By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
NEW CASTLE, Ky. - Republican Geoff Davis' first bid for Congress was foiled by a better-known incumbent. Now his opponent is a political newcomer, but one with the advantage of being a household name in the district.
The Democratic candidate is Nick Clooney, the father of actor George Clooney and the brother of the late singer-actress Rosemary Clooney. The current 4th District congressman, Democrat Ken Lucas, is retiring. Also on the Nov. 2 ballot is Independent candidate Michael Slider of Oldham County.
The race has garnered plenty of attention from national Republicans hoping to reclaim a House seat that was in GOP hands for many years.
Long before he entered the race, Clooney was recognizable to many voters in the district, which takes in much of northern Kentucky.
Clooney is a former Cincinnati television anchor whose telecasts beamed into many homes in the district.
Davis, a Hebron businessman, concedes his opponent is a well-known personality, but insists that doesn't qualify him for Congress.
"Nick's lack of experience in dealing with the issues that the next Congress is going to have to address speaks more loudly than anything else," Davis said.
Michael Baranowski, a Northern Kentucky University political science professor, said he thinks Clooney has a slight edge in the race.
He cited Clooney's name recognition, his smooth campaign style and his deep roots in the district. Clooney was raised in Maysville and still lives in nearby Augusta. Davis was raised in Pittsburgh and has lived in the district for about a decade.
"In Kentucky, there's more of a sense of the importance of where you're from ... than perhaps in some other areas," Baranowski said. "The fact that Clooney has roots in northern Kentucky means something, and Davis doesn't. And to some people that matters."
Davis, who barely lost to Lucas two years ago, stresses his business and military background.
He runs a consulting firm in Boone County, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and a former Army helicopter pilot. He directed Army aviation operations for a peacekeeping mission in the Middle East.
Clooney said he gained considerable business experience as a television executive in charge of a large staff and budget. His role included negotiating union contracts. "I think that's a pretty good background in the real world," he said.
Davis has tried to link Clooney to his son's liberal views. Clooney laughs off such efforts to connect him to Hollywood.
"It seems to me that everybody who has done well in national politics from Hollywood is a Republican," Clooney said.
As for his son, he said: "If George were running for this office, he would win by acclamation. But the people are stuck with Mr. Davis and me."
Clooney has taken conservative stands on social issues. He opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger. He opposes same-sex marriage.
Davis and Clooney have staked out different positions on the Iraq war.
Clooney advocates turning over patrolling duties to Iraqis. "It is vital that we get the targets off the backs of our kids," he said.
Davis said toppling Saddam Hussein was the right decision, and said the situation in Iraq is "moving in the right direction."
"We're dealing with threat issues," he said. "But over time we're going to be able to back off. I think we have to view this as a long-term commitment."
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