Saturday, October 9, 2004

Senate races rake in bucks

Westwood/Groob close; Thayer/Wallace not

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

In the race for campaign contributions, one Northern Kentucky state Senate race remains tight but another isn't even close.

Fund-raising remains competitive in Kenton County's 23rd Senate District between Republican incumbent Sen. Jack Westwood and Fort Mitchell Democrat Kathy Groob. The camps traded barbs Friday about where their financial support is being generated.

Farther south in Kenton County's 17th District, Republican incumbent Damon Thayer of Georgetown has a big money lead over Grant County Democrat Cliff Wallace.

The 17th District covers all of Scott, Owen and Grant counties as well as southern Kenton County, including Taylor Mill and Independence.

The 23rd District covers Erlanger, Edgewood, Elsmere, Fort Wright, Crescent Springs, Villa Hills, Bromley, Ludlow, Park Hills, Covington and Fort Mitchell.

Westwood, a two-term incumbent and a retired teacher, has raised $143,696 and has $100,464 cash-on-hand through Oct 1.

Groob has raised $122,696 and has $75,406 on hand.

Groob's campaign delights in pointing out that since the May 18th primary Westwood has barely out-raised her, $69,021 to $66,519.

And since she entered the race last November, she trails Westwood by just $2,500 in total money raised.

"The Governor (Ernie Fletcher) has been up here twice doing fund-raisers for my opponent and, even so, our numbers are staying right with his," said Groob, a marketing executive.

But Scott Sedmak, Westwood's campaign manager, said Westwood started the race with more than $20,000 in the bank.

"They don't count that when they make the comparisons because it puts Jack farther ahead," Sedmak said.

Groob criticized Westwood for taking $11,000 in contributions from pharmaceutical companies and health care providers at a time when lawmakers are in a special session trying to solve a crisis over the cost state employees are being asked to pay for health care.

A House committee is investigating if the Fletcher administration improperly awarded health care contracts to a company that once employed at least three members of his staff.

"While my opponent pockets donations from this industry, there have been numerous reports of inappropriate involvement of the industry is designing these contracts," Groob said.

"It's too cozy."

Sedmak countered by saying Groob has taken more than $40,000 from trial attorneys and labor unions and their members.

"Sen. Westwood is proud to have doctors and the medical community support him," Sedmak said. "Most people would have their state senator supported by doctors instead of trial lawyers."

Meanwhile in the 17th District, Thayer has raised more money - $225,000 - than nearly every statehouse candidate on the ballot this year.

Thayer, a horse racing industry executive, has $117,000 in the bank.

"I'm delighted with the breadth of support I've received for my candidacy," he said. "It's gratifying to know so many people believe in the leadership I bring to the state Senate."

Wallace, whose campaign did not respond to requests for interviews, has raised about $125,000 and has $29,000 in the bank. Wallace's contributions include $26,000 he loaned his campaign.

"My opponent has clearly fallen in with the trial attorneys who are forcing health care costs to skyrocket due to junk medical malpractice lawsuits in Kentucky," Thayer said.


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