By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT THOMAS - Citing unspecified family concerns, Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery withdrew Wednesday from next May's 4th Congressional District GOP primary.
Pendery gave few details about his departure from a crowded Republican field that includes Boone County businessman Geoff Davis, Erlanger lawyer Kevin Murphy and former Campbell County Judge-executive Lloyd Rogers of Alexandria.
Pendery, who was not available for interviews, announced his decision in a brief half-page statement that mentioned a "family situation" as the reason for his exit from the 2004 primary.
"It would be very tough to deal with this in the context of a Congressional campaign," Pendery, 49, said in the statement.
"My family will always be my first concern. I have been overwhelmed by the support I've received from people throughout the Fourth District and I am deeply grateful for it. I hope I can count on that same support now."
Pendery had expected to be a top challenger for the nomination to run next year against three-term Democratic incumbent Ken Lucas of Boone County.
He had raised more than $100,000 for the race and was scheduled to hold a campaign fund-raiser May 16 in his native Fort Thomas, where more than 100 people have signed up to co-host the event.
Pendery's campaign spokesperson, Joe Shields of Park Hills, said all campaign contributions would be returned.
Shields refused to divulge any further details.
Pendery and his wife of 13 years, Dana, have two small children.
He also has a large extended family in Fort Thomas, where he operates a family-owned insurance company.
"This is a private matter, and we ask everyone to respect that," Shields said.
Shields said Pendery had no plans to resign as judge-executive.
Pendery, a former mayor of Fort Thomas, is in his second term of judge-executive.
He was re-elected in November without opposition.
Pendery's announcement clearly shocked his supporters as well as his competitors.
"I'm disappointed and I still believe Steve is the best man for the job," said Taylor Mill lawyer Brandon Voelker, a co-host of the May 16 fund-raiser.
"Obviously the amount of money Steve raised showed he had broad support.
But as a new father, I understand you have to put your family first. And often that's one thing that is forgotten by politicians, so I'm sure Steve is making the right decision."
Murphy, who has also raised about $100,000 for the race, described Pendery as "a good friend."
"Steve has been a friend of mine for years," Murphy said.
"And I admire and respect his decision.
"He has always been a good, strong family man and I wish him nothing but the best."
Davis, the 2002 GOP nominee who lost a narrow race to Lucas, said he also considered Pendery a friend.
"I have a lot of respect for his contributions to our community," Davis said.
"I respected his decision to enter the race and I respect his choice now. I wish him the best. I think he is a great guy."
Davis has raised more than $200,000 for the race.
Lloyd Rogers, who has announced his intentions to run but has not yet filed federal campaign papers, said he also wishes Pendery the best.
"Whatever problems he and his family are going through, I hope it all works out," Rogers said.
"He would have been a very tough opponent."
Pendery's departure puts a sizeable block of support into play for the other candidates.
Justin Brasell, a key advisor and spokesman for the Davis campaign, acknowledged Davis had lost some previous support to the Pendery camp.
"It was completely understandable that folks were loyal to Steve Pendery, but we will reach out to them and ask them to rejoin our campaign," Brasell said.
"This certainly makes our task a little easier, especially when we reunited our team that we put together last year."
Murphy and Rogers are also likely to draw some support among former Pendery backers.
There was also speculation among some Republicans contacted Wednesday that Pendery's departure may entice other GOP candidates into the race.
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