Monday, August 14, 2000
Lucas' absence clouds delegation
Kentucky Democrats play down dispute
By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOS ANGELES As Kentucky Democrats spent a sunny Southern California Sunday preparing to nominate Al Gore for president, the absence of U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas dominated their day.
Mr. Lucas, a first-term congressman from Richwood and delegate to the Democratic National Convention, remained in Northern Kentucky after deciding he would not support Mr. Gore's nomination for president.
Privately, many delegates have expressed frustration and even anger over the controversial decision by the only Democratic congressman in Kentucky.
But as they returned to their hotel in the Los Angeles suburb of West Hollywood after a day sightseeing or attending political and social events, delegates tried to play down Mr. Lucas' decision, apparently in an effort to put the focus on the Gore-Lieberman ticket.
It's his decision but I think he did the right thing, said delegate Jerry Stricker, a Covington City Commissioner who has contributed money to Mr. Lucas' campaign.
Some delegates said they understood the decision by Mr. Lucas, who is challenged this fall in the conservative district that was represented previously by Republican Jim Bunning, now a U.S. senator. Mr. Lucas is being opposed by Oldham County Republican Don Bell.
Mr. Lucas whose wife, Mary, did make the trip to California said he could not support Mr. Gore because of the candidate's support of abortion rights, gun control and restrictions on tobacco.
I respect Congressman Lucas' position, said Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, a Kentucky delegate. I've got no advice to give him. I support him as a candidate and support him as a congressman.
Gov. Paul Patton, a co-chairman of the convention, called Mr. Lucas' decision to stay home appropriate.
The governor said he hoped Mr. Lucas' actions would not hurt Mr. Gore's chances of carrying Kentucky, a bellwether state that has gone with the last nine winning presidential candidates.
I don't think anybody ought to expect to agree with (a candidate) on everything, Mr. Patton said. But when you look at the total record there is no question that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are better for Northern Kentucky.
Not surprisingly, Republicans are leaping on the issue, saying Mr. Lucas is distancing himself from Mr. Gore to win favor with the 4th Congressional District's conservative voters.
This is a complete cop-out, GOP strategist Hayes Robertson of Covington said in a phone interview.
Ken Lucas is too chicken to take a stand. He's no different from Bill Clinton sticking his finger in the air to see which way the wind blows.
Mr. Robertson is advising the Bell campaign.
Members of the Lucas camp back in Northern Kentucky went on the offensive to defend the congressman, calling reporters to back Mr. Lucas.
This is a tempest in a teapot, said Lucas supporter Dave Kramer, a Crescent Springs lawyer and a member of the Kenton County Democratic Executive Committee.
The Republicans know Ken Lucas is a conservative Democrat, he said. What happened should surprise no one.
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