politically calculated maneuver.

       Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or by e-mail at


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