Democratic National Convention
Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Patton, daughter a team

Ease of relationship seen as political plus

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LOS ANGELES — Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton isn't getting fresh when he calls state Democratic Party Chairwoman Nicki Patton “darling.” And she's not being smart when she refers to him as “dad.”

        Father and daughter have evolved into a political team that engineered Mr. Patton's easy re-election last year and intends to elect more Democrats this fall.

        They have pretty much done their own things so far at the Democratic National Convention. But the times they have been together, the ease of their relationship — political and personal — has shown through.

Styles differ
        Mr. Patton greets his daughter with hugs. They good-naturedly joke with each other and expound on points the other made. But they're not always on the same page.

        Democrats planned to introduce Nick Allard, a political veteran from the Northeast, as Al Gore's Kentucky campaign director on Mon day. Instead, Mr. Patton spilled the news Sunday night at a reception at the California Yacht Club.

        His daughter laughed it off. “You kind of tell him what to do, then he does it his way,” she said.

        There's no cronyism involved, Mr. Patton said, though some once questioned his selection of her for the $80,000-a-year post. The daughter was a veteran of Mr. Patton's campaigns and rose through the ranks of Kentucky Democratic Party headquarters at Frankfort before becoming state party chairwoman.

Partnership "evolved'
        “It was just sort of a thing that evolved and developed to where it seemed like a logical thing to do,” Mr. Patton said. “It seemed that she had all of the things that it took to be a successful chairperson.”

        Mr. Patton credits his daughter with improving the party's communication skills and stressing grass-roots organization in the face of a growing Republican threat in a once-Democratic stronghold.

        Nicki Patton once viewed poli tics with skepticism.

        “One of the strengths I bring to this position as chair is I think a lot more like the average voter out there than a political hack because I've been the average voter out there,” she said.

        She wasn't enthusiastic when her father, a wealthy coal operator, entered politics, running for Pike County judge-executive. Nicki Patton was away at college and she didn't tell anyone her dad was entering politics.

Friendly critics
        Her transformation began after her dad took office and pushed for mandatory garbage collection in the Appalachian county. Her views then were cemented after her father ran for lieutenant governor. Mr. Patton lost the Democratic primary, but Nicki Patton said she saw other candidates up close and concluded they also wanted to improve people's lives.

        Mr. Patton said he defers to his daughter for the day-to-day political operations for Democrats though he occasionally weighs in with suggestions. “She takes it with reasonable good humor,” he said.

        The suggestions can cut both ways.

        “Nicki has been able to criticize me probably with more comfort, constructively, than maybe some other people might feel comfortable in doing, even though the people that are very close to me know that I encourage people to disagree with me,” the governor said.

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