Sunday, January 4, 2004
Bedford, Ky. Political newcomer Nick Clooney needed no introduction as he shook hands with people hunched over steaming breakfast plates at the Farmhouse restaurant.
"I knew him since I walked in the door, and I had never met him before," said Richard Ginn, a real estate appraiser and tobacco farmer.
The 69-year-old congressional candidate has instant recognition in northern Kentucky from his days as a Cincinnati television news anchor.
It doesn't hurt that he's also the father of actor George Clooney, the brother of the late singer-actress Rosemary Clooney, a columnist for The Cincinnati Post for 15 years and a former host on the cable network American Movie Classics.
The silver-haired candidate greeted people this week with his smooth, baritone voice while making the rounds at the small cafe. His wife, Nina, also chatted up customers.
"I've been doing this all my life," Clooney said later. "You start off talking to make them feel a little more comfortable. And then you shut up. And then they start really telling you stuff."
They told him about health care, the decline of tobacco and an Ohio River bridge up the road that they want replaced.
Clooney is so far the only Democrat in the race for the seat held by Kentucky's lone Democratic congressman, Ken Lucas, who is retiring and recruited Clooney.
But Clooney faces a tough fight. Lucas was the first Democrat in three decades to represent the conservative district that snakes along the Ohio River from the West Virginia line nearly to Louisville and takes in much of the Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati.
Two Republicans are running -- Geoff Davis, a Boone County business consultant who lost to Lucas in 2002, and Kevin Murphy, an Erlanger attorney.
President Bush is popular in the district, and Republicans are expected to pour money into the race.
Clooney said his son's role in the campaign would likely consist of limited public appearances, but said George would "win by acclamation" if his name were on the ballot.