Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Fletcher event in Ohio

At fund-raiser with Cheney, it's 'Greater Northern Kentucky'

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CINCINNATI - For the sake of politics, downtown Cincinnati became "Greater Northern Kentucky" Monday.

That's how Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher referred to the region while trying to explain why his campaign fund-raiser featuring Vice President Dick Cheney was held in Ohio instead of the Bluegrass State.

"I would clearly have preferred to have this event in Northern Kentucky," Fletcher said. "There's no question."

But last-minute White House security concerns and the unavailability of a suitable Northern Kentucky location forced the high-dollar event across the Ohio River.

"This worked well, and rather than not have the event, we wanted to have the event in the Greater Northern Kentucky area," Fletcher said.

Logistics didn't seem to bother the contributors and protestors who came to the Aronoff Center for the Arts for the two-hour fund-raiser.

Fletcher raised $150,000 at the event while the Kentucky Republican Party collected an estimated $70,000. Contributors paid $500 to $2,500 to attend, with top givers having their photo snapped with the vice president.

"It's great to have the vice president here in the area during such a historic time," said Taylor Mill Republican Rodney Eldridge. "And it's great that he took the time to come in to help Ernie. It's this kind of commitment and enthusiasm that is going to lead Ernie to victory in the fall."

Democrats portrayed the location as a snub to Kentucky.

"It's interesting the vice president has come to this part of the world and wants to skedaddle out of Kentucky," Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler said Monday.

GOP organizers said the crowd and contributions were about evenly split between Ohio and Kentucky residents.

"The president and I believe it is absolutely essential we do everything we can to make it possible for Ernie to become the first Republican governor in 32 years in Kentucky," Cheney said. "And I'm glad Republicans from all over Ohio agree with us.

"They know that Northern Kentucky is a vital part of the Greater Cincinnati economy," he said. "And they also know that with Gov. Ernie Fletcher attracting quality businesses and high-paying jobs to Kentucky, this entire region will benefit."

Fletcher's campaign said President Bush would come to Kentucky, probably in October, to raise money and campaign for Fletcher.

"You and President Bush have returned honor and dignity to Washington," Fletcher said to Cheney. "Now, Kentucky's capital needs that same restoration and leadership."

Cheney left town without taking any questions from the media.

Cheney's visit drew about 30 protestors, most of them labor leaders, Kentucky Democratic Party staff and members of Chandler campaign. They were trying to whip up criticism of Bush's handling of the economy.

Labor leaders say Fletcher supported Bush's tax cuts, which they claim favored the rich, and backed economic policies that resulted in companies sending jobs overseas.

"Mr. Fletcher is extremely anti-worker," said John Marrone, political director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union 1099 in Cincinnati. The union has "thousands" of members in Kentucky, Marrone said.

Marrone claims that under Bush, Kentucky has lost 67,000 jobs while Ohio has lost nearly 200,000.

Helping make that point was The Job Terminator, a Democratic Party ploy to illustrate the job losses.

The Job Terminator, based on the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie character, sports a huge fake head made to resemble Fletcher and passes out "pink slips" - actually a piece of campaign literature critical of the Bush administration. The character debuted in early August at the Fancy Farm picnic in western Kentucky and has been dogging Fletcher at campaign events.

Standing at the corner of Sixth and Walnut streets near the Aronoff , The Job Terminator attracted a lot of attention from passing motorists and pedestrians. According to Democrats, even Cheney waved at the character as his limo sped away.

Republicans claim voters have already grown tired of the gimmick.

"It was kind of cute at Fancy Farm, but now it's gotten old," said Trey Grayson of Park Hills, the GOP candidate for secretary of state, as he headed to the fund-raiser.

Emanuel Buckelew was just plain scared of the bigheaded character.

The 4-year-old Colerain Township boy was on the way to day care with his mother, Kathy Buckelew, when they came across The Job Terminator. Emanuel hid behind his mother's legs as the character extended his hand for a shake.

"I'm not sure what that guy means," Ms. Buckelew said about the character. "But I know a lot of people are out of work. I don't know if it's Bush's fault, though. People always want to blame the president whether it's his fault or not."


The Associated Press contributed. E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com

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