Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Democrat says Boone County winnable

State Senate challenger prepares case

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — John Stephenson plans to huddle with members of the state Senate Democratic Caucus tonight and tell them that with their help he can win Boone County — the largest GOP controlled county in the state — in November's 11th District state Senate race.

        “I think with Democratic unity and people getting behind me, I can take Boone County in November,” Mr. Stephenson, a Fort Mitchell Democrat, said Monday.

        “I'm not saying it will be easy. But I used to live in Boone County, I have kinfolk there. And Boone County is a large, dynamic place that deserves it's own state senator,” he said.

        No way, say Republican Party leaders.

        Not only is Boone County solid GOP territory, but the Republican incumbent — Senate President Pro Tem Dick Roeding of Lakeside Park in Kenton County — is a well-liked, respected lawmaker who easily carried the county four years ago against a Boone County Democrat.

        “God bless John Stephenson. He's taking the right approach in asking for help,” said Jay Hall of Boone County, a member of the Kentucky Republican Executive Committee and a former Boone County GOP chairman.

        “My question is: Is he seeking the right kind of help?” Mr. Hall said. “The Democratic caucus in the state Senate is in no shape whatsoever to help a Democrat running against an in cumbent Republican in Boone County. If they do get in this (financially) they are going to be throwing good money after bad trying to

        win a seat they can't win.”

        But Mr. Stephenson is optimistic he can beat Mr. Roeding, and he plans to persuade other Democrats he can tonight at the Franklin County farm of former Democratic state Sen. Fred Bradley.

        “I lived in Boone County for 14 years,” Mr. Stephenson said. “The people are conservative, but they want somebody who can get things done, like taking the (property) tax off of our automobiles and boats.”

        Many lawmakers will be under political pressure this fall for not doing more to remove the state's property tax on vehicles and boats. That is something many legislators promised they would get done during the 2000 General Assembly session that ended in April.

        Mr. Roeding has said previously that he and other lawmakers tried to forge a compromise for removing the tax, but it could not be worked out before the session ended.

        Even if Mr. Stephenson receives political and financial help from state Democratic officials, he faces a tough fight in knocking off Mr. Roeding, a 10-year incumbent easily re-elected four years ago by beating Hebron Democrat Sandra Easton by nearly 14,000 votes out of about 43,000 cast.

        The 11th Senate district, which covers portions of Kenton County and all of Boone County, looks to be tailor-made for a Republican candidate.

        Not only does the district take in the Republican-dominated Boone County, but it also covers the heavy GOP Kenton County suburbs of Fort Mitchell, Crestview Hills, Fort Wright, Edgewood, Lakeside Park and Villa Hills.

        “There is no way John Stephenson wins Boone County or this race,” said Hayes Robertson of Covington, Mr. Roeding's campaign manager.

        Mr. Robertson pointed out that even U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Richwood Democrat who served more than 20 years in local and county government in Boone County, couldn't carry the county during the 1998 election.

        “Unless John Stephenson is more powerful that a congressional candidate who had hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend, his victory is this race is very unlikely,” Mr. Robertson said. “I'm not worried.”


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