Sunday, May 21, 2000

Lucas has 3 potential foes




By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — For more than 30 years, Republicans owned Northern Kentucky's 4th Congressional District.

        Since the Johnson administration, first Gene Snyder and then, beginning in 1986, Southgate's Jim Bunning held the U.S. House seat and beat Democratic challengers with ease.

        But two years ago, Mr. Bunning left the House and won a U.S. Senate seat.

        Ken Lucas, a conservative Democrat from Boone County, pulled off an unexpected victory and won the House seat in a nasty race with Republican state Sen. Gex (Jay) Williams, who up to that point had been seen as a rising star in GOP politics.

        Mr. Lucas is unopposed in Tuesday's Democratic primary and the GOP, with no established party members stepping up to run, is left with three barely-known candidates on the Republican primary ballot.

        The candidates are:

        • Don Bell. Perceived as the front-runner by local party leaders, the 58-year-old Oldham County resident and retired U.S. Secret Service agent has run twice for statewide office but has never been elected.

        • Scott Tooley. Energetic and eager, Mr. Tooley, 26, moved to Kentucky only in the last few months. A Nebraska native, he worked briefly on Capitol Hill as a computer systems administrator for U.S. Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif. He has not previously run for office.

        • Roger Thoney. The 45-year-old Highland Heights resident is a former engineer who now works as an economic consultant. This is his first campaign and while some of his inexperience has showed, he performed well during a televised debate on KET.

        The candidates have had a difficult time generating ex citement among Republicans.

        They have raised less than $25,000 combined, have done little or no advertising in Northern Kentucky and have relied on reaching out to party faithful through direct mail and by attending party events.

        All have platforms based on basic tenets of the Republican Party: lowering taxes, pushing for a smaller government and protecting Social Security by allowing people paying into the system to begin investing some of their money in the stock market.

        But the candidates differ on abortion, a major issue in Northern Kentucky politics.

        Both Mr. Tooley and Mr. Thoney say they are against abortion unless the life of the mother is in danger. Mr. Thoney also said he would consider exceptions in the case of rape or incest.

        Mr. Bell said he is opposed to abortion in all instances.

        All three candidates have attempted to portray Mr. Lucas as a liberal Democrat, but even Mr. Bell has admitted that's a hard case to make.

        Mr. Lucas often votes with Republicans, does not usually appear with President Clinton when he comes to Kentucky — though Mr. Lucas has attended Cincinnati fund-raisers where the president was in attendance — and has been ranked one of the most conservative members of Congress by National Journal, a Washington-based political and government publication.

        Mr. Thoney has focused much of his campaign on his Freedom Plan, a complex and far-reaching retooling of the way Congress handles taxes, regulation and the economy.

        The plan would change many laws, policies and regulations on business so they could more easily grow. Mr. Thoney claims the plan would result in 35 million new jobs, a reduction in the cost of living of as much as 50 percent, and cut unemployment to under 2 percent.

        His opponents have called the plan untested and unrealistic, but Mr. Thoney has stood by it throughout the campaign.

        “This would help families struggling to make ends meet,” Mr. Thoney said. “The cost of living can come down. We've come to accept inflation over the last 40 or so years ... but government taxation of business activity and excessive regulation produces unemployment and poverty in this country.”

        Mr. Tooley said he can bring together the Republicans that Mr. Lucas divided when he won his first term two years ago.

        “I want to unify the Rockefeller and Reagan Republicans,” he said. “We need conservative representation ... and we need good people who don't circumvent laws like Clinton and Gore.”

       



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