Sunday, January 5, 2003

Politicians to watch in 2003

Some already are campaigning, others are itching to join in


It's time for my annual list of the political people to watch in 2003:

Gov. Paul Patton. His former mistress is telling tales to the feds, to the AG's office, to talk radio, to Katie Couric, to anybody who still has the stomach to listen. But he has a budget with a hole the size of an imploded stadium. Can he keep Republicans and Democrats focused on the state's money problems rather than clawing at one another? He needs those prayers he begged for during that tearful news conference when he finally admitted he and Tina Conner had been an item.

Hunter Bates. This former top aide to Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell was pushed first by his boss into the 2004 Fourth District Congressional race. Then, when local Republicans squawked, Mr. Bates landed as gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher's running mate. Here are some other high-profile gigs Mr. McConnell may want to steer his protÈgÈ toward: Bengals head coach; Pope; a spot on Survivor; UK point guard; server at the Greyhound grill.

Gex (Jay) Williams. The former state senator who helped ignite the rise of Republican conservatives in Northern Kentucky dropped out of sight after his 1998 loss to Democrat Ken Lucas. But he's been reestablishing some of his political contacts over the last few months. What's the Gexster up to?

Terry Mann. Democrats basically get their cans kicked all over Northern Kentucky - except in Campbell County. Mr. Mann, the leader of the Campbell Dems, and the rest of the party are doing something right.

U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas. Will he run for the U.S. Senate in '04 against incumbent Republican Jim Bunning, break his term-limit pledge and run for election in '04 or simply retire from politics? Hard decisions for the state's top Democratic officeholder.

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning. The National Journal says he's the most the conservative senator in Washington and he just landed a seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which puts him in position to return lots of dough to Kentucky as his re-election looms. And the Dems said he would eventually slow down. Silly Dems.

Alex Edmondson. The Covington city commissioner is a commodity in short supply in the Democratic Party - that is a young, brash, innovative leader who says what he thinks but sometimes doesn't think before he says it.

Jeff Middendorf and Brandon Voelker. These two assistant Kenton County attorneys will be on Republican ballots before you know it. Both have worked on the campaigns for their boss, Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, so they know how to campaign smart and aren't afraid to play a little rough.

Mark Stoeber. The new Cold Spring mayor beat a longtime incumbent and a popular political leader in the November election by espousing some lucid ideas and proposals on how to deal with development.

Rick Robinson. There is hardly a Republican in Northern Kentucky who doesn't call this Fort Mitchell political seer for advice before making a big move. As good as he is behind the scenes, does he really want to stay there?

Trey Grayson. This Republican's run for Secretary of State won't be easy, but at least he has the guts to get in the race. Lots of other pols talk a good game; Mr. Grayson put up so others may as well just shut up.

Paul Meier. The mayor of Crestview Hills battled Cinergy and helped keep a power plant from being built near the city. Then he cast the deciding vote on what looks to be the first step toward the redevelopment of the tomb known as Crestview Hills Mall. He's another mayor with higher office potential.

Jerry Carroll and Bill Butler. The president of the Kentucky Speedway and the head of Corporex both are gambling on bringing gambling to Northern Kentucky. But their ideas about how to do it are vastly different.

Patrick Hughes. He lost last year's judge-executive race but is a Democrat with a ton of potential. Party leaders would love him to make a move toward Frankfort.

Mark Guilfoyle. He's on the list every year because you need to watch him - especially if you're a Republican - every minute. Like Mr. Robinson, great behind the scenes but itches to hold office someday.

Angie Dixon. She's helped Ken Lucas get elected three times. Seems about time for her own race.

David MacKnight and John Stanton. Ben Chandler's right hand man and the deputy Boone County administrator have two of the best political minds in Northern Kentucky. Their bosses - Mr. Chandler and Boone County judge-executive Gary Moore - are better off because of their counsel.

Diane Brumback, Kate Molloy and Sue Sampson. These Democrats lost races in 2002. Let's hope they don't go away. The party - and the region - needs more involvement from women.

Marc Wilson. He's helped elect more Northern Kentucky Republicans than campaign contributions from homebuilders. Now he's working as a lobster in Frankfort. Let the manipulation begin.

Jon Draud. A Republican lawmaker who isn't afraid - in fact, I think he kind of likes it - to take a tough stand on taxes, gambling, education, you name it.

Jim Callahan. When it comes to money, key legislation and attention from Frankfort, if this Wilder Democrat doesn't do it, it won't get done.

Katie Stine. She's proven to be a tough, savvy and successful, if a-little-too-partisan state Senator. Will she pursue that dream of running for Congress?

Jack Moreland. The superintendent of the Covington Schools has a reputation for taking on tough situations and making them better. Is he finally ready to run for something?


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