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Thursday, December 01, 2005

KY-04: Draft Ken Lucas

Posted by DavidNYC

If you don't know who Ken Lucas is, he's the popular former congressman who used to represent Kentucky's 4th CD - and I say "popular" because he won re-election three times as a Democrat in a district that Bush carried 61-37 over Gore in 2000. In 2004, however, Lucas honored a self-imposed term limit pledge and chose not to run again.

Unfortunately, his replacement turned out to be a total Republican troglodyte (surprise) named Geoff Davis. Davis beat conservative Dem Nick Clooney, father of George, in something of a marquee race last year - but only by ten points. That's pretty far off Bush's victory margin (which I believe was better than his 2000 results). That tells me a conservative Democrat can do better than expected in this district.

And that's why Mark Nickolas, founder of the indispensible Bluegrass Report, has created a new website, DraftKenLucas.com. Mark believes that Lucas could unseat Davis next year, and he's hoping to lure him out of retirement to do so. If you're interested in helping in this effort, click on over to Mark's site and sign up. It looks like he'll be organizing all manner of activities to help pursuade Lucas to get back in the game - and if Lucas does decide to run once more, Mark's team of grassroots volunteers will form a ready-made army.

Let me be totally clear on one thing: Lucas is a conservative guy. I'll wager that he's to the right of many of this site's readers, myself included. In fact, according to Prof. Keith Poole's highly respected rankings, Lucas was the fourth-most conservative Dem in the House in his final term. But I've always been a strong believer in big-tent politics, and when it comes to the House especially, we simply aren't going to gain a majority that consists of 250 Sherrod Browns or Pete Starks. It's going to take a diverse coalition of all kinds of Dems.

Let me put things another way: Geoff Davis has already shown himself to be one of the most conservative Republicans so far this year. If you want to know just how wretched he is, check out the left-hand sidebar on Mark's new site. But really, Davis's remarks on Rep. Murtha are about all you need to read to know how badly he's gotta be booted:

I think it's important to understand the political climate in which these shameful statements have been made. Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, as well as Abu Musab Zarqawi, have made it quite clear in their internal propaganda that they cannot win unless they can drive the Americans out. And they know that they can't do that there, so they've brought the battlefield to the halls of Congress. And, frankly, the liberal leadership have put politics ahead of sound, fiscal and national security policy. And what they have done is cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies.

So again I say, Ken Lucas might not conform to your idea of the ideal Democrat. But we're talking about a conservative House district in a red state, not a presidential nominee. No matter what, Lucas is better than Davis - and he can beat him. Let's do our best to help that happen.

Posted at 06:09 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Kentucky | Technorati

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Thanks for this post/info David -- I didn't know there was a possibility of getting Ken Lucas back in the game. I think you're right on target to remind liberal people like me and you and most of the people here that we are not going to win back the house unless we support people like this. Living in a very red state, I can say there are a lot of people who live in fly-over country that, right nor wrong, feel like they've been kicked out of the Democratic tent, vote GOP but are not terribly thrilled about it, and can be won back with candidates like Lucas. And he's a good guy that, unlike others of both parties, honored his 3-term pledge, even though he could have been easily re-elected.

Northern Kentucky being close to my neck of the woods, I can say that with a candidate like Ken Lucas, we can win this district. Kentucky politically is a bit of a strange place. Yes, it is conservative, and it has trended Republican, but if we can have candidates that don't get clobbered on the cultural stuff, there is a real populist economic strain to much of the state (and especially the rural parts of this district -- very similar to southern Indiana and parts of West Virginia) that is responsive to messages on trade and jobs and health care.

And also remember this could be a good year for Kentucky Democrats -- as GOP Governor Fletcher is second only to Bob Taft in the scandal-plagued mess he's caused himself and his party.

Posted by: IndianaProgressive [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2005 07:52 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I don't remember who Lucas' opponent was in 2002, but Lucas won by a margin of 51-49 even after four years of incumbency. Lucas probably has a better shot than any other Democrat at winning KY-04, but his grip on the district was never more than tenuous. If Lucas isn't willing to step up to the plate, is there any chance Nick Clooney would be willing to run again? If everybody is as glum about Geoff Davis as we are, some buyer's remorse could really benefit Clooney.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2005 07:58 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

In fairness, 2002 was a poor year for Dems nationwide. Beating an incumbent is always an uphill battle, especially for a Dem in such a conservative district - I would never dispute that. But as you say, Mark, if anyone can do it, Lucas can - and 2006 is shaping up to be a strong Dem year.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2005 08:02 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

IndianaProgressive, one thing about KY-04 is that it's even more conservative than the state at large. It's population center is in the southern suburbs of Cincinnati, but like OH-02 (Paul Hackett country), it has some Democratic rural areas to its east in and around the small city of Ashland. The fact that Ken Lucas was able to win here in 1998 was almost as big of an earthquake as it would have been for Hackett to win on the north side of the Ohio River last summer. Certainly any opportunity we can get to re-run the one Democrat with a track record of victory here should be taken.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2005 08:19 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark, I believe it was the current Congressman Davis who took on Lucas and narrowly lost in '02, before winning the open seat last time.
And you're right this is a tough district. The only hope is to get a candidate to appeal to the rural people in the mountain east of the district. These are some of the last of the old-school TVA-style Democrats, who are culturally conservative, economically populist, and many of them increasingly opposed to the war. The exurban people in the other part of the district probably aren't going to vote for any Democrat.

I'm perhaps going to be down there in Ashland next weekend with a friend visiting her family, who are perfect representatives of the district -- conservative independents who voted for Bush and now wish they hadn't, so I'll get their take on things!

Posted by: IndianaProgressive [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2005 08:57 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Ken is center-right and would make a great member of Congress once again. I believe he will, ultimately, enter the race.

KY-4 is VERY conservative. Lucas has to run center-right in order to win the race. That's how he has won the last 3 races he was in. He is very nice and down to earth. He made phone calls for Kathy Groob and Nick Clooney last fall.

I will have up-to-date information on my blog as I get it.

Btw, IndianaProgressive, which district are you in? I know a candidate in the 6th district.

Posted by: Daniel [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2005 10:35 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

IndianaProgressive, be sure to keep us apprised on your visit to Ashland how things look to be shaping out down there. I was surprised that Kerry was able to win a few counties that Gore didn't near Ashland last year, including Carter, Rowan and Bath, which I believe are all in the 4th district. Unfortunately, Boyd County (Ashland itself) went the other way...Gore, then Bush.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2005 10:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Daniel -- I live in central city Indianapolis, in Julia Carson's district (Indiana 7). I just love her -- she's a completely fearless liberal, who is as good of an advocate for disadvantaged people as you'll find in the whole Congress. We always get a little nervous about her around election time -- this is a (somewhat marginal) Democratic district, but she's a liberal black woman who needs the votes of a lot of white Hoosiers (the district is around 70% white) who are to some degree or another to the right of her. She's also had some health problems off and on, and the fact that she's a bit of a drunk is one of the worst kept secrets in Indianapolis. However, she's a steadfast progressive, has the unwavering support of unions and veterans groups, provides excellent public service, and is politically extremely well organized on election day, so she should be in good shape next fall.

Not to sound discouraging or disrespectful to your friend, but Indiana 6 is just a brutal district for Democrats -- a combination of rural eastern Indiana and exurban Indianapolis. Before it was redistricted in 2000, Phil Sharpe (a very good centrist Democrat) represented it for years, but that was before redistricting when it was a conservative but more competititve district. I'm not at all saying we shouldn't try to run a full blown campaign there -- for no other reason than the Indiana General Assembly is up for election, and the House is right now 52-48 GOP (it has flipped back and forth between parties for several years, and was in Democrat control before the '04 elections), and we've got solid pick-up chances (along with districts that we need to defend) throughout the state.

Posted by: IndianaProgressive [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 2, 2005 03:20 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I see.

Posted by: Daniel [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 2, 2005 01:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment