Monday, October 22, 2001

Boone Co. Democrats need more than a rally

        BURLINGTON — Let's get this out right up front. A blast of a rally on a beautiful Boone County farm, no matter how much fun and despite a ton of enthusiasm, is not going to return the county's Democrats to their glory days of holding every elected office in the courthouse. But it's a start.

        Last Wednesday night, on one of those orange-sky autumn nights that makes you glad there are still parts of Boone County where there isn't a strip mall or subdivision, the Democrats in this GOP-dominated county felt good about themselves.

        There was Democratic Gov. Paul Patton delivering the keynote speech, talking big about “bring back the Democrats.”

        There was former Miss America Heather French Henry, a Democrat, and that guy she is married to, Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, another Democrat. And of course Harper, the baby, a Democrat, who despite looking just like dad is still a doll.

        There was former judge-executive Bruce Ferguson, growling into a microphone about how Mr. Patton is going to whip Republi can Sen. Jim Bunning in 2004.

        There were labor leaders Jim Cole, Wayne Whalen and Dave Guidugli, as loyal soldiers as the Democrats have in this area.

        There was Kristi Nelson, who will someday run for something and win.

        There was the new brand of leadership in county commissioner Tim Hamilton, Florence Mayor Diane Whalen and in party leaders Phyllis Jones and Howard Tankersley, who is as smart as he looks.

        There were party stalwarts like Betty Roth, former clerk Jerry Rouse, former state representative Bill McBee and his wife, Anne, county attorney Larry Crigler, circuit clerk Pat Gutzeit and county clerk Marilyn Rouse.

        There was U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, who used to serve as Boone County judge-executive and who sounded proud to be a Democrat.

        There were Democratic party officials and activists from Campbell and Kenton counties, brought in to pump up the numbers of a crowd that looked to be about 150.

        There was cold beer and hot food.

        There were high expectations but not enough reality.

        Because, any way you look at Boone County, it's a Republican county. For the most part the folks register that way, think that way, vote that way.

        If the Democrats want to be taken seriously, let Wednesday night be a lesson. You need the energy, the sage advice of veterans, the backing of the party's top officials, and the energy of youth and new leadership that were on display there.

        But you also need to raise money, field strong candidates to challenge incumbents, get out your message, raise more money, win back Reagan Democrats, have more events like Wednesday, put together a strong platform, raise even more money, and take it to the streets.

        It is not a battle for the faint of heart. Boone County Republicans are far more entrenched than the GOP office holders in either of Northern Kentucky's other big counties. Attend a Republican Party rally or event in Boone County and just try to find a seat or a parking space. They are good and they know it.

        But they aren't unbeatable. No one is.

        Can the Boone Dems come back? It's all up to them.

        E-mail at Past columns at


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