Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Lucas' no-show decision lauded

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas angered some hard-core Democrats — including many who attended last week's Democratic convention in Los Angeles — for refusing to publicly back the nomination of presidential candidate Al Gore. But Mr. Lucas, the Boone County Democrat running for re-election this fall in the 4th Congressional District, is finding a more sympathetic constituency among Northern Kentucky conservatives from both parties.

        Comments from some political activists indicate Mr. Lucas' decision may not have long-term damage in a congressional district known for its conservative voting record and support of Republicans.

        Instead, some activists in both parties are viewing Mr. Lucas as an independent politician standing up to Mr. Gore over differences on three core issues in the district: abortion, gun control and tobacco.

Praise from foe
               “I did not support Ken Lucas in '98 and will not this year because of other issues,” said Boone County Commissioner Robert Hay of Florence, an outspoken conservative and one of the re gion's anti-abortion leaders.

        “Yet, I have great respect for anyone who bucks his party by standing up for unborn lives,” Mr. Hay said. “The (anti-abortion) community should thank those who, while not considered activists, do something that promotes life.”

        Conservative Democrats are also applauding Mr. Lucas, who is challenged this year by Oldham County Republican Don Bell.

Proved independence
               “I think he did what he's always done, he proved his independence,” said Edgewood lawyer Chris Mehling, a member of the Kenton County Democratic Executive Committee.

        “That's one of the reasons I vote for him and one of the reasons we wanted to send him to the convention in the first place,” Mr. Mehling said. “He has core conservative values, he goes by what his constituents want and he speaks his mind. People respect him for that.”

        The fact that Mr. Lucas made an issue of Mr. Gore's support of abortion rights will be seen as favorable by conservative Northern Kentucky Democrats, he said.

        “It's important for him, and for us as Democrats, to disagree with Al Gore on that issue,” Mr. Mehling said.

        Mr. Lucas' decision not to attend the convention was a topic of conversation at Saturday night's Guidugli Family Picnic in Cold Spring, an annual political gathering for Northern Kentucky Democrats.

Political reality
               Many of the Democrats in attendance, including some on the state level, said privately they understood Mr. Lucas' decision given that he is seeking re-election in a district that, until he won it in 1998, had elected Republicans to Congress for more than 30 years.

        But partisan Republicans and party leaders plan to use Mr. Lucas' action against him in the fall campaign.

        They claim Mr. Lucas decided not to attend the Democratic Convention — even though he was a delegate — after seeing polling showing Mr. Bell picking up support in the district.

        The Lucas camp said no poll was taken.

        “Ken Lucas is independent,” said John Lapp, Mr. Lucas' chief of staff. “He does not need a poll to decide what he believes. Simply put, he leads by example.”

        Damon Thayer, vice chairman of the Kentucky Republican Party, said the entire episode “calls into question Ken Lucas' leadership abilities.”


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