Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Politicians hustling to fill war chests

Four N. Kentucky candidates going about it in different ways

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT MITCHELL - Summer time is money time for politicians.

Northern Kentucky candidates running for federal office won't face voters until next year. But in what has become a staple of summer, the heat is being turned up on contributors as candidates build campaign war chests for the upcoming election.

"We're trying to raise $1 million by November of 2004," said Justin Brasell, spokesman for Republican congressional candidate Geoff Davis, who apparently is looking beyond next May's GOP primary and anticipating a rematch with Rep. Ken Lucas of Boone County.

"It's extremely hard to raise that much money," Brasell said Tuesday. "It's going to take a lot of work. We did fabulously in the first quarter of this year, raising $216,000. But it's extremely hard to run against an incumbent when you have to advertise in the four media markets of the 4th District - Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington and Huntington, W.Va."

But while the goal of fund raising is the same for all campaigns - collect as much cash as possible - four candidates are going about it in different ways.

• Star power. Kentucky U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Southgate Republican, is bringing fellow Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina to Louisville on Saturday for a fund-raiser at a private home. Bunning did not say how much contributors will have to pay to attend, but he did say that he is having "the best quarter I've ever had raising money for an election."

Bunning predicted he would break his own personal three-month fund-raising record of about $400,000 during the three months ending July 1.

"I can't wait for you to see the fund-raising we've done in this quarter," Bunning told reporters during a Tuesday morning media conference call from Washington.

Bunning is seeking a second term. He has yet to draw a Democratic opponent.

• Playing to strength. Lucas, who is seeking a fourth term next year, will hold a fund-raiser Saturday night at the Richwood home of one of his most loyal contributors and supporters, R.C. Durr, who is hosting the event with his wife, Deborah Jo.

According to a list of nearly 100 hosts, co-hosts and sponsors provided by the Lucas campaign, many of those attending have been frequent givers to the congressman over the years. Contributions will range from $100 to $2,000, with the campaign hoping to raise $40,000 or more. That would likely make it the largest fund-raiser Lucas holds this summer.

"We expect a lot of money at the fund-raiser," Lucas said Tuesday. "Certainly, we're going to need as much as had last time."

Lucas raised $1.7 million during the 2002 campaign in defeating Davis.

• The hard sell. In a fund-raising letter sent to potential contributors, Davis practically begs for money, saying it is necessary to beat Lucas.

"While I am in no short supply of guts and effort, I must admit that I am far short of the money I will need to win this race," Davis said in the letter. "I'm not anywhere near where I need to be to retire Ken Lucas from Congress.

"Your gift of $1,000, $500, $250 or even $100, $50, $35 and $20 will go a long way to building the support I will need to win this race," he said. "Whatever the most you can send is, I simply ask that you send it today."

Brasell said the tone of the letter is not meant to convey that the Davis campaign is hurting financially.

"We just want to tell people how important fund raising is," he said.

• New blood. Erlanger Republican Kevin Murphy, who is challenging Davis in May's GOP primary, is holding a campaign fund-raiser Wednesday night at the Edgewood home of Bill Yung, president of Columbia Sussex Corp., a Fort Mitchell-based developer and owner of hotels, resorts and casinos.

Murphy, making his first run for federal office, said many of those invited are people who haven't been active in politics.

"I'm reaching out to new people, many of whom I know through the (Northern Kentucky) Chamber of Commerce and through the various community and professional boards I've sat on," Murphy said.

"I'm energized because a lot of these people have not worked on or given to other campaigns, so I'm excited they are coming to my event."

Murphy expects about 100 people for the event, which costs $500 a couple for contributors.

Murphy also said Davis is "taking a risk" by looking past the primary.

Enquirer reporter Carl Weiser contributed. E-mail

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