Thursday, November 25, 1999

Extra helpings of turkeys, hams

Belly up for latest follies - and inspiration

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Today we are thankful for Northern Kentucky politicians, because they never fail to generate fodder for this space.

        So as we sit around our Thanksgiving table, let's pass around some comments, dish out a few observations and chew on the issues of the day.

        • Setting the table in the state Senate race: The political camp of state Sen. Jack Westwood, the Erlanger Republican up for re-election next year, was all over Democrat Jaimie Henson last week after she released a statement about the Kenton County jail controversy in Elsmere.

        In the statement, Mrs. Henson, the Independence woman challenging Mr. Westwood, called on her opponent to support legislation that would allow local communities to vote if they wanted a county or regional jail to be built in their community.

        No such legislation has been filed, but that's not what Mrs. Henson's statement was about. Instead, it was an attempt to paint Mr. Westwood as being unconcerned about the residents of Elsmere, who are fighting Kenton County's plan to build a county jail in their city.

        All four county fiscal court members belong to the GOP, as does Mr. Westwood, who claims he has been listening to the concerns of Elsmere residents.

        But in responding to Mrs. Henson, the Westwood camp really didn't focus much on the issue of county jails. They harped on the fact that Mrs. Henson's statement was at some point faxed to the Crestview Hills law firm of two key Democratic strategists, Mark Guilfoyle and David Kramer.

        “Can't she do anything on her own?” chortled one Westwood campaign member. “She's being handled, big time.”

        Now here comes a tasty piece of irony.

        Last week, when Mrs. Henson issued her statement, just about every Republican leader in Northern Kentucky was at a state Senate GOP fund-raiser at the Airport Holiday Inn in Erlanger.

        After Mr. Westwood was given a copy of the statement, it was passed around like a pumpkin pie at a Thanksgiving dinner table. Everybody got a piece.

        The statement flew around the room with GOP strategists, elected officials, consultants, donors, and a busboy getting a look at and making a comment about Mrs. Henson's statement.

        It took the Westwood campaign the rest of the afternoon to come up with a response, and then it was two sentences faxed to a reporter that took Mrs. Henson to task for — get this — being advised by Democratic strategists.

        Who is being handled here?

        • Thanks, but no thanks: Seems those rumors about Cold Spring Republican Ken Warden planning to run against Campbell County Circuit Court Clerk Tom Calme are just that.

        Mr. Warden, the operator of a Fort Thomas real estate firm, said he has been ap proached by a couple of GOP leaders who asked him to consider running against Mr. Calme.

        “I thought about it, but I'm not getting in that race,” said Mr. Warden, who ran unsuccessfully last year for state representative.

        Expect to see Mr. Warden, however, in future races. He has been showing up at more and more GOP functions and has some great potential as a future candidate.

        Democrats, meanwhile, shouldn't expect getting a pass in the circuit clerk's race. County GOP leaders are huddling over the next few weeks to try and find a candidate to run against Mr. Calme, a popular Bellevue Democrat who has been in office since the mid-1980s.

        • A pilgrim in Elsmere: The aforementioned jail fight in Elsmere has produced a leader who has rallied a community, taken on the county government, dealt effectively with the press and kept her head while others have lost theirs.

        Not many people have ever heard of Neva Collins, and once the jail fight is over, they probably won't hear of her again. That's because as the leader of the opposition she isn't looking for personal gain, mentions in the newspaper or a career in politics.

        No, this wife, mother of two boys, nurse and die-hard Dixie Heights and Cincinnati Bengals fan only wants to keep a jail from being built near the Elsmere subdivision she calls home.

        A few years ago, a fire destroyed her Turkeyfoot Acres home. But rather than move away and start over someplace else, she and her husband, Andy, rebuilt the home because they love where they live.

        That's why she and many of her neighbors are fighting so hard to do what they think is the right thing. Agree or disagree with the jail opposition group's methods and motives, we should be thankful for people like Neva Collins.

        They keep the pols honest and prove that people can still make a difference.

        Happy Thanksgiving!

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. His column appears Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at