Democratic National Convention
Monday, August 14, 2000

Dems: Back your party




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        LOS ANGELES — The Kentucky delegation is here. Gov. Paul Patton is here. Bill and Hillary are here. Fifteen thousand or so reporters are here. A protester dressed in a full-body pig costume, who was arrested after he unloaded four tons of horse manure outside the Democratic National Committee's hotel, is here. But U.S Rep. Ken Lucas is not here, unless that was him in the pig costume.

        Because some Democrats say by not backing Al Gore for the nomination and then deciding to stay in Northern Kentucky rather than join his fellow delegates here, the Boone County Democratic delegate has dumped on his party.

        “He shot himself in the foot,” one angry delegate said during a Saturday night welcoming party for the delegates at a West Hollywood barbecue joint.

        Mr. Lucas says he and his constituents are just too far apart from Mr. Gore on three hot-button issues in the 4th Congressional District — guns, abortion and tobacco.

        Late last week Mr. Lucas made national news, including mentions in USA Today and the New York Times, by announcing he would attend the convention, but when it came time for Kentucky to cast its votes for Mr. Gore, he would abstain.

        Local Democratic Party officials and leaders were besieged by calls complaining about Mr. Lucas' decision. Mr. Patton said Mr. Lucas needed to honor his responsibility as a delegate and a Democrat.

        “I would not have done that,” Mr. Patton said Friday about Mr. Lucas' decision to abstain on the vote for Mr. Gore.

        Then by Friday night, with pressure mounting and after he had a chat Mr. Patton, Mr. Lucas dropped his second bombshell in as many days by saying he would not attend the convention.

        That brought a whole new chorus of criticism from Democrats and delegates, who claimed Mr. Lucas was merely trying to curry favor with the Republican and conservative Democratic voters in the 4th District who will not vote for the Gore/Lieberman ticket this fall.

        Lucas defenders claimed their man was showing his independence and boldness by standing up for the interests of his constituents.

        Bull, say many delegates here.

        Mr. Lucas has voted often with Republicans since being elected in 1998, which is fine if you're a Republican, one delegate pointed out.

        This debate will certainly continue long after this convention and election are over. Mr. Lucas' decisions over the last few days will be cast into his legacy as a member of Congress and a Northern Kentucky politician.

        So what is he? A maverick, independent thinker, or a political turncoat more worried about his own reelection in a strong Republican district than his party's presidential nominee?

        That's for the voters to decide.

       



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