Wednesday, November 3, 2004

67th House District: Keene's win preserves spot for Democrats

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

One of Northern Kentucky's last Democratic-held statehouse districts will apparently stay in the party's hands Tuesday with Dennis Keene's victory over Republican Mark Hayden in Campbell County's 67th House District.

With 96.2 percent of the vote in, Keene had 6,259 votes compared to Hayden's 5,995.

"I feel wonderful," Keene said during a victory party at the Wilder City Building, where he serves on City Council. "Determination and hard work from a lot of people is what won this for us. I thank the people of Newport, Dayton, Bellevue and the whole 67th District."

Keene said his priority after taking office early next year will be education "and making sure our teachers have a decent wage."

Keene said he also wants to work toward passing a state budget, which legislators failed to do this year.

For 18 years, House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, a Wilder Democrat, has held the seat. Callahan is widely seen as one Northern Kentucky's most effective legislators. He sponsored the landmark legislation that revamped the state's higher education system and helped secure funding for projects that include the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, Newport Aquarium and the Northern Kentucky University Science Center.

Democrats were desperate to hold on to the seat, one of the last statehouse districts the party controls in Northern Kentucky. Republicans saw an opportunity to pick up a seat in a district that, while heavy in Democratic registrations, has supported Republicans including Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Fletcher came to Northern Kentucky in mid-October to help Hayden raise money and campaign.

The district covers Newport, Dayton, Bellevue, Southgate, Wilder and part of Highland Heights.

The race was contentious from the start.

During an August debate at Northern Kentucky University, Hayden brought up the number of tax increases Keene supported as a member of Wilder City Council.

Keene, apparently miffed at comments made during the forum, reportedly told Hayden that the "gloves are off" just as the forum ended.

At the conclusion of the forum, a reporter was interviewing Keene when Hayden approached him.

"Step aside here, I'm talking," Keene told Hayden.

"You took the gloves off first, buddy, so don't get in my face like that," Hayden replied.

Hayden had been upset a few weeks earlier after Keene and other Campbell County Democrats criticized Hayden's law firm for sponsoring seminars that instruct businesses how to set up operations in China.

Hayden had nothing to do with the seminar and said during the forum that he does not support outsourcing jobs. But Keene continued to use the issue throughout the campaign.


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