By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
ERLANGER - Kevin Murphy, a lawyer and former Republican Party official who has been openly critical of some GOP elected officials, said Saturday that he will seek the Republican nomination in Northern Kentucky's 2004 congressional primary.
Mr. Murphy, 49, is a native of New York City who received his law degree from Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University and has lived in this region for 25 years. The former head of the Kenton County Republican Party said he would file formal federal election papers Tuesday and immediately begin building an organization and raising money for a Fourth District Congressional primary, which is still more than a year away.
"I'm at a good time in my life to run," Mr. Murphy said Saturday from his home in Erlanger. "I'm a supporter of President Bush, and I think the country needs to support the president on the war on terrorism and on his economic stimulus package."
Mr. Murphy said part of his campaign platform will include increasing economic opportunities in the Fourth District, which covers 24 counties - including all of Northern Kentucky - as it snakes along the Ohio River from the West Virginia border in the east to near Louisville in the west.
"What you have here is two remarkably different districts," Mr. Murphy said. "One is growing tremendously in this part of the state, I want to see that continue. But the other part of the region has lost so many manufacturing jobs. I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood. I know the value and importance of a good job, and what is missing in a good portion of this district are those kinds of jobs."
Mr. Murphy lost the only race he has ever run, the 1993 Kenton County Attorney's race against then-Democrat Garry Edmondson. Mr. Edmondson continues to serve as county attorney, but changed parties and became a Republican three years ago. He was easily re-elected to a third term in November.
Mr. Murphy also served as vice chairman and chairman of the Kenton County GOP in the mid-1990s.
With Mr. Murphy poised to enter the race, the Republican congressional primary could be crowded by the time the election is held in May 2004.
Boone County Democrat Ken Lucas, who was elected to a third term in November by beating Boone County Republican Geoff Davis, now holds the seat.
Republicans expect the seat to be open next year because Mr. Lucas signed a pledge to serve just three terms and is now considering running in the 2004 U.S. Senate race against GOP incumbent Jim Bunning of Southgate.
Mr. Davis has already said he plans to run in '04. Also considering the race are developer and businessman Paul Hemmer of Lakeside Park, Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery of Fort Thomas and state Rep. Jon Draud of Crestview Hills.
Mr. Murphy confirmed he was in Washington last week "making the rounds" and talking to people about the race, though he would not comment when asked specifically whom he met with.
"I got nothing but encouragement in Washington ... and I'm looking forward to running in the primary against Mr. Davis. It should be a good spirited campaign," Mr. Murphy said.
"As far as others, I don't know what they are going to do," he said. "I'm just going to run hard and deliver a good message to the people of the Fourth District."
Fort Mitchell Republican Rick Robinson is a party leader and strategist who has met privately with all of the Republicans considering running for Congress. He began telling people this month that Mr. Murphy was likely to enter the race.
"Each of the people bring something different to the table, and with Kevin Murphy it's a lot of passion," Mr. Robinson said Saturday. "It's going to be a very unique primary."
Justin Brasell, a spokesman for Mr. Davis, said any other Republican who gets in the primary is going to play catch-up with Mr. Davis.
"We've said all along we'll be happy to run against whoever wants to get in," Mr. Brasell said Saturday. "But they should know that with want we spent (on the 2002) race and with what the (Republican National Committee) spent we have over $1 million invested already. And whoever gets in will be that much behind."
Kathy Groob, Mr. Hemmer's spokeswoman, said Mr. Hemmer is still considering whether to enter the race but Mr. Murphy's candidacy will not affect his decision.
"Paul's decision is about balancing his personal and professional life with a run for Congress and not about who else is in the race," Ms. Groob said Saturday.
There were no answers Saturday at the homes of Mr. Pendery and Mr. Draud.
Mr. Murphy is likely to find staunch opposition from social conservatives in the party, whom he has at times criticized in a newspaper column he writes for the weekly Community Recorder newspapers of Northern Kentucky.
Mr. Murphy said he has taken members of both major parties to task.
Marc Wilson, a GOP political consultant from Florence who advised the Davis campaign last year, said Mr. Murphy will not take conservative votes from Mr. Davis.
"It's going to be a wide-open field, and it's going to be tough to beat Geoff Davis," Mr. Wilson said Saturday. "It will be like running against an incumbent. Kevin Murphy is perceived as a liberal, and it takes conservatives to win (Republican) primaries."
Edgewood lawyer Mark Guilfoyle, a Democratic strategist and political adviser to Mr. Lucas, said Mr. Murphy is too "bombastic" and that his newspaper column "will come back to haunt him."
"This is laughable," Mr. Guilfoyle said. "He's really lost whatever credibility he had by writing that newspaper column because he's been all over the board with it.
"He's had fun throwing grenades for the past couple of years in his column," Mr. Guilfoyle said Saturday. "Well, now he can expect people to lob them back at him."
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