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NKY Provides State GOP's Pulse


Every election's aftermath brings its share of analysis paralysis, as people dive into the numbers to learn why their favorite candidate or issue won or lost.

Here in Northern Kentucky, the unmistakable message from Tuesday's results is that our region is now the state's GOP power base and stronghold.

Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties combined have more registered voters (224,984) than any other community in the state, other than Jefferson County (Louisville), which is nearly two-thirds Democratic. The third-largest electorate cluster, Fayette County (Lexington), is about one-half Democrat, one-third Republican and the rest undeclared.

The Republican powerhouse that Northern Kentucky has become delivered these results Tuesday for the GOP:

* Responsible for Jim Bunning surviving a flawed campaign which nearly resulted in him losing his U.S. Senate seat. Bunning's margin of victory statewide was 21,914, but in NKY it was 47,933. That means without Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, Bunning would have lost his Senate seat to Democrat Dan Mongiardo.

* In a race with no incumbent advantage, NKY Republicans voted decisively against Democratic challenger Nick Clooney in the 4th District Congressional Race. Clooney - a long-time Cincinnati-area TV news anchor and newspaper columnist, and father of one of Hollywood's biggest stars - had the clear name recognition advantage over Republican Geoff Davis, but still lost.

* Returned incumbent Republican State Sen. Jack Westwood of Crescent Springs to Frankfort as the 23rd District representative despite a determined bid by Kathy Groob of Fort Mitchell, making her first run at a state-level office.

Northern Kentucky voters made these choices despite some very dubious advertising by state and federal GOP officials. Republican interests paid for local advertisements that often stepped over the lines of decorum and good taste. Many local voters were amazed at the garish, goofy and just silly ads foisted upon them ("Looney Clooney," "Medicaid Millionaire," Groob in a graveyard).

According to this week's Kentucky Board of Elections statistics, both Kenton and Campbell counties still have more registered Democrats than Republicans, while Boone County is clearly Republican. Lest ye think that Boone is solely responsible, consider that Kenton County returned Westwood to office, and Campbell County-traditionally a Democrat stronghold for more than a half-century-was a rough row to hoe for Democrat State Rep. candidate Dennis Keene, who defeated Republican Mark Hayden by only 366 votes, or less than 3 percent.

As of Election Day, 45 percent of registered voters in the tri-county region were Republicans, 43 percent were Democrats, and 12 percent were registered as "other." That is anything but a clear majority on paper.

But guess where Gov. Fletcher was on Election Night? He was at the Airport Marriott in Hebron for a GOP victory party for Bunning, Davis, et. al. There were many places Fletcher could have been that night, many parties to attend-most of them closer to Frankfort than Hebron is. But Fletcher came to his party's new base of power, believing that the majority of results would be good news for the GOP. And he was right.

After all, the tri-county region accounted for 27 percent of Fletcher's victory margin in last year's election. Like Bunning, Fletcher would have been hard-pressed to win his race without the NKY influence.

In what has become a "red" state in the federal coloring scheme, Northern Kentucky produces the political heartbeat. What this tells us is that the local Republican party organizations are far superior to their Democratic counterparts in recruiting and maintaining active, passionate, like-thinking volunteer groups. Gradually, the local GOP has flourished while the long-standing Democrat leaders and members waned, aged, got complacent, or all of the above.

The Democratic party is not dead in Northern Kentucky. But it's on the respirator. With his name recognition in this region, Clooney should never have lost. His lack of experience as a candidate and the lack of a strong Democratic structure in NKY are to blame.

A new political era in NKY has been dawning before our eyes for the past several years. As the suburbs have grown (the 41042 zip code in Florence / Burlington is NKY's most populous now), middle-class and upper-middle-class families have fled the inner cities of Cincinnati and Covington for the three-bedroom, two-bath, two-car garage homes in good school districts in the 'burbs. They bring with them the conservative values and politics that the majority in our great country presently favor, based on Tuesday's results.

One thing is clear: Frankfort's GOP now has its eyes on NKY, because NKY has proven two years in a row it can deliver political results. And with Republicans in control at the capital, we should begin to see more political capital being invested in NKY. And no matter which political party you are aligned with, that is great news for this region.

Tom Mitsoff is the editor of The Sunday Challenger.

This column was published November 7, 2004, in The Sunday Challenger, serving Northern Kentucky. It was among a group of columns that received honorable mention honors from the Kentucky Press Association in its "best column" judging.

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