Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Murgatroyd raises cash for '02 vote

Democrats also prepare for expensive campaign

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON - In a move designed to show party unity and skill in attracting campaign contributions, Kenton County Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd will hold a re-election fund-raiser expected to bring in $50,000 or more.

        The Thursday event comes at a time when Mr. Murgatroyd, a Villa Hills Republican in his first term as the county's top elected official, is under political pressure publicly from Democrats and privately from members of his own party because of the performance of the fiscal court he heads.

        Criticism has been leveled at Mr. Murgatroyd and Republican commissioners Adam Koenig, Barb Black and Dan Humpert for raising taxes and not being able to settle on a location for a new county jail.

        But Thursday night's fund-raiser - set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Covington's posh Metropolitan Club - will show that Mr. Murgatroyd enjoys strong support from within the party ranks, said Mike Gibbons, the campaign's finance chairman.

        “Virtually every Republican Party elected official is going to be there or has signed on as a co-host for the event,” Mr. Gibbons said Tuesday. “There is a lot of confidence in Judge Murgatroyd and he has the complete backing of the party and its elected officials.”

"Enormous endorsement'
        Mr. Gibbons said with the $50,000 the campaign expects to raise Thursday, Mr. Murgatroyd will have a re-election fund for the 2002 race of about $100,000, a large amount for a county official not set to go before the voters for more than a year.

        Mr. Gibbons, a veteran GOP fund-raiser, said the event, with 130 co-hosts, will be one of the largest he's ever been involved with.

        “What this (evening) is,” Mr. Gibbons said, “is an enormous endorsement for the work Judge Murgatroyd has done.”

        Though Kenton County Democrats have not yet fielded a candidate - and probably won't until September or later in the fall - they claim to be unimpressed with Mr. Murgatroyd's growing campaign war chest.

Isues or dollars
        Issues and not dollars will determine the outcome of the race, said Kenton County Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Hughes.

        “All the money in the world is not going to change the fact that there have been unprecedented tax increases under Judge Murgatroyd,” Mr. Hughes, of Fort Wright, said Tuesday, pointing to hikes in the county's property, utility and payroll taxes.

        Many Democrats expect and hope that Edgewood attorney Mark Guilfoyle, a longtime party strategist who ran former Gov. Brereton Jones' cabinet in Frankfort, will challenge Mr. Murgatroyd next year.

        But Mr. Guilfoyle has not said what his plans are and Mr. Hughes would not comment on Mr. Guilfoyle's possible candidacy. The two work in the same Crestview Hills law firm - Deters Benzinger and LaVelle - and served together in the Jones' administration.

        Mr. Hughes did say the party is raising money in anticipation of the 2002 county elections, hoping to win back some of the county offices Republicans have been picking up over the last several years.

        Thursday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat representing Kentucky's 4th Congressional District, will be joined by Indiana Congressman Baron Hill, a Democrat who represents Indiana's 9th Congressional District, which includes Lawrenceburg and Aurora in southeastern Indiana, for a party fund-raiser in Crescent Springs.

        The event, at a private home, will benefit the Kenton County Democratic Party's Truman Club, a group that raises money for the party's candidates.

        “The Democrats are going to be able to address the issues and we're going to be able to raise the money to get our message out there.”

        But Mr. Gibbons said Mr. Murgatroyd will be able to also run on the issues and how he has had to make tough decisions over the last two years.

        “Judge Murgatroyd has wrestled with the hard issues,” Mr. Gibbons said. “He has not walked away from taking on the difficult job of being judge-executive in a growing county.”


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