Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Kenton GOP's honeymoon over


Republican chief trying to keep colleagues from imploding

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        COVINGTON — It was fun to be Greg Shumate on election night.

        Candidates in the Kenton County Republican Party he chairs nearly swept the county and statehouse races that November night,just a few short months ago.

        George W. Bush, the GOP's candidate for president, took the county with 63 percent of the vote. And Mr. Bush won the 4th Congressional District by 16 points with the help of Mr. Shumate, the Kenton County Republican Executive Committee and other Republicans in the county.

        Two years earlier on election night, the Republicans won the entire county fiscal court, in addition to taking races for jailer and sheriff — a rousing success for the party in the first campaign season with Mr. Shumate at the helm.

        But this is politics, where the momentum can change about as often and about as radically as the weather.

        Win a bunch of races in November and 16 weeks later you're putting out more fires than a Covington Fire Department engine company.

        During a long lunch Wednesday at Behle Street — the restaurant 18 floors down from his spectacular RiverCenter law office — Mr. Shumate wasn't moaning, whining or pointing fingers.

        Nor was he overly reflective, accusatory or bitter.

        He just wondered when the bad news is going to go away.

        Let's start with that all-GOP Fiscal Court.

        When they aren't getting beaten up for raising taxes, they are getting hammered for buying an office building from a Republican Party contributor and former GOP activist — or blistered for wanting to build a jail smack in the middle of downtown Covington, a prime development site that should probably be hosting office workers instead of cons.

        Then last week, instead of focusing on those major problems, Mr. Shumate lands the unenviable gig of mediating the first of what is sure to be many intra-party spats involving the camps of Garry Edmondson and Eric Deters, who are engaging in a political war also known as the 2002 Kenton County attorney Republican primary.
       

Brokering a deal
        Mr. Deters accused John Middleton, a lawyer in Mr. Edmondson's office, of slander for raising some nasty questions about the death of Mr. Deters' wife in 1998.

        Mr. Deters wanted an apology in exchange for dropping a lawsuit. Mr. Middleton eventually said he was sorry and that Mr. Edmondson had nothing to do with the rumor that Lisa Deters, who died of cancer, passed away because of a sexually transmitted disease.

        Mr. Shumate wouldn't discuss details of the mediation. But knowing the candidates and their camps, it must have been like trying to broker a deal between Israel and the PLO.

        As he finished his baked cod, Mr. Shumate pledged a new day for the Kenton County GOP and its officeholders. They are going to be far more proactive in explaining their positions and actions to the public.

        That is a good idea whose time is long overdue. Sit with Mr. Shumate for five minutes and you get a good, rational argument about some of the things going on in county government.

        The Republicans had better start talking. Because the Democrats can't say enough about taxes, jails, office buildings and whatever else has been going on at the Courthouse.

       Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics. He can be reached at 578-5581, or by e-mail at pcrowley9@home.com.

       



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