Former Rep. Ken Lucas (D-Ky.), who honored a term-limits pledge and retired from Congress in 2004, announced Monday that he will seek to regain his old seat this year, setting up what is likely to be a competitive and high-profile rematch with freshman Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.).
Lucas had to fight hard to hold the socially conservative, Republican-leaning 4th district in his three terms in office. He faced off against Davis in 2002, winning re-election with 51 percent of the vote, the slimmest victory of his career.
In a statement, Lucas said that increased partisanship in the House as well as his concern about “widespread public
corruption news” that has come out of Washington, D.C., prompted him to seek to return to office. The 72-year-old former Boone County judge-executive said he looked forward to an aggressive campaign and also touted his ability to work across party lines in the House.
“I always did what I thought was right for Kentucky and the country,” Lucas said. “I put aside partisanship and worked constructively with Republicans and Democrats alike on a host of issues that mattered to the people I represented.”
Davis released a statement welcoming Lucas to the race and expressing confidence that he would be re-elected in November.
“We’re looking forward to a spirited campaign on the issues,” Davis said. “I am proud of my record of achievement after 13 months in Congress, and I will run on that record.”
He added: “We’re used to working around the clock, and this campaign will be no different.”
In 2004, Davis won the seat Lucas vacated with 54 percent of the vote. The race was thought to be among the most competitive in the country that cycle, although Democratic nominee Nick Clooney finished with a disappointing 44 percent of the vote. President Bush carried the northern Kentucky district with 63 percent.
Democratic consultant Bob Doyle, who has worked for Lucas since his first run for the House in 1998, said that the former Congressman’s decision sets up what is likely to become a “top five race in the country” before Election Day.
“Ken Lucas is 3 and 0 in this district,” Doyle said. “He’s 1 and 0 against Geoff Davis.”
Doyle argued that Lucas is still well-regarded by his former constituents and stressed the former lawmaker’s record of winning tough elections in unfavorable conditions for Democrats.
In 2006, Doyle predicted, the political winds are more likely to be blowing the other way. The administration of Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) was rocked by scandal in 2005, and Doyle noted that 60 percent of the district’s residents live in the Cincinnati media market and therefore have had saturated exposure to Ohio Gov. Bob Taft’s (R) troubles as well.
“The political environment in this district as it relates to the Republicans right now is at an all-time low,” Doyle said, estimating that 2006 may present the best conditions Lucas has ever run in.
Outside of Cincinnati, about one fourth of the district’s residents live in the Charleston, W.Va., market. The rest of the population live in the Louisville and Lexington markets.
Davis has about $450,000 in his re-election fund. Lucas shut down his campaign committee after leaving office and will start from scratch on the fundraising front.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.