Tuesday, February 09, 1999

N.Ky. man aims for state GOP post

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Damon Thayer, the Grant County man who helped build Northern Kentucky into a state GOP stronghold, appears to have the support to be elected vice-chairman of the Kentucky Republican Party.

        Mr. Thayer would then be in a good position to be elected chairman next year.

        Mr. Thayer, 31, chairman of the 4th District Republican Party, announced his candidacy Monday for the nonpaying post.The party's 50-member state executive committee is scheduled to vote for a new chairman and vice chairman at its Feb. 20 meeting in Louisville.

        Once dominated by Democrats, Northern Kentucky and much of the 22-county 4th District — which stretches along the Ohio River from Ashland to near Louisville — now votes Republican in most races. The trend started years ago but was aided by Mr. Thayer and his predecessors, Rick Robinson of Fort Mitchell and Lawson Walker of Villa Hills, party leaders said Monday.

        State Republican Party leaders, including outgoing Chairman Tom Jensen of London, said Monday that Mr. Thayer is unopposed for the post and has the support to be elected.

        “Damon has the heads-up on vice chair,” said Mr. Jensen, a Cincinnati-area native who announced his resignation as chairman Saturday.

        “He has quite a bit of support and he is recognized as somebody who did a very good job for the party in Northern Kentucky and the 4th District,” said Mr. Jensen, a former Kentucky lawmaker who grew up in North College Hill.

        “I've not heard of anyone else who has expressed an interest in running for vice chairman other than Damon,” said eastern Kentucky banker Mike Duncan, a Republican National Committee member.

        “Damon is very well-deserving. He was a wonderful district chairman, one of the best I've ever worked with. He helped raise money, recruit candidates and build the party into what it is today. He'll be a real asset as vice chairman of the state party,” Mr. Duncan said.

        Mr. Thayer is director of communications for Turfway Park Race Course. In addition to serving as 4th District chair man since June 1997, the Michigan native has been treasurer of the Grant County Republican Party.

        He has, however, resigned as county party treasurer and has been replaced by Ted Takacy of Williamstown.

        Boone County Republican Party Chairman Jay Hall said Monday he is interested in taking Mr. Thayer's place as 4th District chairman.

        If elected, Mr. Thayer said he will begin working on races in the 2000 election, including carrying Kentucky for the GOP presidential candidate and taking over the state Senate for the first time in history.

        “I believe we can accomplish these goals by following the simple strategy of organizing county committees at the grass-roots level, recruiting good candidates in targeted, winnable seats and raising money for the party to help spread the Republican message,” he said Monday.

        Northern Kentucky Republicans said Mr. Thayer's move into the position is an indication of his ability and talents, and recognition of the region's growing clout in state politics.

        “It will be good for Damon and good for Northern Kentucky to have a local voice involved in the decisions being made by the state party,” said Edgewood Councilman John Middleton, a member of the Kenton County Republican Executive Committee.

        Mr. Jensen said he is resigning to spend more time with his family and on his southern Kentucky law practice. He also intends to begin lobbying in Washington and Frankfort.

        When the committee meets Feb. 20, it is expected to replace Mr. Jensen with Ellen Conaway Williams of Lawrenceburg. The Republican activist was the party's executive director in 1991-92 and has a wide range of experience in GOP politics, including Larry Forgy's 1995 campaign for governor.

        Mr. Jensen and the party's vice chairman, Jefferson County Judge-executive Rebecca Jackson, said they expect Ms. Williams to get the job. That would require Ms. Jackson to resign, because the chairman and vice chairman must be of opposite sex. Ms. Jackson said she was planning to quit anyway because her duties as judge-executive give her little time to attend party meetings.

        Ms. Williams and Mr. Thayer will be filling the final 15 months of Mr. Jensen's and Ms. Jackson's terms, which expire in May 2000.


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