Sunday, September 5, 2004

Candidate turns table

Hayden gets backing of builders

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

A candidate for Kentucky's 67th District House seat is using endorsements from builders and real estate agents to sling mud at his opponent.

Republican Mark Hayden, a Wilder attorney who has never run for public office, last month received the backing of the Political Housing Club of Northern Kentucky, the political action committee representing the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky.

Two other groups, the Northern Kentucky Association of Realtors and the Associated Builders & Contractors, have also backed the Hayden campaign, which blasted Democrat Dennis Keene, a manufactured housing developer.

"Our opponent is in the home business - in his own words he is a 'successful developer and builder' - and the people he is in close relationship with, in the same field, have chosen to endorse his opponent," said Jack Becker, Hayden's campaign manager.

A Keene campaign spokesman downplayed the criticism, saying the Wilder city councilman - who is not a member of any of the organizations - did not seek the groups' approval.

"He didn't even fill out their questionnaire," said Democratic strategist Eric Gentry.

Dan Dressman, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky, said Keene disregarded the first step in the group's approval process, but a committee interviewed him last month, along with other candidates for U.S. and Kentucky House races.

"We felt that (Hayden) would be the best candidate for that particular position," Dressman said.

Gentry said a press release announcing the endorsement signals desperation, because it attacks Keene, rather than focusing on Hayden's credentials.

"Usually when you have an endorsement release, you talk about positive things," Gentry said.

The endorsements are as much a positive for Hayden as they are a negative for Keene, Becker said.

"If our opponent was of an occupation that had nothing to do with any of these groups, it wouldn't be a negative for him at all," Becker said.

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