Friday, August 11, 2000

Lucas won't back Gore

He'll abstain at convention

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas will break ranks with his fellow Democratic delegates next week by not voting for Al Gore's presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

        Citing differences with the vice president on a number of issues — including abortion, gun control and tobacco — Mr. Lucas said Thursday he will abstain when Kentucky's delegation casts its votes for Mr. Gore.

        “You have to stick with what you believe in,” Mr. Lucas said in an interview in his Fort Wright office.

        “There are a lot of areas where Al Gore and I agree ... but on some very basic issues we are in disagreement. I'm pro-life and he's pro-choice. I'm for the tobacco farmer and the tobacco industry here in Kentucky and he is not. I'm for Second Amendment rights. So we just have some major differences.”

        Mr. Lucas, 66, is a first-term Boone County Democrat running for re-election in Kentucky's 4th Congres sional District. The 22-county area runs along the Ohio River, from Ashland to near Louisville, and includes all of Northern Kentucky.

        It is a strong Republican district. Until Mr. Lucas captured the U.S. House seat two years ago, the district had been represented by Republicans back to the Lyndon Johnson administration.

        Mr. Lucas' views have often clashed with Mr. Gore's as well as with President Clinton's. When Mr. Clinton visited Kentucky during the past two years, Mr. Lucas did not attend the events.

        “This really isn't anything new for me,” Mr. Lucas said. “I've always spoken my mind when it comes to politics and these issues.”

        Mr. Lucas said he does agree with Mr. Gore on other issues, such as Social Security, a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens and improving technology in schools.

        Mr. Lucas said he has not decided if he will vote for Mr. Gore and his running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, in November.

        During the ceremonial roll call of states, Kentucky will probably announce all of its votes for Mr. Gore with one abstention.

        Republicans seized on the news of Mr. Lucas' decision, claiming he is trying to win political favor with his district's voters by distancing himself from Mr. Gore and the Democratic Party.

        “Everything Ken Lucas does is for political cover,” said Jay Hall, a member of the state Republican Executive Committee who lives in Florence.

        Eric Deters, campaign manager for Don Bell, Mr. Lucas' opponent in November, said he believes Mr. Lucas shouldn't go to the convention if he doesn't plan to cast his vote.

        “What purpose does it serve for him to go?” asked Mr. Deters, an Independence lawyer.

        John Lapp, Mr. Lucas' chief of staff, said Mr. Lucas is showing his independence.

        “This is bold move,” Mr. Lapp said. “It shows Mr. Lucas is a maverick and an independent thinker, and that's how he has voted since coming to Washington.”

        Ellen Mellody, a Gore campaign spokesman, said Democrats can have differences of opinion.

        She said the campaign remains confident of winning Kentucky by emphasizing a pro-family theme.

        “The Gore-Lieberman ticket is going to fight for things that are important to Kentucky families, which are Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs and education,” she said.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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