Sunday, August 22, 2004
COLD SPRING - Northern Kentucky Democrats honored their past and hoped for their future during Saturday night's annual Guidugli family political picnic.
Picnic energizes party
Guiduglis welcome Democratic family
The party paid homage to two of its longtime leaders, both of whom are retiring at the end of the year: U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a three-term member of Congress from Boone County, and House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan of Wilder, who is leaving Frankfort after 18 years.
"It's a nice gesture," said Callahan, who celebrated his 65th birthday Saturday. "And it's a fantastic crowd. I never had to park out in the cow pasture until this year." But there was also excitement over the new guard of Democrats on the ballot this fall for Congress and statehouse seats.
"There are times when the older leadership has to move on and younger people have to come in," said former Gov. Paul Patton, who left office last year after two terms. "It's an evolution process. Nobody stays there forever."
The picnic started 13 years ago as a way for the Guiduglis to introduce Patton, who at the time was running for lieutenant governor, to top Campbell County Democrats. He has rarely missed it since.
"This is one of the great traditions of Kentucky politics," Patton said.
Patton called Callahan an invaluable member of the General Assembly who will be missed not just in Northern Kentucky but across the state.
"He provided some stable leadership, particularly in the last four or five years when the leadership in the General Assembly has been in flux," Patton said.
Inspired by an election year and enticed by mild temperatures, one of the largest crowds in years turned out for the traditional Democratic gathering.
"We've never run out of desserts, and we've never run out of Italian sausage," said Mariann Guidugli Dunn, the former Campbell County Property Value Administrator whose politically active family puts on the picnic.
She estimated the crowd at more than 300, a welcome sight to the many Democratic candidates milling among the crowd at the home of Cold Spring Councilman Dave Guidugli.
"The Democrats are energized," said Wilder City Councilman Dennis Keene, who is running for Callahan's seat against Wilder Republican Mark Hayden in Campbell County's 67th House District.
"They know what happened in the governor's race and it ain't going to happen again," Keen said.
In November, Democrats lost their 32-year hold on the governor's mansion when Republican Ernie Fletcher beat Attorney General Ben Chandler.
Keene was among the party's major candidates who attended the picnic. Others were:
Nick Clooney, the television personality and newspaper columnist, running against Republican Geoff Davis for Lucas' 4th Congressional District seat.
Kathy Groob, a member of Fort Mitchell City Council, running against Republican state Sen. Jack Westwood of Crescent Springs in Kenton County's 23rd District race.
Dr. Daniel Mongiardo, an eastern Kentucky state senator, who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning of Southgate.
"The only time I've ever been here was when it was news and I was covering it," said Clooney, a former WKRC-TV anchor and reporter.
Clooney said Lucas "did the impossible" by winning what had been a Republican U.S. House seat for more than 30 years.
"He slew the dragons," Clooney said. "Ken Lucas is a remarkable Democrat."
Two candidates for Campbell Circuit judge - District Judge Greg Popovich and lawyer Steve Franzen - also showed up to work the crowd.
Mongiardo has turned to the Guidugli family to recruit members for his campaign's inner-circle.
Mariann Guidugli Dunn's husband, John Dunn, has signed on as one of Mongiardo's Northern Kentucky campaign coordinators, a volunteer position.
Their daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Dunn, has been hired as a regional representative and Mongiardo campaign organizer.
"Look at the crowd we turned out in Jim Bunning's backyard," Mongiardo said. "We've spending time up here, and bringing people on our campaign up here, because Jim Bunning can be beaten in every corner of this state."
Politics is a drawing card but it's not the only reason the picnic attracts a big crowd each year in the middle of August.
"This is a yearly picnic for us," said former Miss America Heather French Henry, who attended the picnic with her husband, former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry. "Forget all the political ties we know this picnic has," she said. "The Guiduglis are good friends and we come up just for some good food, good time and good fellowship."
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