By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT MITCHELL - Paul Hemmer Jr., one of Northern Kentucky's best-known business leaders and community activists, is exploring a run for the region's 4th District Congressional seat in 2004.
Mr. Hemmer, 53, a Republican from Lakeside Park, spoke about a possible run during a Friday afternoon interview in the office of his construction and real estate company.
"I'm anxious to (formally enter the race) as soon as I can," Mr. Hemmer said.
"I am at a point in my life where I can and where I want to make this contribution. I've worked to build a successful business, I've been active in my community, I'm raising a family and I believe I have a lot to offer. For me it will be a very seamless transition because I'm positioned to run for Congress."
Mr. Hemmer said he has talked to friends, business associates, community leaders and political activists about running for Congress.
He plans to expand his conversations to Republican Party leaders throughout the 24-county 4th District, which stretches along the Ohio River from Ashland to near Louisville and includes all of Northern Kentucky.
He has also begun to hold discussions with political consultants.
"I've been very encouraged," Mr. Hemmer said. "No one has discouraged me," he said.
As he comes closer to a formal announcement, Mr. Hemmer said he would begin to publicly discuss issues and his platform, though he did say among his top priorities will be education and economic growth.
While Mr. Hemmer said he would not "finance his own campaign" he would be prepared to put some of his own money into the race.
Mr. Hemmer previously has not run for office, though his involvement in community organizations and causes is extensive.
And his company's name - Paul Hemmer Companies - is well-known from the projects it has developed, including a highly visible glass office tower bearing the Hemmer name that sits along Interstate 75 in Fort Mitchell.
All told, the company manages more than 2.5 million-square-feet of office and commercial space it has developed in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati and employs 70 people.
Mr. Hemmer said he is getting his name out even though the primary is 18 months away because the GOP primary could become very crowded.
The seat is now held by Boone County Democrat Ken Lucas, who was elected to a third - and what he has said will be his last - term on Nov. 5. Already in the race is Boone County Republican Geoff Davis, who lost this year's race by just three percentage points to Mr. Lucas.
Other Republicans said to be considering joining the race are Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery, Edgewood lawyer Kevin Murphy and state Rep. Jon Draud of Crestview Hills.
Kenton County Republican Party Chairman Greg Shumate said Mr. Hemmer is known in Northern Kentucky for the business, civic and charitable contributions he and his family have made in the community.
"He is a very prominent and active member of our community. He certainly has a good reputation because of his many contributions to Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati as a whole," Mr. Shumate said.
Among the groups and organizations Mr. Hemmer has been active with is The United Way, Northern Kentucky University, The Diocesan Children's Home, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Licking Valley Girl Scouts Council, the Fine Arts Fund of Northern Kentucky, The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Boone County Conservancy Board. He is also on the board of trustees of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center being developed on Cincinnati's riverfront.
On a farm he owns in Boone County, Mr. Hemmer and his wife, Mary, have started the "Freedom Trees" reforestation project with a goal of planting more than 1 million new trees in his lifetime.
Mr. Hemmer has five children, three from an earlier marriage and two young daughters with Mary, his wife of 10 years.
"One of the main considerations I've looked at and will continue to look at is how this will affect my family," Mr. Hemmer said. "There are times when I'll have to be away."
Mr. Hemmer grew up in Fort Mitchell and attended St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Purdue University.
Since 1982 he has served as president of the Paul Hemmer Companies, a company based in Fort Mitchell with annual revenues "in excess of $50 million", Mr. Hemmer said.
The family business was started in 1921 by Mr. Hemmer's grandfather, John. Mr. Hemmer's father, Paul Sr., also ran the company for years.
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