Saturday, August 31, 2002

Watts stumps for Davis campaign

Lucas camp making issue of Bush absence in Ky. congressional race

By Patrick Crowley,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, the only African-American Republican in Congress, helped Northern Kentucky Congressional candidate Geoff Davis raise campaign funds Friday.

        In town less than three hours, Mr. Watts, a fourth-term congressman who is stepping down from his seat at the end of the year, attended a Friday morning fund-raiser at the Fort Mitchell Country Club that was closed to reporters.

        About 75 to 100 people attended, according to an estimate given by Davis Campaign Manager Marc Wilson.

        Mr. Wilson said the amount of money raised was not available Friday. He said donors paid $50 to attend and $150 to have their photo snapped with Mr. Watts.

        Mr. Watts and Mr. Davis — who is running against Democrat U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas of Boone County in November — met with reporters at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport before Mr. Watts flew to Louisville for a campaign stop on behalf of Republican U.S. Rep. Anne Northup.

        “Looking at the lay of the land and the candidates on our radar screen, Geoff Davis is one of them,” said Mr. Watts, who as chairman of the House Republican Conference is the fourth highest ranking member of GOP leadership.

        “He's a great candidate with his military background, his business background and with all our nation is going through right now. ... A candidate like Geoff Davis is tailor-made for such a time as this.”

        “So I think this race is not just important for Kentucky, but it's important for our nation,” he said.

        Mr. Davis, a former U.S. Army ranger and the operator of a business-consulting firm, said Mr. Watts' visit “is one more clear statement of the commitment for the Republican Party to win this seat.”

        “The leadership sees the contrast clearly and understands who they want to see as the congressman,” Mr. Davis said.

        Mr. Watts is the fourth member of House Republican leadership to stump and raise money for Mr. Davis by attending fund-raisers in the Fourth Congressional District. Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and Majority Whip Tom Delay of Texas have all come in to Kentucky to assist Mr. Davis' campaign.

        But conspicuous by their absence in support of Mr. Davis have been President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney has attended fund-raisers in Louisville for Mrs. Northup and in Cincinnati for U.S. Rep. Rob Portman.

        Mr. Bush, who has traveled across the country in August raising money for Republican candidates, is scheduled to be in Louisville next week for a fund-raiser for Mrs. Northup, who is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Jack Conway.

        Members of the Lucas campaign team have tried to make political hay over the lack of attention Mr. Davis has received from the White House, claiming Mr. Lucas' frequent support of the GOP agenda is keeping the president and vice president away from the district.

        “The president is concentrating right now on incumbents,” Mr. Davis said. “I've been in touch with the White House political office. Ask Ken Lucas if (House Democratic Leader) Dick Gephardt is coming in for him.”

        Mr. Watts said even though Mr. Lucas does often support President Bush's agenda, the Republicans still want to increase their numbers in the House of Representatives because of their slim six-seat majority.

        “On any major issue it is just reality that ... we can't count on Democrats to get done what we need to get done,” Mr. Watts said.

        But Ben Davis, Mr. Lucas' campaign manager, said Mr. Lucas has been with the president on major issues such as tax cuts, free trade and a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens.

        “The president knows Ken Lucas will walk across the aisle to support issues important to people of the Fourth District,” Ben Davis said.


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- Watts stumps for Davis campaign