Sunday, September 09, 2001

Kentucky Politics

Local pols help out in East Ky.

        So what do Northern Kentucky political activists and consultants do with themselves in a year with no elections?

        They go find an election out of town.

        Over this weekend and next, a small group of local Republican Party elected officials, party leaders and consultants is heading to the eastern Kentucky mountains to work in a special-election state Senate race.

        The race is important because the GOP Senate majority now stands at 20 to 17.

        “Any time you have an open seat you have a good chance to win,” said Marc Wilson, a Republican campaign consultant from Florence and one of those making the trip east.

        “We especially want this one because it was a Democratic seat,” he said.

        The seat was vacated in August by Dale Shrout, a Mount Sterling Democrat who left the Senate after Gov. Paul Patton appointed him commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicle Regulation.

        Running in the Sept. 18 special election are Republican Kelly Johnson, a Mount Sterling dentist, and Rep. R.J. Palmer, a two-term statehouse Democrat from Winchester who works as a banker.

        Among the Republicans helping out in the race are state Sens. Dick Roeding and Jack Westwood, both of Kenton County; attorney Trey Grayson, a member of the Kenton County Republican Executive Committee; GOP consultant Hayes Robertson; and two Boone County Republicans, Steve Smith and Jeff Smith.

        The 28th Senate District covers six mostly rural counties — Bath, Clark, Estill, Fleming, Montgomery and Powell.

        Mr. Robertson, who is managing Eric Deters' Kenton County attorney primary race, said “We'll be doing anything they ask us to do, going door-to-door, working phone banks, sending out mailers, basically GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts.

        “This is a true grass-roots effort. It's not like up here, when you can work a whole Senate district in a day. That district is spread out. It takes a lot of people, and Johnson needs all the people he can get to help.”

        On the fence. Former Covington city commissioner Jerry Stricker says he is leaning toward running for the commission next year.

        A retired financial company executive, Mr. Stricker was on the commission most of last year. He was appointed to fill a vacancy but didn't run in the 2000 election.

        “Right now I'm about 70-30 in favor of running,” Mr. Stricker said at last week's Oktoberfest kick-off lunch in Covington.

        A taxing issue. Some Kenton County Republicans are ticked that the Democrats and the press have said that the county's all-GOP fiscal court has raised taxes four times.

        Republicans painfully acknowledge the court has raised the county's payroll, utility and property taxes. But they dispute what the Dems describe as the fourth tax, an increase the county approved in the sanitation rates.

        “That's not a tax,” argues Ted Smith of Park Hills, a member of the Kenton County Republican Executive Committee.

        Okay, we'll give that one to you. And here's a suggested campaign slogan for the Republicans:

        “Vote for us. We only raised taxes three times, not four.”

        Doesn't quite have the same ring as “I Like Ike” or “It's the economy, Stupid,” now does it?

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics. He can be reached at (859) 578-5581, or by e-mail at


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