Monday, July 29, 2002

Carrollton bus crash spurs mother's candidacy

The Associated Press

        RADCLIFF - Since her daughter died in the nation's worst alcohol-related highway crash more than a decade ago, Janey Fair has watched from the state Capitol gallery as legislators passed laws she helped create.

        After 14-year-old Shannon Fair and 26 others were killed on their way home from a church trip to Kings Island amusement park in 1988, her mother became an activist for tougher drunken driving laws, victims' rights and safer school buses

        Now Mrs. Fair wants to move from the gallery to the Senate floor. To get there, she would have to defeat two-term incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Tori, R-Radcliff, in November.

        “I've been going to the legislature for over 13 years,” said Mrs. Fair, 58. “I'm much more familiar with the legislative process than I am with the candidacy.”

        Mrs. Fair joins other political hopefuls who ran for office after enduring great personal tragedy.

        U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., was elected in 1996, three years after her husband and five others were killed by a gunman who opened fire in a Long Island commuter train.

        Max Cleland won a Georgia senate seat, became Georgia secretary of state and then a U.S. senator after he had both legs and one arm blown off by a grenade in Vietnam. Luanne Koskinen became a Minnesota state representative after her 33-year-old daughter was murdered in her apartment by a building caretaker.

        Each rose to office by taking a strong stance on an issue such as gun control or veterans' rights.

        While Mrs. Fair's motivating issue is drunken driving, Ms. Tori is known for her strong anti-abortion beliefs.

        “Her opponent may be a fine person, but that can't replace the experience and respect Tori has earned in the Senate,” said Ellen Williams, chairwoman of the state Republican party.

        Neither Mrs. Fair nor Ms. Tori, the majority whip, faced a primary opponent. Ms. Tori held a significant fund-raising edge, reporting a campaign balance of $53,511 to $11,460 for Mrs. Fair in reports due at the end of June.

        Republicans hold only a two-seat advantage in the 38-seat state Senate, so all 12 contested races are considered crucial to both parties.

        Mrs. Fair believes she can overcome Ms. Tori's advantage as an incumbent because of the bond she developed with her community after the tragedy. About 20 scrapbooks filled with articles kept in Mrs. Fair's living room recount the crash, the community's mourning and its recovery.

        Drunken driver Larry Mahoney hit the former school bus head-on while driving the wrong way on the interstate. Forty people survived, but 24 children and three adults died in the fiery crash on Interstate 71 near Carrollton, midway between Louisville and Cincinnati.

        Surviving the loss of her daughter made Mrs. Fair realize she had to become involved, she said.

        “She didn't have a choice. Her life was taken,” Mrs. Fair said of her daughter. “I wasn't going to give mine up. I could do that for her and for other people.”

        Mrs. Fair volunteered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, becoming the state spokeswoman and then national vice president.

        She worked with her husband, Larry - a retired Army colonel - for tougher state and federal DUI, bus safety and victims' rights laws.

        Mrs. Fair gave up her position with MADD to run for office when she was recruited by Gov. Paul Patton and Democratic Party officials. Mrs. Fair switched her registration from Independent in January.


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