Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Fletcher in early lead over Chandler in fund-raising

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Before long, Kentucky's gubernatorial candidates will begin scouring Northern Kentucky in earnest for votes. But for now, Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Ben Chandler are mining the region for campaign cash.

Chandler and his lieutenant governor running mate, Louisville businessman Charlie Owen, are scheduled to attend a fund-raiser Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Cincinnati Airport Marriott in Boone County. Suggested contributions are $500 to $1,000. The campaign hopes to raise $100,000 or more, said Covington Democrat Jerry Stricker, a Chandler fund-raiser and campaign organizer.

"Ben Chandler has been to Northern Kentucky a lot during his campaign,'' Stricker said Monday. "He has a lot of friends up here. He will do very well in the election and he will do well when it comes to raising money. People appreciate the job he has done as (a two-term) attorney general, and they know he'll be a good governor."

While Republicans have dominated Northern Kentucky politics in recent years, Chandler is one of the few Democrats who has run statewide and carried Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

"I am pleased to have so many supporters in Northern Kentucky working hard to help us win this very important election," Chandler said in a statement. "I have spent a lot of time in this area over the years, and I know first hand how important this region is to the economic well-being of our state. As governor, I will be very involved in the continued growth and progress of Northern Kentucky."

Last week Fletcher, a congressman from Lexington, raised $130,000 during a fund-raiser at the Erlanger home of Dennis and Joyce Griffin. Dennis Griffin is president of Griffin Industries, a Cold Spring rendering and recycling firm.

According to Fletcher's campaign, 138 contributors attended the event, which featured an appearance by U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans.

Fletcher's campaign claimed the fund-raiser was the largest for a statewide candidate ever held in Northern Kentucky.

"This is the strongest showing the Republican Party has ever seen in Northern Kentucky," said homebuilder Ralph Drees, who is co-chairing Fletcher's Northern Kentucky fund-raising along with developer Bill Butler. "Raising this much money right out of the gate is absolutely unprecedented," Drees said.

Fletcher has posted an early lead in fund-raising, collecting $918,750 through June, compared to $209,000 raised by Chandler.

Fletcher said that he and running mate Steve Pence "remain grateful for the overwhelming show of support we have received from the folks in Northern Kentucky. The fact that our fund-raising has started so strong indicates that Kentuckians are ready for a positive change and they agree with our vision for Kentucky's future."


E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com

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