Wednesday, November 5, 2003

N.Ky. key to victory for Fletcher



By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Even for a GOP powerhouse like Northern Kentucky, Tuesday's turnout for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher was impressive.

Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties helped sweep a Republican into the governor's mansion for the first time in 32 years. It was an effort boosted by thousands of local voters, hundreds of Northern Kentucky campaign volunteers and nearly $500,000 in campaign money raised by a finance committee chaired by area developer Bill Butler and homebuilder Ralph Drees.

Republicans predict a Fletcher administration will pay more attention to Northern Kentucky's needs and reward the region with more money.

"We'll obviously have some influence and some clout," said Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, a Fort Wright Republican and earlier Fletcher supporter. "Like somebody said, they'll pick up the phone when we call down there.

According to unofficial results Fletcher came out of Northern Kentucky with a margin of nearly 25,000 votes in easily carrying all three counties over Democrat Ben Chandler. County tallies were:

• Boone County - Fletcher 72 percent, Chandler, 28 percent.

• Campbell County - Fletcher, 64 percent; Chandler, 36 percent.

• Kenton County - Fletcher percent; Chandler 35 percent.

Fletcher's win solidified Northern Kentucky as the dominant GOP region of the state.

Though money is tight with the new administration coming into office facing a $500 million budget deficit the result of Fletcher's victory could ultimately be:

• More money for infrastructure for area projects. Among them: an arena at Northern Kentucky University, the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, and infrastructure for riverfront development and road construction and repair.

• A louder voice for Northern Kentucky concerns and issues, including more revenue for area schools and increased attention on anti-abortion legislation.

• More local people appointed to state positions.

Fletcher received an early boost from the region's three judge-executives, Republicans Gary Moore of Boone County, Dick Murgatroyd of Kenton County and Campbell County's Steve Pendery.

Even though Fletcher faced a contested primary, all three local officials endorsed him late last year. That has led to speculation that one or two of the officials may join his administration.

Kenton County Republican volunteers kept calling voters until the polls closed.

"I call it our 'flush' strategy," said Kenton County GOP Chairman Greg Shumate. "We flushed them out and got them to the polls."

Campbell County Clerk Jack Snodgrass, a Cold Spring Democrat, said he was surprised Chandler failed to even come close in what has been viewed as a county where Democrats can still win.

"I guess people believe what they see on TV," Snodgrass said, in a reference to Republican television commercials that Democrats and others complained were misleading and untrue.

Another Campbell County Democrat, Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli, said he thought Chandler's name recognition would help carry the vote in Campbell County and across the state.

But Fletcher received a late boost from President Bush, who made five campaign appearances in Kentucky for Fletcher, including two the final weekend before Tuesday's vote, Guidugli said.

"That helped give Fletcher a lot of name recognition," he said.

Brenna Kelly, Chris Mayhew and William Croyle contributed. E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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