Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Lucas fund raising lags 3 in GOP


But they might blow it against each other in primary

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

All three of Northern Kentucky's Republican congressional hopefuls raised more campaign money than the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Ken Lucas, during the first quarter of this year, according to figures reported Tuesday.

Lucas, a three-term incumbent from Boone County, reported raising $83,700 during the first quarter, with $101,315 cash on hand, according to a report his campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Here are the fund-raising amounts for the three GOP candidates vying to take Lucas on in the fall of 2004:

• Geoff Davis of Boone County, who lost a tight race to Lucas last year, has been campaigning and raising money since November. He has raised $216,033 with $191,135 cash on hand.

• Kevin Murphy, an Erlanger lawyer, turned in what other Republicans termed the biggest surprise of the reporting period. Murphy raised $119,904 with $111,498 cash on hand.

• Steve Pendery, the Campbell County judge-executive, also put up impressive numbers, raising $104,863 with $102,315 cash on hand.

Though the amount of money raised is a clear indication that the GOP is in for an expensive and bruising campaign, Republican leaders were still practically giddy over the amount of money pouring into the campaigns.

"This is definitely a message to Ken Lucas," said GOP strategist Marc Wilson of Florence, who advised Davis in last year's race. "With Republican candidates raising more than $400,000 to his dismal showing, there is a clear mandate that it's time for the 4th Congressional District to be represented by a true Republican."

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, said the three Republicans "blew Lucas out of the water."

"Where is the Lucas support?" said Forti, who gave most of his praise to Davis. "Ken Lucas needs to be worried that Geoff Davis has the early support to make a strong run at this next year."

But Lucas' top fund-raiser and strategist, Bob Doyle of Washington, expressed little concern with the GOP's financial showing.

Doyle said Lucas spent late last year and much of this year deciding whether he would seek a fourth term next year. Lucas decided on another run and has been raising money only since the first of March, he said.

"They'd better gloat while they can," Doyle said. "We're happy with where we are. We're going to come on strong. And there is no doubt that after we get our finance operation fully engaged, we'll be passing all three of them in fund-raising by the end of the year."

Doyle also pointed out that money raised by Republicans now would likely be spent in the GOP primary.

"Ken Lucas' money is money in the bank," Doyle said. "The Republicans will be using their money to cut each other's hearts out, and whoever wins will be starting out with zero after the primary."

Even as they piled on Lucas, the Republicans did some carping among themselves.

Pendery's fund-raising was portrayed as thin because about half of his money came from members of his family and from the Steinmans, a wealthy and politically active family in Pendery's home town of Fort Thomas.

Davis' spokesman Justin Brasell said much of Pendery's money also came from his native Campbell County.

"Steve Pendery has no broad-based support," Brasell said. "Geoff Davis has support throughout the 4th District, and that is what it is going to take to win."

Brasell confirmed that Davis is carrying a $150,000 debt from his 2002 campaign.

The interest is being paid, but money raised prior to the election will not be used to pay it off, he said.

"If Geoff wins next November, we'll hold a fund-raiser to pay it off," Brasell said. "If he loses, Geoff will pay it off. That will be his contribution to the campaign.

Pendery spokesman Joe Shields said the campaign "was very happy" with the amount of money it raised.

"We reached our goal of $100,000," said Shields, a media and political consultant from Park Hills. "And we haven't even had our first fund-raiser yet. That will be at the end of May, and we'll have 120 co-hosts.

"I find what the (other campaigns) are saying is shrill, and that probably means they are more than just a little worried about Steve," Shields said.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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