Saturday, June 5, 2004
Republicans give N.Ky. pat on back
First time for party convention in GOP stronghold
By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWPORT - The state's top GOP leaders paid homage Friday night to the region that has helped move Kentucky into the solid Republican South.
On the eve of the state Republican convention - occurring for the first time in Northern Kentucky - GOP delegates, party leaders and elected officials swam in the party's local success during a private evening reception at the Newport Aquarium.
"Northern Kentucky is the Gibraltar of Republican politics," said Darrell Brock, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Local Government.
Mike Duncan, an eastern Kentucky banker and the general counsel for the Republican National Committee, said Northern Kentucky has helped turn the entire state into one the GOP can count on in local, state and national elections.
Duncan said Northern Kentucky has been instrumental in helping elect Republicans, including Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Fletcher, elected in November, is the first Republican governor of Kentucky since Louie Nunn left office in 1971.
"Northern Kentucky has become a very important area for the Republican Party in the state," Duncan said. "If you look back at the last few elections and look at the percentage of Republican votes that have come out of here, it's been astounding.
"This is the heartland of Republicanism now."
This year's convention is also a tribute to Northern Kentucky, where the GOP controls the political landscape.
"Gov. Fletcher won by 25,000 votes in Northern Kentucky," said Marc Wilson of Florence, one of the region's best-known GOP advisers. "There is a lot of momentum for candidates up here. It speaks volumes that the state Republican Party would choose Northern Kentucky for its most important political event."
The GOP state convention occurs every four years. Most of its work is ceremonial. Delegates are chosen to the national conventions, party platform recommendations are discussed and debated, and state leaders are chosen.
But the main function is to get Republican leaders excited about the November elections. The goal is for them to take that enthusiasm back home and campaign for Republicans on the fall ballot.
"We do the same thing," Nathan Smith, Kenton County Democratic Party chairman, said earlier Friday. "It's not like it was 30 years ago, when real decisions were made. Today the state conventions are a chance to get together, have a party, raise some money and get ready for November."
Republicans will raise money tonight, when state Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown holds a fund-raiser at the Fort Mitchell home of Kenton County GOP Chairman Greg Shumate. Thayer represents southern Kenton County in the legislature.
Thayer, Shumate and Jay Hall of Boone County, a principal assistant in the Department for Local Government in Frankfort, were instrumental in bringing the convention to Northern Kentucky.
More than 500 Republicans were invited to Friday night's aquarium event. The fee of $20 a person did not fully cover the cost of renting the facility so several local businesses sponsored the event.
The Kentucky Republican Convention is today at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, Madison Avenue and RiverCenter Boulevard, Covington. Candidate workshops begin at 10 a.m. with the convention opening set for 1 p.m. The event is open to the public. Speakers include U.S. Sens. Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell and Gov. Ernie Fletcher.