Sunday, April 20, 2003

Ky. Politics


GOP candidates have raised some serious dough

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As Deep Throat told Bob Woodward, "Follow the money." The Republicans battling one another for the right to take on U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas next year put up some eye-popping numbers when campaign fund-raising reports were released last week. The three Republicans raised more than $400,000 combined for a 2004 primary that is shaping up to be expensive, competitive and contentious.

It's worth taking a look at the money raised by the candidates.

• Geoff Davis, who lost a tight race to Lucas in 2002, raised the most but also spent the most. Davis, who, like Lucas, is from Boone County, reported raising $216,031, but he also spent $25,134, nearly three times more than any of the other camps. Davis has not stopped campaigning or raising money since he lost the election last November.

But Davis' take also includes about $50,000 that he can't spend in the primary. That dough came from donors who give the legal maximum allowed, $4,000. Only half of those contributions can be spent in the primary, the other $2,000 cannot be used until the general election.

• Steve Pendery, the Campbell County judge-executive, made a strong six-figure showing with $102,316 raised. He has about $22,000 that can't be used until the general election.

The other camps howled that about half of Pendery's money came from members of his own family and from the Steinmans, longtime GOP supporters who also live in Fort Thomas. Pendery also got the bulk of his money from Campbell County.

So what? That money would have likely gone to one of the other campaigns, but Pendery was able to wrap it up. And he's already out hitting other areas to broaden his base.

• The real surprise was Erlanger lawyer Kevin Murphy, who came in with nearly $120,000. Looking at money that can be spent in the primary, Murphy out-raised Pendery and came within $30,000 of Davis. The trick will be sustaining the fund-raising, which Murphy says he will do.

• Much was made of Lucas raising "only" $83,715. But Lucas would not raise money during the most intense fighting of the war, or during most of the buildup. He only brought on a full-time fund-raiser - Eric Gentry - March 1. And all the money being raised by Republicans will be blown in the primary, meaning that the day after the primary, Lucas will have a commanding lead over the GOP candidate left standing.

Bucks for Bunning. U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate, reported raising $236,866 for a re-election campaign balance of nearly $1.7 million. Not bad for a guy without an opponent.

The pot will be sweetened in May when Karl Rove, right-hand man to President Bush, comes to Lexington for a Bunning fund-raiser.

The Bunning camp got a chuckle out of a media report last week that he may not run for office because of his age, 71, and health. But Bunning spokesman Jon Deuser called the report "laughable".

Fort Mitchell lawyer Rick Robinson, a former Bunning aide now on the campaign finance team, said he'll be on the road with Bunning next week raising money.

"Jim's in such good shape he could make the Reds' starting rotation," Robinson said of the Hall of Fame pitcher.

Chandler's loot. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler picked up $50,000 during a day of Northern Kentucky fund-raising last week that included a gathering at the spectacular Fort Mitchell home of Jim and Bert Huff, the first couple of Northern Kentucky real estate.

He'll need it. Businessman Bruce Lunsford has already spent $4 million of his own stash and may begin putting $1 million a week into his primary run. Wonder how long before Chandler's running mate, wealthy businessman Charlie Owen, gets out the checkbook?

If Lunsford keeps moving up, look for Owen to spend some of his money.

E-mail Patrick Crowley at pcrowley@enquirer.com




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