Saturday, August 11, 2001

Patton achieves higher profile


Governors' post provides base

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MELBOURNE — Gov. Paul Patton's election as vice chairman of the National Governor's Association could help Kentucky when it comes to issues such as attracting federal money for highway projects.

        But the position, which will ultimately lead to chairmanship of the organization, will also help Mr. Patton raise his own national profile as he ponders a run for the U.S. Senate.

Patton
Patton
        While working the crowd this week at the Campbell County Senior Citizens Picnic, Mr. Patton, a Pikeville Democrat, said he didn't seek the vice chairmanship because he might run for the Senate.

        But he admitted his role will help acquaint him with national issues and allow him to make fund-raising and other contacts.

        “That might be a side result,” Mr. Patton said Wednesday. “But I'm pretty well known nationally anyway.”

        Mr. Patton was elected vice chairman of the organization, known as the NGA, at its annual meeting Tuesday in Providence, R.I. Michigan Gov. John Engler, a Republican, was elected chairman for a term that ends at the end of next year. Mr. Patton is in line to succeed Mr. Engler in 2003, the last year of his second term as Kentucky's governor.

        Mr. Patton is likely to run against Sen. Jim Bunning, a Southgate Republican who has said he will seek a second term in 2004.

        As vice chairman of the NGA, Mr. Patton will be the point man for the Democrats in the organization.

        “The (NGA) tries to operate in a bipartisan way,” Mr. Patton said. “We normally try to get into issues where there is pretty broad agreement, things like welfare reform and transportation.

        “We don't get into every issue, because if it's a political issue we don't get involved,” he said. “But I'll be pretty actively involved in articulating the Democrats' position.”

        Mr. Patton has previously used his time on the national stage to further his political ambitions.

        During the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Mr. Patton attended dozens of events, gave speeches and attended parties and receptions. At the time, he said he was representing Kentucky but also building a national base of donors he would need for a Senate race that could cost $5 million or more.

        “Everything you do relates to building and putting yourself in a position to do a job and also to be able to win the job,” Mr. Patton said at the time.

        “Certainly I have tried to use my position to exert leadership to do something important, and at the same time demonstrate I could effectively do other jobs ... and get acquainted with people that would help me gain that office.”

        Kentucky Republican Party Vice Chairman Damon Thayer acknowledged that the involvement in the NGA will help raise Mr. Patton's national profile.

        But Mr. Thayer points to a poll leaked in late April that showed Mr. Bunning with a 10-point lead over Mr. Patton in a Senate race — 50 percent to 40 percent — with 10 percent of the voters undecided.

        “Based on that poll, (Mr. Patton) is going to need all the help he can get,” Mr. Thayer said.

       



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