Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Keene wins in 67th District Democratic upset

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dennis Keene 1,052
Ken Rechtin 957
Carol Rich 132
NEWPORT - Wilder City Councilman Dennis Keene pulled off the upset of Tuesday's Northern Kentucky voting, beating veteran office-holder Ken Rechtin in Campbell County's 67th District statehouse Democratic primary.

Keene, unknown politically until this year's primary, said hard work made the difference in the race.

"We had 29 people on our campaign who never stopped working," Keene said before heading to a victory party at the Wilder City Building.

Keene's campaign impressed Democrats. Many said he outworked other candidates as he placed more than 600 of his distinctive green-and-white signs through the communities of the 67th District - Newport, Dayton, Bellevue, Southgate, Wilder and Highland Heights.

Keene's platform included restoring education budget cuts to raise teachers' salaries, renovating aging neighborhoods and using state resources and legislation to attract high-tech jobs to the technology development park planned for Northern Kentucky University.

Rechtin was unable able to ride his strong name to victory. He is a Campbell County commissioner and a former member of the Newport City Commission, where for a decade he helped oversee a revival of the city through projects that included Newport on the Levee, the Newport Aquarium and the Hofbrauhaus restaurant.

Awaiting Keene is Wilder lawyer Mark Hayden. He has never run for office, but Campbell County Republican Party officials are energized by his candidacy and see his campaign as the GOP's chance to win what has long been considered a Democratic statehouse seat.

Hayden congratulated Keene, but said the victory was "insignificant" because voter turnout was so low. He also tried to align Keene with House Speaker Jody Richards, the Bowling Green Democrat who ran for governor last year.

Keene supported Richards, Hayden said.

"Richards has been leading the attacks on (Gov. Ernie Fletcher's) initiatives and blocking attempts to reform Frankfort," Hayden said. "If elected, my opponent would become part of the problem, not the solution."

Incumbent Rep. Jim Callahan, arguably Northern Kentucky's most effective legislator over the past decade, is retiring at the end of this year after 18 years in Frankfort.

Carol Rich finished a distant third in the race with 6 percent of the vote. She is well-known in Bellevue, where she served on the school board.

Cindy Schroeder contributed. E-mail

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