Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Clooney still refining views

On most issues, he disagrees with opponent Davis

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

BELLEVUE - As Northern Kentucky's congressional race moves toward the fall campaign, stark differences between Democrat Nick Clooney and Republican Geoff Davis are beginning to emerge.

But so are some similarities.

Clooney, of Augusta, a television personality and writer making his first run for office, told a town hall gathering of more than 200 last week that he has been talking to voters and formulating positions on various issues in his race to succeed the retiring Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat.

"I'm doing what I used to do as a reporter, which is go around and ask a question and shut up," Clooney said.

The candidate said that process has helped him formulate positions on job growth, health care, defense, veterans' issues, education, the economy and more.

It was during questioning from the audience packed into the Bellevue Veterans Club hall that Clooney described his stances on issues that will certainly be part of the campaign debate: tax cuts, stem-cell research and medical-malpractice reform.

Clooney wants to make permanent the tax cuts that the President Bush has pushed through Congress. And he wants additional tax cuts for the middle class and for small businesses.

But, like other Democrats, Clooney has called for repealing the cuts granted America's top earners, those families making $350,000 or more a year. Rolling back that tax cut would provide money for other programs, he said.

"This was a shock to me," Clooney said. "The last tax bill was $350 billion in cuts. Get a load of this, $90 billion goes to 200,000 American families. One quarter ... of the tax cut, that's not fair.

"I think we can make that much more equitable ... by rolling back some of the tax cuts for the wealthiest among us so they can help share the tax burden that all the rest of us are sharing in a proportionally much higher amount," he said.

Davis, a Boone County business consultant who challenged Lucas in 2002, supports making the Bush tax cut permanent for all wage earners.

"The tax cuts have put more money in consumers' pockets and helped get our economy back on track," Davis said.

"Mr. Clooney's plan to raise taxes is the wrong approach."

Clooney and Davis also differ on so-called medical-liability reform.

Also known as tort reform or medical-malpractice reform, it would allow the government to cap the amount juries can award victims of medical malpractice.

Bush is a major proponent of the issue. So is Davis, who says high medical-malpractice insurance rates fueled by excessive jury awards are driving doctors out of Kentucky.

"We must take action to keep our doctors in Kentucky," Davis said. "I support efforts to reform our legal system to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and to reduce health care costs."

Clooney said that when he began studying health-care costs, "I went in thinking ... that the litigation was a major part of the problem and that it had to be excised or capped."

But Clooney said he discovered that litigation and "excess awards" accounts for only 0.3 percent in overall health-care costs.

Clooney said it "seems to me draconian" to let the government set jury awards for people injured by medical malpractice.

"I'm on the side of juries being allowed to make the determination what they think is proper for each specific case," Clooney said with an answer that drew sustained applause from the town hall audience.''

The candidates do share some positions, including the use of human stem cells for medical research.

Both support the research but do not favor the use of human tissue taken from aborted fetuses or live human embryos.

"I am anti-abortion," Clooney said. "My position is that I am against stem-cell research except if the stem cells come obviously from a miscarriage or there are many, many places that these stem cells can come from that do not have to do with creating an embryo."

Davis said he supports stem-cell research "that does not involve the use of tissue from aborted children or the destruction of live human embryos."


E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com

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