Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Anti-Clooney ads continue


Son-in-law died this week

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

ELECTION SECTION
Election 2004 page
FORT MITCHELL - A fatal heart attack suffered Monday by the son-in-law of congressional candidate Nick Clooney has created an unusual political question in the 4th District race.

When should campaigning stop - and begin anew?

Clooney has ceased all campaigning this week as he and his family prepare to bury Norman Zeidler, 47, a retired U.S. Army captain who was the husband of Clooney's daughter, Ada, and the father of his two grandchildren.

A debate between Clooney and Republican Geoff Davis scheduled for tonight has been postponed. Another that had been set for Oct. 11 on KET public television has been moved to Monday, Oct. 18.

But Davis' campaign and a top political committee of the national Republican Party are continuing to run TV ads in Northern Kentucky and Lexington criticizing Clooney's stance on taxes.

Davis and the National Republican Congressional Committee have said they won't run any ads mentioning Clooney on Thursday, when funeral services for Zeidler are scheduled.

But a top Northern Kentucky Democrat is outraged that the ads are still running.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat not running for re-election, said he is "incredibly saddened that Geoff Davis and the National Republican Party have chosen to launch negative ads against Nick Clooney while he and his family are grieving over their recent loss."

"This is politics at its ugliest," said Lucas, who picked Clooney to run for the seat he has held for three terms. "These attack ads come at a time of great pain for the Clooney family and are contrary to the kind of fair play, respect and humanity folks in Kentucky honor."

Further angering Democrats are automated campaign calls that are being made to Northern Kentucky voters.

The calls come from an elderly-sounding woman who identifies herself as "Mary." She then says Clooney favors taxes, including an increase in Social Security payroll taxes. The call is paid for by the same Republican committee airing the television ads.

Clooney has not called for an increase in Social Security taxes, but has said it should be studied as a way to keep the system solvent.

Lucas said such tactics are inappropriate while Clooney is dealing with a death in his family.

"None of us should forget just how desperate Mr. Davis and his allies are to win and their disregard for the pain they are causing to Nick and his family," Lucas said.

The Davis campaign said it would pull its ads Thursday but that it would continue running the spots Wednesday. There was no additional comment from Davis or his staff other than expressing condolences to Clooney and his family.

Bo Harmon, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, defended running the ads this week.

"We certainly express our sympathies to (Clooney) and his family and certainly intend to reflect that by taking down any ads the day of the funeral," Harmon said. "But right now the campaign is moving on."

Michael Slider, an independent candidate from Oldham County, said none of the candidates in the race should be "mudslinging."

"When candidates are talking about their opponents," Slider said, "they aren't talking about issues, and then the public loses."

Northern Kentucky University political science professor Ryan Teten said that even though the Republicans are accused of being callous, it is the Democrats who are taking advantage.

"If the Democrats are making this an issue, they are trying for a sympathy vote at some point," Teten said. "It's not fair to ask the Davis campaign to pull almost a week's worth of ads with less than three weeks before Election Day."

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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