Sunday, May 2, 2004

He has no money, no staff, no experience


But John 'Kelly' King has high hopes for the primary

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT MITCHELL - Suggest to John "Kelly" King that he will have a difficult time winning the May 18 Fourth Congressional District Primary and he looks bemused if not startled.

"Come on, really?" he says.

"Don't count me out. People are tired of the same old thing in politics, the special interests and all the money. They are looking for someone different who will represent their interests."

That's a noble, even refreshing thought from a political neophyte getting his first taste of big-time, big-money politics.

And while detractors say King is playing the outsider card because he lacks a political base, name recognition and enough money to run a credible race, King certainly sounds as if he believes his stump spiel.

"We need to protect small-business people like me and you," King, 36, a chiropractor from Union, told insurance agent Sheila Siegristlast week.

King had shown up unannounced at Siegrist's State Farm Insurance office in Fort Mitchell. She graciously sat and listened and King went into his standard speech of "looking out for the little guy."

Finding a solution to rising health-care costs is on King's agenda should he get to Congress. He said that is difficult do to, however, because "special interests that give lots of money to people in Washington don't want that to happen."

"Kentucky has become a buy-me state," King said.

"Small businesses certainly don't have the time or money to lobby like big business does," Siegrist told King.

King left a pen with his name on it, a piece of campaign material and politely asked for Siegrist's vote.

She smiled, shook his hand but promised nothing.

"She was nice to talk to," King said before heading to his next stop.

"I think she agreed with what I had to say. At least I hope she did."

King is running in the Fourth Congressional District primary against two better-funded, better-known and better-organized Republicans: Boone County business consultant Geoff Davis and Erlanger lawyer Kevin Murphy.

The winner takes on Democrat Nick Clooney in November. Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas of Boone County is not seeking re-election.

While Murphy and Davis have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and employ full-time campaign workers, King has raised less than $20,000 and has no paid staff. He does boast of "75 grass-roots volunteers" scattered throughout the vast 24-county Fourth District.

And, like the other candidates, he does have a campaign Web site, www.voteking.com.

"I probably won't be running any television commercials," King said. "But with the right message, grass roots can make the difference."

King's "message" contains strongly conservative stances on a number of issues. His platform reflects the conservative nature of Boone County, where he lives in a Union subdivision with his wife and three children. Some examples:

•  He opposes abortion in all instances.

•  He opposes gun control and any legislative attempts to restrict gun ownership.

•  He wants to maintain the ban on genetic cloning and fetal-tissue research.

•  He backs President Bush on most issues, including the war in Iraq, his tax cuts and using federal dollars for faith-based social programs, including money for abstinence education.

•  He opposes gay marriage.

•  He favors medical-malpractice reform and wants limits on what he calls frivolous lawsuits.

"Dr. King is running for United States Congress to represent passionately the people and the values of his native home community," his campaign flier says.

Until January, when King filed to run for Congress on the last day possible, he was an unknown on the political scene.

Raised in Kenton County, King graduated from Covington Latin School at age 16, attended Northern Kentucky University and graduated from Palmer University College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Following the career path of his grandfather and father, King opened a private chiropractic practice in Florence in 1992.

He clearly enjoys campaigning and, with a hearty laugh, often jokes about his foray into politics.

After getting the support from an Erlanger woman named Melanie Gibson, he jokingly told people he was endorsed by "Mel Gibson."

He likens the campaign to an episode of Survivor, the reality-based television show.

"You never know who your friends are, you have to form alliances and you never know when someone is working against you," he says before breaking out into a loud chuckle.

There were even some Republicans who said King did the best job during last Monday night's statewide-televised debate between the three GOP candidates.

"Really, people said that?" said King, sounding surprised.

And maybe it's because he is so new to campaigning, but King has also shown a trait not always found in politicians - he listens.

After stopping at Crescent Springs travel agency, King stood quietly as travel agent Diana Flottman of Villa Hills offered some informed opinions on the war in Iraq, how to deal with terrorism and the state of the nation in general.

"Nobody listens to regular people," Flottman lamented.

"It's frustrating. How do we get our voices heard? That's why people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura can get elected."

"Most politicians are out of touch," King said. "I'm here. I listen and if you elect me, I'll listen when I'm in Washington."

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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