Sunday, November 9, 2003

N. Ky. Dems have got some fixing up to do

Pat Crowley

Given the pasting Ben Chandler and the Democrats took in the gubernatorial race from Ernie Fletcher and the Republicans, how funny does this sound?

"If we get our people out, we are going to bring this thing home," Chandler said Thursday before the election during a campaign rally in Bellevue.

Or how about this gem?

"I'm not suggesting we'll carry Northern Kentucky," Chandler said in early October. "But I know a lot of people in Northern Kentucky."

And then there's this from Boone County Democratic Party Chairman Howard Tankersley:

"People will think I'm nuts," Tankersley said at that Bellevue rally, "but I even think we'll do well in Boone County. We may not win it, but we'll do better than expected."

Democrats lost Boone County by nearly 8,700 votes out of about 20,000 cast. If that was "better than expected," I'd hate to see what the Dems consider the down side of a campaign.

As Northern Kentucky Republicans have promised for a year, Fletcher flew out of the region with a 25,000-vote margin that helped land him right in the governor's mansion. No county in Kentucky posted a bigger margin for Fletcher - roughly 10,000 votes - than Kenton County.

Campbell County can no longer be looked at as the last solid Democratic county in Northern Kentucky. Fletcher won there by nearly 2-to-1. And that was despite a strong and passionate effort by Campbell County Dems.

Have the Dems hit rock bottom in Northern Kentucky? If not, they are darn close. Republicans are empowered now, as they have never been before. Next year they'll have their very popular president, George W. Bush, and their beloved U.S. Senator, Jim Bunning of Southgate, at the top of the ticket.

And all of a sudden U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat and basically the last man standing in the party, is certainly looking over his shoulder, trying to see that big target on his back. The GOP is on a search-and-destroy mission, and Lucas is the next Dem in their sights.

Much of the post-election banter I've heard has focused on Gov. Paul Patton, whose affair with Tina Conner help sink Chandler on Election Day.

If the Republicans think Patton was not a huge factor in their win, they are the crazy ones. He played right into their message of "It's time for a change in Frankfort."

And if Democrats think the only reason they lost is because of Patton, they are sorely mistaken. Theirs is the party that needs to step back and take a look at whom it comprises, what they stand for, the kind of candidates they recruit and the sort of campaigns they run. Something, everything, is not working. There needs to be a fix.

Believe it or not, there was a bright spot for the Democrats on Election Day. Democrat Merrick Krey staged an impressive win in holding onto the Kenton County Property Value Administrator's office.

O.K., it isn't exactly like winning the race for attorney general.

But Krey's victory against Republican Kevin Black came amid an onslaught of straight-ticket voting for GOP candidates. While lame Republican candidates Jack Wood (attorney general) and Linda Greenwell (auditor) were putting up numbers in Kenton County as if their last names were Reagan and Lincoln, enough voters crossed over and picked Krey to give him the victory.

Now the Dems are starting to tout the state Senate candidacy of Kathy Groob, a member of Fort Mitchell city council who will formally announce this week the 2004 campaign against Republican Sen. Jack Westwood of Crescent Springs.

A smart Kenton County Democrat I know pointed out that Krey carried the precincts in Westwood's Senate district, a fact that is encouraging to the Dems.

But Groob is also a former Republican who only recently became a Democrat - a hurdle that will be tough to overcome in Kenton County.

Will Groob and Lucas be the Democrats at redemption, or will Republicans once again have the last laugh?

E-mail Crowley interviews Kenton County Republican Party Chairman Greg Shumate and Campbell County Democratic Party Chairman Terry Mann this week on ICN6's "On the Record", which is broadcast daily on Insight Communications Channel 6.

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