Special Interest

Members Come to the Aid of Nominee in Kentucky House Race

Posted January 9, 2004 at 6:04pm

Faced with the first competitive special election of the 2004 cycle, House Republicans have helped to raise nearly $500,000 for Kentucky state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R) as she seeks to hold the 6th district seat vacated by new Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R).

One hundred forty-two Members gave a total of $190,000 from their own campaign accounts or leadership political action committees to Kerr, and helped direct another $300,000 to her from PACs based in Washington, D.C.

“I am grateful to all of my colleagues who answered the call to assist Alice,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who is heading up the effort.

This financial windfall comes as the pace of the Feb. 17 contest between Kerr and former Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler (D) is rapidly quickening, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee set to join the National Republican Congressional Committee on the airwaves Tuesday.

The DCCC would not reveal the content of its ad, but sources familiar with the buy indicated that it was at 1,000 points, meaning the average viewer would see it 10 times in a week.

“This ad buy demonstrates our confidence in Ben Chandler and sends a clear signal that we are not going to sit by and allow the Republicans and their special-interest backers in Washington to buy a seat for a weak candidate who will simply be another rubber stamp for their agenda,” said DCCC spokesman Greg Speed.

Both candidates have been on television since late last year. Kerr went up with a biography ad Dec. 26; the Chandler campaign quickly responded with a commercial of its own three days later. Chandler has just launched a second ad focused on family values.

Republicans have taken issue with Chandler’s ads, arguing that because the written statement noting that he paid for and authorized the ad appears in the beginning of the commercial it is in violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

BCRA specifies that such a written statement must appear at the end of any television ad.

GMMB, the media consulting firm handling Chandler’s ads, admitted the error and said the disclaimer would be moved to the end of the spots immediately.

“It’s amusing that the former attorney general can’t correctly interpret regulations,” said NRCC Communications Director Carl Forti.

Without question, the NRCC’s biggest boost to the Kerr campaign has come in its aggressive pitch to Members for contributions.

Prior to Kerr becoming the nominee, the NRCC opened the “Kentucky-6 Republican General Election Committee,” which allowed House Republicans to collect donations for the eventual nominee. That committee became Kerr’s official general election fund when she was chosen as the party’s nominee Dec. 13.

Just six days later, the NRCC hosted a D.C. fundraiser for Kerr featuring White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that raised $200,000.

Rep. Anne Northup (Ky.), one of the most prolific fundraisers in the Republican Conference, is scheduled to hold an event with Kerr in Louisville on Wednesday. Sen. Mitch McConnell will also attend.

“Our candidate has a tremendous head start and is in the strongest possible position to win this seat thanks to the hard work and dedication of our conference,” said NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.).

The DCCC did not have figures available at press time documenting Member giving to Chandler, but the total is likely to be significantly less than what the NRCC has proffered.

Although both parties are quick to note that they are running a “ground up” campaign for the seat, national dynamics are beginning to creep in.

Kerr has painted the race as a referendum on President Bush and Fletcher, the former Congressman who was elected governor of the Bluegrass State last November.

Not to be outdone, Chandler, who lost the gubernatorial election, endorsed the presidential candidacy of retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D) last week. Clark reciprocated and floated the possibility that he would raise money to help Chandler.

The presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) has toyed with the idea of tapping its vast Internet donor network on behalf of Chandler but has not yet contacted the campaign.

Late last year, Dean used his list to raise more than $50,000 for Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), a Republican target.