By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CINCINNATI - Republican Congressional candidate Geoff Davis took back the spotlight Wednesday from Democrat Nick Clooney by raising an estimated $32,000 at a Cincinnati fund-raiser.
U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati Republican and leading member of Congress, showed up at the Queen City Club.
Davis and his opponent in the May GOP primary, Republican Kevin Murphy, have seen Clooney grab attention and headlines since announcing his candidacy two weeks ago. Clooney, a long-time media personality, has never held or run for office. He entered the congressional race after three-term U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat, decided not to seek a fourth term.
Despite Clooney's name recognition, Portman said Republicans are energized because the seat is open - and may be more winnable.
"This is a priority district" for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and for President Bush, Portman said. "The Fourth District is probably the most conservative district in Kentucky, yet it's the one that is represented by a Democrat. We now see an opportunity that the seat is open."
Democratic Party leaders in Kentucky and Washington, also consider winning the race a high priority and a focus of their efforts in the 2004 House elections.
The money Davis raised included $2,500 from Political Action Committees, or PACs, operated by Covington-based Ashland Inc. and American Hospital Association, an industry trade and lobbying group based in Washington.
St. Elizabeth Medical Center President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Gross, also president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, delivered the check to Davis at Wednesday's event.
Gross said national and state hospital associations have endorsed Davis, who lost a tight Fourth District race last year to Lucas.
Davis said he isn't too concerned about Clooney's well-known name and the ties to his famous son - actor George Clooney - and his late sister, singer Rosemary Clooney.
"There is another George who is much more popular in the Fourth District of Kentucky," Davis said in a nod to Bush.
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