By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HEBRON - Northern Kentucky's first major political fund-raiser in this year's gubernatorial race paid off big Monday night for Democrat Ben Chandler and his running mate, Charlie Owen.
The Chandler/Owen ticket raised an estimated $100,000 during the two-hour event at the Cincinnati Airport Marriott in Boone County. The campaign would not confirm the amount, but an invitation indicated it cost a donor $1,000 to be a co-host, and just over 100 hosts were listed on a sign posted at the event.
"We're overwhelmed and humbled," Mr. Chandler, the state attorney general, told the crowd. "I think a lot about this great part of the state ... and I appreciate you helping us provide the means to run this campaign."
Even before Monday's event, Mr. Chandler and Mr. Owen had raised more than three times the amount of the Democrats' other major gubernatorial ticket, House Speaker Jody Richards and his running mate, Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk Tony Miller.
WHO'S GOT WHAT
Here is the amount of money raised by the major gubernatorial campaigns in Kentucky. Listed are the gubernatorial candidate and the lieutenant governor running mate. Amounts are through Dec. 30.|
Ben Chandler and Charlie Owen - $268,500.
Jody Richards and Tony Miller - $84,950.
Ernie Fletcher and Hunter Bates - $509,260.
Steve Nunn and Bob Heleringer - $28,800.
Source: Kentucky Registry of Election Finance
Jim Redwine of Kenton County, one of the many lawyers at the event, said Mr. Chandler has built a strong base in Northern Kentucky during his two terms as attorney general and before that as state auditor.
"Ben Chandler has spent a lot of time in Northern Kentucky, and tonight he is seeing just how much support he has in this part of the state," Mr. Redwine said.
Voters in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties will be heavily courted during the Democratic and Republican primaries. With none of the major candidates from Northern Kentucky, the area is considered "in play" because there are no regional loyalties.
But Democrats at Monday's event believe Mr. Chandler is the front-runner because of his time spent here and because of his grandfather A.B. "Happy" Chandler, who served as governor and U.S. senator and is regarded as one of the best-known political figures in Kentucky history.
Boone County lawyer David Wallace, a native of western Kentucky, said that as a child he remembers Happy Chandler visiting his family's farm in Marshall County.
"There is rich tradition with the Chandler name in Kentucky, and that's going to help Ben Chandler in this election," said Mr. Wallace, a Kentucky historian. "People all over this state know, and remember, the Chandler name. And in an election, nothing beats name recognition."
During his speech, Mr. Chandler repeatedly mentioned the strong Northern Kentucky economy and how he would like to see the successes here replicated across Kentucky.
"We do not have a more vibrant area of our state," Mr. Chandler said. "It's the economic engine of our state. It's wonderful to see the riverfront development ... and the renaissance programs of Covington and Newport and all that the airport has done."
Campbell County Commissioner Dave Otto, the owner of a printing and graphics company in Dayton, Ky., said Mr. Chandler also recognizes the value of small businesses to the economy.
"I know because I've spent time with Ben Chandler, and he knows small businesses are the backbone of the state's economy," Mr. Otto said. "He's concerned about helping small businesses grow and thrive."
Mr. Chandler also said that in his administration Mr. Owen - a Louisville lawyer and millionaire who made his fortune in law, cable television companies and real estate investments - will play a major role in crafting and implementing economic policy.
In an interview, however, Mr. Chandler said his comments should not be portrayed as confirmation that Mr. Owen will jointly serve as lieutenant governor as well as secretary of the Economic Development Cabinet.
Mr. Chandler also said his platform will include improving educational opportunities and expanding access to health care.
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