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Crestwood doctor seeks Davis' 4th district seat

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By John Foster

A Crestwood physician is challenging two-term congressman Geoff Davis in the Nov. 4 election to represent Kentucky’s fourth district.

Republican U.S Rep. Geoff Davis has served since 2004 when he defeated Cincinnati newscaster Nick Clooney. He ran two years earlier against incumbent Ken Lucas but narrowly lost. In 2006, he beat Lucas to earn his second term in Congress.

Democrat Dr. Michael Kelley hopes to unseat Davis in a considerably lower-budget affair than those multi-million dollar races, for his first public office.

The fourth district stretches across the northern part of the Commonwealth from Oldham County to Ashland, with the greatest population concentration in the Cincinnati suburbs.

Background

Davis, 49, serves on the Armed Services Committee and Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Davis said he has worked hard for everything he has. He grew up poor, he said, not meeting his father until he was 24. He enlisted in the Army at 17, and earned an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy where he studied Arabic and the cultures of Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. He served as an Army ranger for 20 years, at one point overseeing U.S. Army aviation operations for peace enforcement between Israel and Egypt.

After the Army, he lived in Oldham County for more than eight years and started a manufacturing consulting company.

In Congress, he serves on the Armed Forces and Financial Services Committees. He claims as his biggest accomplishments: sponsoring a bill that prevents predatory sales practices to veterans, cosponsoring an act that simplifies regulation and provides transparency into Security and Exchange Commission practices, and cosponsoring an act that allows insurance brokers to more easily work across state lines.

He said he cosponsored a bill a couple years ago that would have changed the way mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are regulated. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

He said he is currently working to more effectively use government departments such as agriculture and public health to alleviate some of the burden placed upon the defense department. Working with various think tanks across the political spectrum, he has formulated a list of recommendations to more effectively meet local needs in war zones and potential war zones, minimizing the likelihood of use of force.

Kelley, 42, is a partner in the Internal Medicine and Pediatrics practice in Crestwood and a resident of Buckner. He started the business 12 years ago.

Kelley grew up in Louisville, attending St. Francis School in Goshen and Kentucky Country Day. He graduated from Harvard undergraduate and earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville.

Disappointed in what he calls the worst state of the country in his lifetime, about a year ago Kelley got on the Internet and read the Constitution for the first time since high school. Realizing he met all the requirements for Congress set forth in that document, he decided to step forward.

He said he would prefer if the country was on the right track and he didn’t have to run, but felt compelled to give voters a choice to the “straight party line, Kool-Aid drinking, George Bush supporter” Davis.

Iraq war

Davis and Kelley differ essentially along party lines on the war in Iraq. Davis wants to stay the course, Kelley wants to bring the troops home.

Davis believes the consequences of failure in Iraq are dire. He likens the situation to a surgeon in the middle of a surgical procedure.

“It would be medical malpractice to simply walk away from the operating room,” he said.

He does believe a significant reduction in troops can happen over the next two years.

Kelley said there are no good decisions left with regard to the war.

“The only good decision was never to go to war in the first place,” he said.

He said the only thing historically that has kept the various factions within Iraq from killing each other has been a series of dictators.

“If we stay there for 100 years, they’re still gonna hate each other,” he said.

Instead, he wants to bring home most of the troops or redirect them to Afghanistan — a necessary war, he said.

He would leave a small portion of troops in Iraq to minimize the genocide, he said.

Campaign finance

While Kelley is long on idealism, he is low on cash, with about $7,000 on hand compared to about $565,000 for Davis. The incumbent said he has raised enough that he has given some to other republicans to help in their races.

Kelley is running an intentionally low-budget affair, he said. In fact he describes it as a cornerstone of his

campaign.

Kelley said that big money and special interests have corrupted the government. Large political action committees donate lots of money in hopes of furthering their interests, he said.

“The reality is without a large war chest, it is very difficult to get elected in this country. The upside is, if I were elected, I would serve with no strings attached whatsoever. That is something to be excited about. I have no interest in going to Congress if I cannot make it there with all my ethics and integrity intact.”

He said that Congressmen who raise the kind of money Davis does are morally

flexible.

According to the Federal Election Commission’s Web site, thousands of political action committees and individuals have contributed millions to Davis. Davis’ financial supporters include the National Rifle Association, Right to Life and various oil, coal, insurance, banking, builders, health care, pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, among others.

Kelley has raised money from 14 friends, business associates and family members, according the Web site. It is enough for a campaign Web site and a bike ride across the district over Memorial Day weekend, he said, but not enough to quit his job and campaign full-time.

Davis said many people don’t understand the role of campaign donations. There is no transaction with expectation of influence over legislators, he said. He also noted that these corporations donate money to both Democrats and Republicans.

“I’ve consistently voted my conscience on issues,” Davis said.

“These corporations don’t throw their money around for no reason,” Kelley said.

Davis said, “Sometimes when folks say that, it’s because they can’t raise money.”

Energy

Both candidates declare the need to develop alternative energy sources. Where they differ is the use of fossil fuels.

Kelley considers oil an energy source of the past, enriching the economies of Iran, Russia and Venezuela. He thinks the negative environmental and health effects of coal outweigh the benefits, even so called “clean coal.”

Kelley believes that expanded domestic drilling is not the solution.

If we start oil exploring today, it will take 5-10 years before we see any of that oil, he said. Even so, the U.S. reserves are just a drop in the bucket compared to worldwide reserves, meaning “drilling here, drilling now” will not give us the $2 a gallon gasoline the country craves.

“We are not going to drill our way out of this,” he said.

Instead he would like to see an energy economy built on renewable sources such as wind and solar and

conservation.

Davis also believes energy independence to be critical to national security. He espouses an “all of the above” energy policy.

In addition to seeking new sources of energy such as wind, solar, nuclear and technologies that don’t even exist yet, Davis supports expanding offshore oil drilling and expansion of the use of coal.

He believes in finding ways to use coal more cleanly and efficiently, believing this would create an economic boom for coal-rich Kentucky.

Davis also supports a tax credit that would make it cost neutral to install energy star appliances.

He believes such an “all of the above” approach could create a transformation from a carbon-based infrastructure in a way that doesn’t hurt local people.

The bailout

Davis voted against both versions of the $700 billion economic bailout plan that passed Congress earlier this month.

And yes, in Congress they also called it the “bailout.”

Davis said it troubled him that the bailout was the largest transfer of authority from the legislative to the executive branch in history. He said it was a gift to Wall Street investment banks that created the problem.

“The populist in me gets enraged,” he said. “I look at folks like my mom, I look at the working poor and I look at our community banks who did things right, and nobody’s offering them a bailout.”

“In order to have free enterprise, people have to be free, to succeed or to fail,” he said.

Kelley would have voted against the bailout, he said, in a televised appearance on Kentucky Educational Television.

He said legislators were forced into a panic.

“If you find yourself facing a high pressure sales job, you probably know you are getting ripped off,” he said.

The debate

Davis declined to debate Kelley on KET Oct. 6.

Davis said Kelley is not a credible candidate who has given this race the time and personal sacrifice it deserves.

“Service to the nation is not a part-time job,” he said.

Kelley took a portion of the debate to criticize Davis’ decision. He pointed to the hundreds of thousands dollars’ worth of taxpayer funded mailings Davis takes advantage of as member of Congress. He said they are intended to get the word out, but actually serve as campaign pieces.

But Davis wouldn’t take advantage of a free opportunity to spread the word like the KET debate, Kelley said.

“As a voter, as a taxpayer I think it’s inexcusable that he’s not going to take this opportunity to share his views, and justify his policy decisions,” he said during the debate.

Other issues

As a family doctor, health care is an important issue to Kelley. He believes in improving the value of care while maintaining choice. He says the system that makes the most sense is a health savings account where preventative health care would be paid for in full.

People would pay into an account, spend it when they need it and save it otherwise. In the current system, patients and doctors don’t care about the price — it’s not their money. Patients think, ‘If I’m blowing through Humana’s cash, I don’t care — I pay a lot of money to Humana,’ he said.

“We need people who understand health care and common sense solutions,” he said.

Immigration is one of Davis’ top issues according to his campaign Web site. He is a proponent of building a wall along the Mexican border, increasing the number of border agents, making English the national language and ensuring illegal immigrants don’t cash in on welfare and social security.

Both candidates say entitlement spending needs to be cut, considering themselves fiscal conservatives. They have different solutions.

Davis suggests going after fraud. He believes implementing fraud prevention technologies already in use by credit card companies could save billions of dollars.

Kelley said in the KET debate that if people don’t want payments to social security to increase and don’t want wealthier Americans to become ineligible, the best solution is to rise the age of eligibility by as much as a decade.

“Sixty-five is no longer old,” he said.

E-mail us about this story at:

jfoster@oldhamera.com