Sunday, April 27, 2003

Kentucky Politics

Candidate Lunsford taps N.Ky. roots


Bruce Lunsford may be monkeying around in his latest ad - one of the best I've seen in a long while - but he is also working his Northern Kentucky roots in the gubernatorial campaign.

Lunsford is the Kenton County farm boy who went on to make millions in the health care industry, mainly with a Louisville company called Vencor that emerged from bankruptcy a few years ago and paid more than $100 million to settle a federal suit that accused the company of Medicare fraud.

A candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary that also features House Speaker Jody Richards and Attorney General Ben Chandler, Lunsford is bankrolling his own campaign. He spent $6 million through mid-April and is reportedly spending as much as $1 million a week as the May 20 primary draws nearer.

Lunsford opened his Northern Kentucky campaign headquarters last week at 302 Court St., Covington. Among those on hand were his Kenton County campaign co-chairs, Covington City Commissioner Alex Edmondson and Democratic Party activist Tom Miller.

"Bruce was born and raised in Kenton County and graduated from Simon Kenton High School," Edmondson said. "He understands economic development issues and that Northern Kentucky needs to reap more benefits from the substantial revenue we send to Frankfort."

A boost for Richards. Most polling has shown Richards running third to Chandler and Lunsford. But he picked up some key support last week when he was endorsed by the political arm of the Kentucky Right to Life Association.

On the Republican side, Lexington Congressman Ernie Fletcher got the endorsement - huge in conservative areas such as Northern Kentucky - over Jefferson County Judge-executive Rebecca Jackson, state Rep. Steve Nunn and state Sen. Virgil Moore.

A treasurer moment. Democratic incumbent Jonathan Miller and Republican challenger Adam Koenig of Villa Hills square off in the fall. But Koenig, a two-term Kenton County commissioner, took a swing at Miller's job performance last week.

Koenig said that if elected he would serve a full four-year term. Miller, Koenig charged, is gearing up to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004 against Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Southgate.

"I want to know and the voters deserve to know whether Miller is running for treasurer because he wants to serve as treasurer, or whether he plans to abandon the job to pursue a seat in the U.S. Senate," Koenig said.

Miller campaign spokesman Vince Gabbert called Koenig a "hypocrite," because if elected treasurer he would have to abandon a county commission seat he was just re-elected to in the fall.

Gabbert said Koenig is "grasping at straws to cover up his lack of fund-raising."

Campaign finance reports show that while Miller raised $401,744 since Jan. 1 and has $253,513 cash on hand, Koenig has raised just $11,175 with $1,752 cash and a campaign debt of $4,147.

"Koenig is $2,500 in the red, Jonathan Miller has $250,000 in the bank," Gabbert said.


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