Monday, May 12, 2003

N.Ky. lawyers push Bush nominees

Yes, those were two Northern Kentucky lawyers hanging out with President Bush Friday in the White House Rose Garden.

Fort Mitchell's Rick Robinson and Jeff Landen of Edgewood - both partners with Graydon Head & Ritchey - were in Washington as part of an effort to pressure Senate Democrats into voting on Bush's 11 nominees for the federal bench.

"Because of the Senate's failure to hold timely votes, the number of judicial vacancies has become unacceptably high," Bush said in a statement released by the White House. "When the federal courts are understaffed, they cannot act in a timely manner to resolve disputes that affect the lives and liberties of Americans."

Robinson and Landen, both active in local GOP politics, are members of a group called Progress for America, which supports the president's agenda.

"We've been involved with the battle to try and get the Senate to confirm appellate court judges, in particular the 6th Circuit (Court of Appeals in Cincinnati)," Robinson said. "The Rose Garden event was a part of that effort, and it was great, very exciting."

Robinson attended two Rose Garden ceremonies while working in the early 1990s as legislative director for then-U.S. Rep. Jim Bunning, the Southgate Republican elected to the Senate in 1998.

Both of those events were sports-related - one to honor the 1990 Cincinnati Reds World Series team, the other when the White House honored baseball legends Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.

"I've been to Rose Garden ceremonies before, but this was the first time I was there for a public policy speech," he said. "It was nice to see the president really tee up the issue ... because I really think this is one of the most important policy and constitutional battles of our time.

"It's the legislative branch holding up the judicial branch. What the Senate Democrats are doing is unconscionable."

Landen has visited the White House, but Friday was his first Rose Garden event.

"It was fascinating," he said. "It was obviously very interesting to be in the Rose Garden, but it was also exciting to see the president and hear what he said about getting his judicial nominations confirmed. Justice delayed is justice denied, and in this case justice is being denied."

The left-leaning People for the American Way called Bush's comments "Orwellian doublespeak."

"First, (Bush) claims that there is a judicial vacancy crisis when vacancies are actually at their lowest level in 13 years," Ralph G. Neas, the president of the organization, said in a statement.

"Second, he claims that the Senate has been obstructionist when it has confirmed more than 120 judges since July 2001 and has only filibustered two. The opportunity for senators to engage in unlimited debate on important national issues and nominations has often served the nation well."

Later in the day, Robinson and Landen were invited to watch Bush leave the White House lawn via Marine One, the presidential helicopter - which is a huge invite among the Washington power crowd.

Trey rakes it in. Lost in all of the fund-raising stories about gubernatorial and congressional candidates was an item about Trey Grayson, the Park Hills Republican and lawyer running unopposed in the GOP primary for secretary of state.

Grayson has raised more than $100,000, a big take for a first-time candidate running statewide.

He still trails Democratic front-runner Russ Maple, who has raised more than $300,000. But Maple has a contested primary and has had to spend, while Grayson has been able to hit the fund-raising circuit.

Grayson also gets a boost from his Democrat dad, Merwin Grayson, a retired banker and former University of Kentucky trustee who has connections all across the state. Look for Trey to raise a big wad of dough for the fall race.

Hunter not in the hunt. Hunter Bates, the former aide to Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, won't be running for Congress in the 4th District next year.

Bates, an Oldham County Republican, has briefly flirted with running for the seat now held by Boone County Democrat Ken Lucas. But when Northern Kentucky Republicans got miffed that McConnell was pushing his protege for the race, Bates backed off and jumped on the gubernatorial ticket of Ernie Fletcherof Lexington.

That, of course, ended badly when a state court ruled that Bates did not qualify for the ballot because he did not meet residency requirements to run for state office.

Although Bates and others maintained he would have prevailed on appeal, Bates left the ticket to spare Fletcher the political grief.

There had been speculation that Bates would run for the congressional seat. But during last week's Kentucky Derby, Bates said he has no plans to seek the office.

E-mail Patrick Crowley at

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