Sunday, June 1, 2003

Historic race falls apart


But GOP still aggressive

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COVINGTON - Northern Kentucky, particularly the 65th Kentucky House District in Kenton County, came very close to having an historical election next year.

The ever-aggressive Kenton County Republican Party, with help from the state GOP, tried to recruit Kenton County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Ron Washington of Covington to run next year against state Rep. Arnold Simpson, a Democrat also from Covington.

Washington has told the party thanks - but no thanks. He isn't ready to seek office. Most political watchers expect him run for sheriff in 2006 provided incumbent Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn doesn't run for a third term.

Yet, what would have been so intriguing about a Simpson vs. Washington race is that it would have been the first time anyone can recall that two African-Americans from Northern Kentucky would challenge one another for a Statehouse seat.

So while Simpson won't face a challenge from Washington, he and other incumbent Democrats are likely to draw opposition in 2004. That's because Kentucky House Republicans are following the lead of their colleagues in the GOP-controlled state Senate.

For the last few years, Senate Republicans have actively recruited candidates and raised money for state Senate campaigns through the Senate Majority Trust account.

House Republicans, led by House GOP leader Jeff Hoover and state Republican Party Chairwoman Ellen Williams, have formed their own sort of Political Action Committee that has targeted 16 House races for 2004.

One of those seats is Simpson's, a bit of an odd choice for the GOP to pursue given that most of the district is in Covington, which Democrats consider one of their last bastions of support in Kenton County.

But Republicans say they have looked at voting trends in the last few elections and believe with the right candidate Simpson could be vulnerable.

"That is a district that will vote Republican when there is someone on the ballot like (Republican U.S. Sen.) Jim Bunning and President George W. Bush," Kenton County Republican Party Chairman Greg Shumate said.

"The state party has talked to us about fielding a good candidate because they are mounting a substantial effort to win a number of Statehouse seats next year. And this is a seat that based on the numbers can be won by a Republican."

Ordinance erodes GOP support

Republicans are looking for a candidate, as long as that candidate didn't support the recent expansion of Covington's human rights law, which is designed to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It has become known in many circles as the gay rights ordinance.

On April 29th the Covington City Commission voted unanimously in favor of the human rights law, including Commissioner Craig Bohman, a Republican. And that means it is highly unlikely he will get much help or money from the big donors to the Kenton County Republican Party.

Bohman had thought about going against Simpson next year. And he still could.

But Kenton GOP leaders also told Bohman that his support of the ordinance would cost him support among many Kenton County Republicans. They may not live in the 65th District but they do write checks to GOP candidates.

The law didn't play too well among Republicans in the county's Dixie Highway suburbs. And that's where a good bulk of the party's power and money resides.

Bohman is sharp enough to know that without that support, it will be tough for him to run against Simpson, a well-liked and well-respected veteran legislator who has support even among many Republicans.

So now he is said to be among a gaggle of Republicans considering running for Kenton County clerk in 2006. That group includes Bohman; Assistant Kenton County Attorney John Middleton, the son of former Kenton County Judge-executive Clyde Middleton; and Rodney Eldridge, who unsuccessfully sought the party's nomination for this year's race for property value administrator.

Wouldn't it be funny if incumbent Clerk Bill Aylor, a Park Hills Democrat, decided to seek another term?

Email pcrowley@enquirer.com




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