Friday, June 25, 2004


From August of 1991 to December of 2003, I lived and grew up in northern Kentucky, near the Cincinnati airport in Boone County. I have witnessed firsthand the ascendancy of the Republican party in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in particular. This region had, for a very long time sent Jim Bunning to the House to represent the 4th district until he decided to run for the Senate. Even though Bunning was successful, his seat went to Democrat Ken Lucas. Mr. Lucas is a conservative Democrat from Boone County who won re-election in 2000 and 2002. In 2002, Mr. Lucas narrowly beat Geoff Davis a business consultant from Boone County 51%-49%.

On election night, Mr. Davis announced his intention to run for the seat again. He ran and beat handily Kevin Murphy in the Republican primary this May. Mr. Davis is now engaged against Nick Clooney whom the Democrats recruited to run for the seat this year. This contest, at least by what I have seen is a legitimately close contest.

Mr. Clooney is a t.v. news anchorman and columnist here in Cincinnati. He has an easy-going common folks kinda guy persona about him. He is the father of George Clooney and has been living in the 4th district most of his life. Through the efforts of his son and because of his name recognition, he has raised a lot of campaign cash so far. He may be a new comer to politics, but he appears to be doing well. His biggest drawbacks may be his son's stated political views (for better or for worse) and some of his own. He hasn't hesitated to venture his opinion in the past and that may come back to bite him in the posterior.

Mr. Davis has been running for the office for nearly four years straight. Mr. Davis has worked his way from obscurity to nearly taking out one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress and would really be a testament to his grit if he were to surmount Mr. Clooney's built-in advantages. In the image department, Mr. Davis comes off much worse than Mr. Clooney, being a geek and wonk by comparison, but that knowledge of policy can come in handy if he learns to hit his spots like a good actor. Mr. Davis in 2000, went after and received organized labor's backing, so in criticizing Ken Lucas, he hit on protectionist themes that seem to play well in the district. This year, organized labor has returned to the Democrat candidate and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Republican candidate.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Davis has flip-flopped on free trade and it will be interesting to see what Mr. Clooney has to say about gun ownership rights and abortion.

Mr. Clooney has money, didn't have a primary fight and has media experience and an ability to connect with people. Geoff Davis has grit, determination, policy knowledge and the GOP establishment behind him. Vice President Cheney came into town to raise funds for Mr. Davis yesterday. Mr. Clooney has some name recognition, but Mr. Davis has President Bush. In 2000, Bush crushed Gore in the 4th by 15 points, presidential coattails cannot be discounted. Strap yourselves in folks, this race has the makings of a good tight race.

I am partial to Mr. Davis, but he has his work cut out for him. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia has called this race a toss-up and at this point, I would have to agree with him, based on what little I've been able to find.

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