Sunday, October 31, 1999

Voters may be scarce in N.Ky.


Some see single-digit turnout

BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — Kentucky Democrats, spooked by the prospect of an anemic turnout in Tuesday's statewide election, used the days before Halloween to try to literally scare the electorate into voting.

        Gov. Paul Patton, the 62-year-old Pikeville Democrat seeking re-election, fears that even with his expected victory Tuesday, a low turnout will hurt his ability to push a legislative agenda during the 2000 General Assembly session in Frankfort.

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        So with a slick, four-page, full-color campaign brochure that hit the mailboxes of Northern Kentucky Democrats Friday, the state Democratic Party issued an ominous sounding alert.

        “Beware,” the brochure reads. “Turnout in Tuesday's election could reach a record low. That means Kentucky's booming economy, smarter, safer schools and our expanding opportunities are all at risk.

        “Because if you don't vote, they could be gone overnight.”

        The message to get voters to the polls is clear.

        Even with the historical implications of the election — Mr. Patton will likely be the first governor to serve consecutive terms since 1800 — a record low turnout could be the real story on Tuesday.

        Election officials are hoping but not predicting that turnout will beat the 6 percent of voters statewide and 3 percent in Northern Kentucky that in the spring set an all-time low for voter participation in a May primary.

        “There's just not much on the ballot to bring people out,” said Campbell County Clerk Jack Snodgrass.

        “There is a governor's race, but even that doesn't have people excited. And there just isn't much locally, either. Our absentees are down 80 percent from the last governor's race, so (turnout) is probably going to be pretty bad,” he said.

        Mr. Patton does face four challengers, but none has seemed to make much of an impact with the voters.

        Republican Peppy Martin, 53, has shown some energy on the campaign trail, and has continued to campaign hard, though she doesn't have near the organization, money or name recognition of Mr. Patton.

        She has espoused a platform full of unrealistic proposals and has made several gaffes on the campaign trail, including last week when she provided no proof but accused 80 percent of the county sher iffs and 30 percent of the state police of “bootlegging hard drugs” and alleged that Mr. Patton and his wife, Judi, have committed murder.

        Ms. Martin apologized for the remark, which she made during a debate on statewide television. But statements like that have hurt her credibility with many Republicans, including party leaders such as state Senate President David Williams and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

        Mr. Williams has said he is voting for Mr. Patton. Mr. McConnell won't even talk about the race. Last week during a conference call from Washington to Kentucky political reporters, Mr. McConnell chuckled as reporters badgered him with questions about the race and why he won't talk about it.

        “You can try all you want, I'm not going to say anything about the governor's race this year,” he said.

        Ms. Martin has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Southgate Republican, and several Northern Kentucky GOP leaders.

        Also in the gubernatorial race is Gatewood Galbraith, 52, who ran for the Democratic nomination in the 1991 and 1995 governor's race. This year he has joined the Reform Party and continues to run on a platform to legalize marijuana.

        But Mr. Galbraith has made some inroads with labor unions. Many are angry with a workers' comp reform plan pushed through the legislature by Mr. Patton three years ago.

        Two other gubernatorial candidates, write-in Republican Hoby Anderson, 47, of Greenup County and Natural Law Party candidate Nailah Jumoke-Yarbrough, 50, of Louisville, have done little or no campaigning.

        Also on Tuesday's ballot:

        • Democrats running for the state's constitutional offices — auditor, secretary of state, treasurer, agriculture commissioner and attorney general — are unopposed for re-election.

        • In Boone County, voters will choose a Boone/Gallatin county family court judge. Incumbent Linda Bramlage of Florence, appointed to the seat last year by Mr. Patton, is

        challenged by Boone County Attorney Larry Crigler in the nonpartisan race.

        • In Campbell County, Democrat Mariann Guidugli Dunn, appointed to the position earlier this year, is challenged by Republican Kevin J. Gordon for property valuation administrator.

        • In Newport, voters will decide if the city will sell its waterworks to the Northern Kentucky Water Service District.

        • In Highland Heights, voters will be asked to approve an issue to fund the city's fire and ambulance service. That ad valorem tax on real and personal property is $3.40 per $1,000 of assessed value.

        Also in Highland Heights, resident Billie Sandhas will cast the only vote involving an annexation issue. She wants the city to deannex the property that is the site of her longtime family business, the Skyline Tavern on Johns Hill Road.

        • In Kenton and Campbell counties, Independence Republican Anita Steffen is running for railroad commissioner against Republican J.E. Combs. In Boone County, the railroad commissioner race pits Democrat Henry Spalding against Republican Todd Strecker.

VOTING INFO
        Polls in Kentucky will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday.

        For information on voting, or to find out what precinct to vote in, contact:

        • Boone County Clerk's Office at 334-2112.

        • Campbell County Clerk's Office at 292-3885.

        • Kenton County Clerk's Office at 491-4780.

        Get the lowdown on all of the races in our online election guide at www.enquirer.com/election99

       



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