By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWPORT - Just a few weeks ago it appeared that Fort Thomas lawyer Steve Franzen was a lock for a gubernatorial appointment to Campbell Circuit Court.
At the time, Franzen was believed to be the only lawyer who had applied to succeed retiring Judge William Wehr.
But as the committee that will select finalists for the appointment meets today for the first time, the list of hopefuls seeking the nod from Gov. Ernie Fletcher has grown to five.
Whoever is appointed must run in November to fill out the remaining two years of Wehr's term.
In addition to Franzen - who has committed to running in November - lawyers seeking the appointment are:
Julie Reinhardt Ward, 33, of Alexandria.
If she does not get the appointment, she said, she will run in the fall. She is the daughter of veteran state Rep. Jon David Reinhardt, R-Claryville.
Peter Coughlan, 48, of Fort Thomas. He is undecided on the fall race.
Charles Lester, 49, of Fort Thomas. He is undecided but leaning toward running.
Chris Macke, 40, of Fort Thomas. Undecided on the fall race.
Also expected to run in November is veteran Campbell District Judge Greg Popovich of Fort Thomas.
Popovich, however, is not seeking the appointment.
Landing the appointment is seen as a huge advantage for the November general election because that person will be able to run as an incumbent.
Franzen did not want to comment on the other entrants in the field.
He is still viewed by many lawyers and county GOP leaders as the favorite to be appointed by Fletcher, a Republican.
Judge races are nonpartisan, but politics can play a role in how appointments are handed out.
For instance, Ward is expected to benefit from her father's connections to the GOP establishment in Frankfort. He has served in Frankfort for 20 years, though much of his legislative district is outside of Campbell County.
"He's going to help me. He's very excited about this," Ward said of her father. "He's a good campaign worker. He'll make phone calls and walk door to door. He thinks there will be a lot of support behind us."
Asked if her father will lobby Fletcher on her behalf for the appointment, Ward said he would do "what ethically he can do."
Ward and her father appeared last week at a political fund-raiser in Edgewood for Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Crescent Springs. Fletcher was the speaker at the event, which Franzen also attended.
The five applicants will be reviewed today by the Campbell County Judicial Nominating Commission. Three will be chosen by the commission, and their names will be forwarded to Fletcher, who is expected to announce the appointment this month or in early May.
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