The contest to replace Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Richwood, as the representative of Kentucky's 4th District in the U.S. House will be one of the nation's most closely watched congressional races this fall, so the May 18 primary has taken on particular interest.
On the Republican side, three candidates are vying for the chance to face media personality Nick Clooney, the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, in November.
Geoff Davis, the Boone County business consultant who lost a close race to Lucas in the general election of November 2002, is opposed by Erlanger lawyer Kevin Murphy and by John "Kelly" King, a chiropractor from Union.
The Enquirer invited all three GOP hopefuls to participate in a question-and-answer session recently. Here are excerpts from their responses.
Q. Tell us about you background and why you're the best Republican to beat Nick Clooney in the fall.
John "Kelly" King: I grew up in this district. I went to college in Iowa, came back and have been practicing 12 years in the district. Basically, I think I'm the best candidate because I'm an outsider. I think people are tired of all this insider politics. People are tired of all the money in politics. The voters want a change, and I think I can help make that change by representing the voters instead of the interest groups financing these large campaigns.
Kevin Murphy: I put myself through college by driving a truck at night, so I know what it's like to work hard to reach a goal. I then put myself through law school with a variety of jobs. Now I have my own business in Fort Mitchell. I have 20 years of service to the Republican Party. I was part of the team that built the Republican Party in Kenton County. I've had the most experience with service to the community, all ranges of the community. I was part of the team that built the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. That's what it takes to represent people. You have to walk among them, be involved in the community.
Geoff Davis: The last time (2002 election) I was in one the closest challenger races in the country, against a conservative incumbent (Rep. Ken Lucas), and I held him to 51 percent despite being outspent by $575,000. I believe my hands-on leadership experience in business and my real-world military leadership experience clearly make me the best-qualified candidate. I've helped many companies compete in the global economy. I earned an appointment to West Point. I studied Arabic and focused on national security studies. I served as an Army Ranger. We need people in Congress who have run businesses and helped other businesses compete, who are veterans, who understand literally what the consequences of policy decisions are.
Q. What do you think this district's biggest needs and concerns are right now?
Murphy: Infrastructure. This is a district of haves and have-nots. Northern Kentucky has thrived but we have infrastructure problems, such as the Brent Spence Bridge, which have to be taken care of very quickly. We have sometimes nice problems with growth, but the Interstates need work, as does the AA highway if we're going to bring businesses to where they need jobs desperately. The second thing is of course jobs. We have to maintain strength with small and mid-size businesses. To bring business in, we need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and that is urgent to make sure businesses thrive and continue to hire Americans.
Davis: We've had unprecedented growth in Northern Kentucky and in the west. In the east, it is a very different story. Several thousand jobs have been lost east of Campbell County in the last several years. We are a net payer throughout this district, particularly regarding infrastructure. The Bush tax cuts need to be made permanent. We should talk about getting more of our tax dollars back into the district. We want to invest those dollars where they're going to generate growth. There are the needs of infrastructure. I want to see us make business policy friendly to small businesses that will be locally based, locally owned, who have community responsibility, who aren't going to pick up and move for the bottom line.
King: On infrastructure, that's a given. Among the constituents I talk to, one thing they want is the federal government to be involved in helping in land preservation, parks and recreation areas they can enjoy with their families. That's been put on the back burner with all the industrial and economic growth. In eastern Kentucky a lot of jobs have been lost. We need to get some partnerships with businesses that want to come in and also small colleges or extensions that will help train people for those jobs. Everybody is concerned with health care issues. (A barber I spoke to recently) said the people just want the federal government to stay out of their way and let them have small businesses. The new American dream is to have your own business, and we need to encourage that.
Q. What is your stance on how the United States should be handling Iraq?
Davis: I've had Saddam Hussein as part of my life since 1984, when I was a flight commander in the 82nd Airborne Division, dealing with contingencies regarding his well-known weapons of mass destruction capabilities. What I tell people about the war is to view it as a hinge on which the door has opened into a new era in international security. Basically the decision of the president to intervene in Iraq was the correct decision. A reasonably free, stable and democratic Iraq is of tremendous value to the entire world and sets a standard in the Islamic world that is simply non-existent.
King: My campaign wants to represent the will of the people, and national security is absolutely what the federal government is responsible for. I think it was essential that Iraq was dealt with for our national security, but now people don't understand the violence there. We need a Marshall Plan for Iraq. I fear that people here may not have the stomach, because it's probably going to get worse before it gets better. I would pray that they could see the mission through and not ask for early withdrawal of the troops.
Murphy: I support the president and his decision to go to war. Obviously I would like to see the troops come home as soon as possible, as I'm sure all Americans do, but failure is not an option. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. The job wasn't finished in Gulf War One. I believe Saddam Hussein was a weapon of mass destruction. And look what happened when he got caught. Within 24 hours Moammar Ghadafi announced to the world that he wanted to be a partner in the civilized world. Within 48 to 72 hours, Iran decided that the UN would be welcome to come in and have a look. Finally on the lessons of these two wars is our addiction to reliance on Arab oil and how we must go about doing the best we can to look at alternative fuels and other means of energy in order not to be held hostage to OPEC.
Q. If you are elected, do you see a role in fostering greater cooperation between the two sides of the river?
King: Absolutely. They call it the Tristate for a reason. It's one large community. Lately we've been a little more competitive than Ohio for some of these businesses. I think that's good; we should foster development within local governments as well. In Northern Kentucky, I'd like to see local governments coordinate so we don't have to have businesses licenses for each individual city and payroll taxes for each individual city. People with small business who work in and out of all these counties should be able to do so freely. People are just frustrated with that and we can help foster a more unified spirit. With Ohio, obviously we need to work on Brent Spence Bridge and other key development in the area.
Murphy: Our economy in Northern Kentucky was hurt very badly with the riots in Cincinnati, over which we had no control, but even business on our side of the river was down. The river is not that wide and the two communities do in fact rely on each other. People in Northern Kentucky work in Cincinnati. People in Cincinnati enjoy the restaurants on our riverfront. So communication between the two sides to try to bring business to the community is important. At one time there was talk of using Kentucky tax dollars to build the extension of the Cincinnati convention center, and that was something I thought was over the top, but what goes on in Cincinnati does have an effect in Northern Kentucky and vice versa. So we need to foster communication and cooperation on the two sides. We have benefited in Northern Kentucky from our active Chamber of Commerce. We have succeeded in Northern Kentucky in the riverfront, Newport on the Levee, with Toyota and Citibank because we understand the needs of business, and I would like to see that same can-do attitude on both sides of the river.
Davis: I'm excited about our region from a lot of perspectives. The vision I have is much bigger than just this side of the river and other side of the river. I believe that if the members of Congress from this region work collectively, 20 years from now we'll see a great, X-shaped metroplex, if you will, running along the Interstates from Columbus through Cincinnati down to Louisville, from Lexington through Cincinnati up to Dayton. That's going to take concerted effort on joint projects. I already have good working relationships with almost all the House members from the district that bound that area, and I'm excited for the long term. As we work together we will see that growth.
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