By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FRANKFORT - When Paul Edward Patton was elected governor of Kentucky in 1995, he didn't know as much about Northern Kentucky as other parts of the state -other than that he failed to carry any of the region's counties in the election.
But he knew that promoting economic development in the region would benefit the entire state through increased tax revenues and job growth.
"You try to plant the potatoes in fertile fields," Patton said Friday during one of his last interviews before leaving office Tuesday after two terms as governor.
"Of course, Northern Kentucky is fertile for growth," he said. "The whole community is a very sophisticated community, a very, very important part of Kentucky, and I've tried to act that way by becoming personally acquainted" with the region and its leaders.
"I did not personally know as many of the leaders in Northern Kentucky as I did some other parts of the state. But I made a concerted effort to become known and come to know the people and leaders of Northern Kentucky ... And the leadership up there generally has positive feelings about me and our administration."
Northern Kentucky leaders also helped themselves by working together, Patton said.
"Northern Kentucky is a huge metropolitan (area) with no dominant government," he said. "But (the region) has been very effective in putting together a leadership group, primarily business dominated, that has done amazingly well over the last decade.
"The leadership of the three counties has generally worked pretty well together. I think it's a credit to the business and political leadership that presented a more united front that one would expect."
But Patton was also frequently frustrated and attacked politically by Republicans in the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus.
Patton said that while he did not want "to be too critical," statehouse Republicans did stand in the way of many of programs and initiatives, even when Northern Kentucky was benefiting.
One celebrated instance was when some Republicans voted against a state budget that included $38 million for Northern Kentucky University's new science center, but then showed up to take credit during a public ribbon cutting ceremony for the building.
Patton also said it was his support of tax increases to balance the state's budget - and not his affair with Tina Conner- that doomed his political career. Conner was the former owner of a state-regulated nursing home and Patton faced ethics charges that he did official favors for her during his tenure as governor.
He said that after he embraced higher taxes, he could not have beaten Kentucky U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Southgate Republican. During the early part of his second term Patton had geared up to run against Bunning in the 2004 Senate race.
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