By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT MITCHELL - U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas went on a money-raising tear over the last three months, pulling in more cash for next year's 4th Congressional District election than his two challengers combined.
By raising $262,803 between April and June, Lucas, a three-term incumbent Democrat from Boone County, is on a pace to raise more than $1.4 million for his re-election campaign. With that amount, Lucas would break his own record for raising money in a 4th Congressional District race, a mark he set in 2002 with $1.2 million.
As of June 30, Lucas had $332,924 cash, according to a campaign finance report he filed with the Federal Election Commission.
"I'm pleased by the blistering pace we've set so far this year, and I now look to continue this strong fund-raising performance in the months to come," Lucas said. "You can bet that I'll have the resources necessary to aggressively defend this seat."
Boone County Republican Geoff Davis, who Lucas narrowly defeated in last year's 4th District race, raised $117,273 for the quarter and had $260,127 cash on hand, campaign finance reports show.
Perhaps the most surprising finance report came from Kevin Murphy, the Erlanger lawyer and former Kenton County GOP chairman challenging Davis in next year's primary.
Murphy reported raising $112,176 to end the quarter with $204,770 in the bank. But Murphy also put around $55,000 of his own money into the race, meaning the amount of money he actually raised from donors stood at just under $57,000.
Still, Murphy has proved to be far more competitive in raising cash than many Republicans had expected. And the numbers he reported touched off some sniping between him and the Davis campaign, a growing feud that is likely to intensify as the May primary draws nearer.
It is a fight the Lucas camp is eager to provoke.
Bob Doyle, Lucas' Washington-based political consultant and fund-raiser, said in an interview that Davis "can't shake Kevin Murphy."
"Ken Lucas can sit back with glee and watch this race really heat up," Doyle said Wednesday. "Kevin Murphy is for real, and Geoff Davis cannot be assumed the Republican nominee right now."
The Davis campaign is taking Murphy "seriously," spokesman Justin Brasell said Wednesday.
"But we're very confident about the primary," Brasell said.
Davis said "our successful fund-raising effort is proof positive of our broad base of support across the 4th Congressional District."
But Brasell also took a shot at the Lucas camp's delight in Murphy's fund-raising.
"Ken Lucas' preoccupation with the Republican primary makes it clear that he is scared to death of facing Geoff Davis," Brasell said. "Ken Lucas knows he will lose to Geoff Davis. That's why he is spending so much time spinning reporters on Mr. Murphy's chances."
Brasell then pointed out that among Davis' contributors are Kentucky Republican members of Congress Ron Lewisv and Anne Northup, while Lucas' contributors include some of Congress' most liberal members - House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Charlie Rangel of New York and Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
Brasell also tried to portray a contested primary as a way for Davis to gain an advantage over Lucas.
"An early start to the campaign season will only make Geoff Davis stronger for the general election," he said.
But Davis' campaign report does not represent an accurate picture of his financial position in the primary, Murphy said.
Murphy said Davis is unable to spend nearly $60,000 of the money he has raised in the primary; it can be spent only on the general election. That is because the money came from donors who have already "maxed out" for the primary, meaning they have given more than $2,000 to Davis.
Under federal law, donors can contribute a maximum of $4,000 to a candidate for each election cycle - $2,000 in the primary and another $2,000 in the general. But the candidate can spend only $2,000 of that money in the primary and must hold the remaining $2,000 for the general. Should a candidate lose in the primary, money given for the general election must be returned.
Davis also underreported his expenses by $12,000.
"When you take into account those two factors, we're not that far apart in terms of money," Murphy said.
Brasell countered with a charge that Murphy is not a true Republican since he supported Lucas in 1998.
Murphy said he did so only because the Republican whom Lucas beat that year - former state legislator Gex "Jay" Williams - had been accused of embellishing his resume and length of military service.
"I make no excuses for that support" of Lucas, Murphy said.
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