Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Tough fight anticipated

Davis has traditional supporters; Clooney name gets attention

Pat Crowley

HEBRON - Republican Geoff Davis and Democrat Nick Clooney are certainly happy to be their party's nominees in this year's Fourth Congressional District primary.

But neither is especially thrilled to be facing the other.

Plenty of Democrats - some behind the scenes, some more openly - were pushing for Kevin Murphy to beat Davis in Tuesday's GOP primary.

Democrats see Davis as a far tougher opponent for Clooney than Murphy likely would have proven to be. Davis has run once before, shown he can do a decent but not great job of raising money and is supported by the bedrock Republicans who always turn out to vote.

Davis' supporters are also the conservative voters most likely to buy the GOP's line that Clooney, like his actor son George, is a liberal Democrat out of touch with Kentucky.

Some Dems close to Clooney were even suggesting as late as Tuesday afternoon that Murphy would keep it close, maybe even upsetting Davis in the end.

Hardly. Davis took nearly 60 percent of the vote, which is exactly what the Davis camp predicted months ago.

Meanwhile, at Davis' Tuesday night victory party, there was lots of rhetoric about "Hollywood versus the Heartland," a phrase that is already getting a little tired.

Republican officials and close Davis advisers would like their voters to believe that Clooney is ripe for the taking because he is a Democrat with ties to West Coast liberals.

In reality, Clooney is their worst nightmare. There aren't many Democrats left in the Fourth District who could make this a race, but Clooney is definitely one of them.

Clooney's team has already done a stellar job of getting their guy out on the stump and defining him as his own man, not a product of the Hollywood his son calls home.

And it's not a stretch. Clooney has been around here a heckuva lot longer than Davis. He also excites Democrats and even some Republicans who otherwise would not be paying attention to Fourth District politics.

Clooney will attract voters who don't normally turn out. That could be huge for the Dems, and dangerous for the GOP.

The Davis camp feels better about its position coming out of this primary than it did in 2002, when Davis went on to lose the general election to Democratic U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas of Boone County.

"We'll end this primary with over $500,000 in the bank," said Justin Brasell, Davis' campaign manager. "After the primary in 2002, we had only about $150,000, and we were facing an incumbent with a ton of money. We're feeling pretty good about this fall right now." But Clooney has already outraised Davis in recent months, and some Democratic supporters say Clooney will have $1.5 million or more for his campaign.

This race has all the makings of a good movie.


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