Sunday, July 29, 2001

Ky. Politics

Lucas wades in party-label ambiguity

        Ken Lucas — a man without a party.

        That's the Republican Party's spin on the 4th District Congressman, a Boone County Democrat who isn't actually a party — as in “political party” — guy.

        Mr. Lucas stays away from Washington Democrats like interns (now) stay away from Gary Condit.

        Remember last year's Democratic Convention in L.A.? Mr. Lucas wouldn't go because hanging out with Al Gore wouldn't look too good to all the conservative voters — including lots of Dems — back home in Kentucky.

        Remember when President Bill Clinton would come into the state, or into Cincinnati, Mr. Lucas would rarely attend? Mr. Clinton, while winning Kentucky in both his presidential campaigns, never came close to carrying the 4th, so Mr. Lucas probably figured he could only be hurt politically by hanging out with Bill.

        Mr. Lucas votes often, but not always, with Republicans, particularly on high profile bills that are important to voters in the 4th District. That takes some of the ammunition away from partisan Republicans and party leaders, who seek ways to cast Mr. Lucas with the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy and House Leader Dick Gephardt, liberals who are as popular in Northern Kentucky as a case of mouth rot.

        Since Republicans can't really label Mr. Lucas a liberal, they say he is wandering in a political wasteland, a place where he is shunned by his own party as he jumps in with the GOP to look good to voters in Kentucky.

        Well, Mr. Lucas sure looked like he had a party a couple of weeks ago — the Republican Party.

        There was the veep, Big Time Dick Cheney, touring the Kansas City Regional Financial Management Service Center where the tax rebate checks most of us are waiting for are being printed.

        The scene was all over the national news. And who was right there with Big Time?

        Not Jim Bunning or Mitch McConnell or Ernie Fletcher or any other members of Kentucky's Washington delegation.

        It was Ken Lucas, the only Democrat among Kentucky's eight members of Congress.

        Seems Mr. Lucas was getting a payback for being one of the 28 Dems to vote for President George Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, which includes those rebate checks.

        Mr. Lucas was also one of only two Dems who got to make the trip to Kansas City on Air Force Two. Think that footage will show up in a campaign commercial next year?

        And how about the letter Mr. Bush wrote to Mr. Lucas, gushing all over the Congressman for his “courage” and how “grateful” he president was for Mr. Lucas' vote.

        “Well done,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Lucas.

        Think those words will appear in a campaign ad next year?

        A man without a party?

        Hardly. Heck, it looks like Mr. Lucas belongs to both parties.

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


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