By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLD SPRING - Republican lieutenant-governor candidate Steve Pence and an entourage of GOP-elected officials on Saturday night crashed what has been traditionally a Democratic Party event.
Pence, the three Northern Kentucky judge-executives - Republicans Steve Pendery of Campbell County, Gary Moore of Boone County and Dick Murgatroyd of Kenton County - and some GOP activists worked the solid Democratic crowd of more than 200 at the 10th annual Guidugli family picnic.
Though token Republicans have shown up over the years and GOP elected officials have been invited to attend, Pence was the first Republican candidate to openly campaign at the picnic.
"We were invited," said Pence, who is running on a ticket with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher. "We want everybody to know there is a choice this year."
The reception to Pence and the other Republicans was cordial but cool.
"They're welcome," said host Dave Guidugli, a Cold Spring council member, labor leader and Democrat. He hosts the annual event with members of his politically active family. "That's what it's all about, coming here and giving people your opinion."
"Republicans have always been invited," said Dave's brother Dan Guidugli, a Kentucky Court of Appeals justice. "They've just haven't shown up before like this."
"They'll be treated fine," Campbell County Democratic Party Chairman Terry Mann said of the Republicans.
But others were not so happy to see the Republicans working the crowd and standing in line for the traditional dinner of pasta, salad and bread.
"Maybe they're seeing the light and realizing the Campbell County Democrats are doing it right," said Campbell County Clerk Jack Snodgrass.
"I guess they can come, but they're wasting their time," added Covington Democrat Jerry Stricker, one of the key Northern Kentucky workers for the Democrats' ticket of gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler and lieutenant governor candidate Charlie Owen.
As in past years both Chandler and Owen attended the picnic, pumping hands and slapping backs as they moved through the crowd.
"This is just a great event," said Chandler, the two-term attorney general. "I always carry Northern Kentucky when I run, and a lot of prominent Democratic supporters come to this picnic regularly, so I wasn't about to miss it."
"I'm glad Steve Pence is here," Owen quipped. "Maybe he can explain how is going to bring back some of the jobs the Bush administration has run out of Kentucky."
Bush remains an issue
On the stump, in speeches to contributors and during media interviews, Chandler rarely misses the opportunity to criticize the Bush administration's economic policy.
Chandler maintains President Bush's tax cuts and other initiatives have resulted in the loss of 56,000 jobs in Kentucky and helped contribute to the record $455 billion federal budget deficit.
In response, the Fletcher campaign has been citing a July U.S. Treasury Department report that maintains without the president's economic policy, the unemployment rate would be nearly a percentage point higher that the current 6.2 percent and as many as 1.5 million fewer Americans would have jobs.
Honored at the picnic were soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve 478th Combat Engineering Battalion stationed at Fort Thomas.
In attendance were four soldiers: Capt. John Dunn, 29, of Alexandria; Maj. Brian Stevenson, 38, of Fort Thomas; Capt. Steve Robbins, 35, of Blue Ash; and Commander William Morris, 29, of Florence.
Absent for the first time in the picnic's history was Gov. Paul Patton, who was unable to attend because he was in Indianapolis Saturday at a meeting of the National Governors Association.
In a proclamation honoring the soldiers from the 478th Battalion, Patton called the Guidugli picnic "America at its best, family and friends fellowshipping on a late summer evening."
Email Patrick Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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