By Carl Weiser
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WASHINGTON - The group that promotes limiting service by members of Congress is disappointed and surprised U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas has decided to break his pledge to serve three terms in Washington.
"That's very surprising," said spokeswoman Stacie Rumenap of the Washington-based U.S. Term Limits. "In announcing that he's breaking his pledge, clearly Potomac Fever has gotten to him. It's surprising, and it's a shame."
Lucas, 69, announced Friday that in 2004 he will be seek a fourth term representing Kentucky's Fourth Congressional District. The Boone County Democrat was elected in November to a third term. In 1998, when he ran his first race against Boone County Republican Gex (Jay) Williams, Lucas signed a pledge with U.S. Term Limits vowing to serve just three terms.
Mr. Lucas said given the national concerns over the economy and the war on terrorism, including the possibility of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq, "I cannot in good conscience step away from my work."
Lucas also said during his campaign "there was a vibrant national term limit movement in America that I was involved with."
"Since then, popular support for term limits has evaporated, and the movement has all but ended," he said.
Rumenap disagreed with Lucas' comments about the viability and popularity of the term limit movement. "That's completely false," she said. "Term limits remain as popular with voters today as it was in the early '90s. Voters recognize that under term limits elected officials are more accountable."
Other members of Congress, including Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis of Kentucky, have broken term limits. And none of the candidates who broke the pledge have lost a re-election bid.
Burns Strider, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the committee that works to elect Democrats to Congress is "delighted" Lucas is seeking re-election. "Congressman Lucas represents his constituents well," Strider said Friday. "There's countless scores of Republicans who have broken their pledges for term limits. The folks (in Kentucky) are going to judge him on this solid merits as a congressman. I don't anticipate it hurting him at all."
But Steve Schmidt, of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called Lucas "one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country. "He barely won re-election" over Republican Geoff Davis last year, Schmidt said. Davis is also running next year, as are Republicans Kevin Murphy of Erlanger and Steve Pendery of Fort Thomas, the Campbell County Judge-executive.
But Schmidt, reminded that Republicans have also broken the term limit pledge, acknowledged that Lucas "is not the first person to break a promise."
"But for the voters in the Fourth District, he's the only one who's broken a promise that they're going to have a referendum on," he said. "It will be an issue in the (2004) campaign."
Enquirer reporter Patrick Crowley contributed.
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