Thursday, January 8, 2004

Kimmich bows out of county's top job

Murgatroyd can go to Frankfort; Drees could be judge-executive

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - After weeks of speculation, Kenton County Deputy Judge-executive Scott Kimmich announced Wednesday that he has withdrawn from consideration to replace Dick Murgatroyd as the county's judge-executive. The move clears the way for Gov. Ernie Fletcher to name Murgatroyd deputy secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Last month, Murgatroyd was offered - but did not accept - the No. 2 post in the transportation cabinet, seen by many as a coup for the region.

Murgatroyd delayed accepting the post to ensure that Fletcher appointed his five-year deputy to his seat on an interim basis. But some leaders of the Kenton County Republican Executive Committee lobbied for the appointment to go to longtime homebuilder Ralph Drees, who would then run in a special election in November for the remaining two years of Murgatroyd's four-year term.

Drees presumably would face Democrat Patrick Hughes, the Fort Mitchell lawyer Murgatroyd defeated in 2002.

"I have notified both the governor's chief of staff and Mr. Ralph Drees this morning that I have formally ended my quest for the appointment to serve as your Kenton County judge-executive and I will not seek the nomination of the Republican party at the executive committee meeting in January," Kimmich said at a press conference at the Kenton County Courthouse in Independence.

Kimmich said that he was asked to stay on as Drees' deputy judge-executive. He added he has encouraged the governor's chief of staff to ask Fletcher "to move with all due haste in naming Mr. Drees as the interim county judge to free Judge Murgatroyd to accept his new role as Kentucky's next deputy transportation secretary."

In a letter sent to the governor Tuesday, Nathan Smith, chairman of the Kenton County Democratic Executive Committee, asked that Hughes be named judge-executive. A group of Northern Kentucky women active in business and political circles also is promoting Crescent Springs Republican Alice Sparks for the post.

"The governor is taking everything into consideration, and he's getting really close to making these crucial announcements," Jeannie Lausche, a spokeswoman for Fletcher, said Wednesday. "The governor will make his decision based on what he feels is the best thing to do."


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