By Travis Gettys
SOUTHGATE - Ernie Fletcher, Kentucky's first Republican governor in 32 years, campaigned Tuesday for Mark Hayden, who hopes to break a seven-decade Democratic grip on the 67th District Statehouse seat.
The district - which covers Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, Southgate, Wilder and part of Highland Heights - is up for grabs with the retirement of Rep. Jim Callahan, a Wilder Democrat who has held the seat without challenge since he won election in 1986.
Hayden, a Wilder lawyer making his first run for elective office, faces Democrat Dennis Keene, a member of Wilder City Council, in the Nov. 2 election.
Republicans are hungry to pick up the Statehouse seat, one of the last held by a Democrat in Northern Kentucky, and more than 150 supporters turned out at the Southgate Community Center to hear Fletcher speak.
A Hayden victory "would be a huge statement about where Northern Kentucky is going," Fletcher said.
"This has been a traditionally Democratic seat, but the district has changed somewhat," he said.
Fletcher said that electing another GOP lawmaker in Northern Kentucky would help get more state money funneled into the area, which he called an economic engine.
"The more we feed this engine, the more we can get it to lift up the entire state - that's my approach," Fletcher said.
The governor blasted Democratic state lawmakers, whom he accused of obstructionist tactics.
He cited the Commission for a Healthy Kentucky and Read To Achieve, two pieces of legislation sponsored by his wife, Glenna Fletcher.
"That's why we've got to have Mark (Hayden) there - to support the first lady, as well," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said Hayden would help him push through medical liability lawsuit reform.
That drew heavy applause from the crowd of supporters. The governor also said Hayden would help push through corporate tax breaks.
"If we allow people to keep more of their money and businesses to invest more money, we will increase opportunity, increase jobs and actually grow the economy," Fletcher said.
Hayden arranged a meeting Tuesday between the governor and officials with General Cable, a Highland Heights telecommunications company, to discuss tax incentives, Fletcher said.
"That shows that he's an aggressive individual, already working for the district," Fletcher said.
The governor accused Keene, Hayden's Democratic opponent, of voting for tax increases six times as a member of Wilder City Council.
Even so, said Keene strategist Eric Gentry, Wilder has the lowest taxes in Northern Kentucky.
"The only record we have on Mark Hayden is the record of his law firm (Greenebaum, Doll & McDonald), which has sponsored seminars teaching companies how to outsource jobs," Gentry said.
Hayden has said he did not participate in such seminars.
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