Sunday, August 25, 2002

Picnic serves up pasta, politics

        COLD SPRING - Judie Hatchett came all the way from Glasgow in western Kentucky last Saturday to drop in at the Guidugli Family Picnic. While she enjoyed the food - trays of lasagna, piles of bread, deep bowls of salad - it was politics, not pasta, that brought Mrs. Hatchett three hours from her home on a steamy Saturday night.

        Mrs. Hatchett is the wife of Ed Hatchett. He is the state auditor but wants to be attorney general. So along with his wife - spouses of politicians are near-saints in my book for all they have to put up with - Mr. Hatchett worked the crowd at what has become the premiere Democratic Party event in Northern Kentucky.

        “This event has been on my radar screen for a long time,” Mr. Hatchett said, as he and Mrs. Hatchett took a break, albeit brief, from shaking hands, patting backs and handing out campaign literature. “For Democrats, this is definitely one event you don't want to miss.”

        What started nine years ago as a family picnic for the first family of Democratic politics in Campbell County has turned into a major stop on the party's statewide campaign circuit, an event where politics blends easily with a backyard outing on a late summer night. Kids swim in the pool or toss footballs while the pols circulate among the crowd, which this year numbered more than 250.

        But just how big has the picnic become? This year, the candidates seemed to outnumber the Italians.

        “It has grown into something bigger than we ever expected,” said host Dave Guidugli, a Northern Kentucky labor leader and former Cold Spring City Councilman who is again running for a council seat. “It just kind of happened but we're glad about it. It's a real chance for people active in the Democratic Party to come out, have a good time, eat some dinner and talk to the Democrats running for office.”

        The Guiduglis' impact on local politics is well documented. Tom Guidugli is mayor of Newport. Dan Guidugli is a Kentucky Court of Appeals Justice. His wife, Mary, has been recruited in the past to run for the statehouse and may do so in the future. Mariann Guidugli Dunn is the Campbell County Property Value Administrator. Steve Guidugli is on Bellevue city council.

        While the Guidugli's have no trouble drawing a political crowd, it was really Gov. Paul Patton, a Pikeville Democrat, who made the picnic a staple of the stump when he showed up eight years ago. He hasn't missed one since.

        Among the Democratic candidates at the picnic were:

        House Speaker Jody Richards of Bowling Green, who is running in the party's Democratic gubernatorial primary. He made the biggest news of the event by landing an endorsement from House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan of Wilder, one of Northern Kentucky's leading Democrats.

        Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, also a gubernatorial candidate, worked the crowd with his wife, former Miss America Heather French Henry, and their daughter, Harper.

        Former Attorney General Chris Gorman, who wants his old job back, worked the crowd with two of the area's top Democrats, Campbell County Democratic Party Chairman Terry Mann and Covington Schools superintendent Jack Moreland.

        Attorney General Ben Chandler, yet another Democrat running for governor, who bragged he received a campaign contribution from Mr. Moreland.

        Charles Wells of Georgetown, who is running for Northern Kentucky's new Senate district seat. He spent most of the picnic telling people exactly who he is.


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