Rep. Geoff Davis (R)
Kentucky 4th District
Along the Ohio River are some very different parts of Kentucky. Ashland, near the West Virginia border, is industrial, the home of Ashland Oil; the river here is bound in by tight hills that hold smoke and soot close in the air. Farther down the river, the country is more bucolic. This is where Eliza fled across the ice floes in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Farther west, between Louisville and Cincinnati, are counties that look like they’re still in the 19th century. But metropolitan growth obtrudes. Oldham County, just upriver from Louisville, has some of Kentucky’s oldest homes, and is by far the most affluent county in the state. The three Northern Kentucky counties across the river from Cincinnati—Campbell, Kenton and fast-growing Boone—are urban and suburban. Overlooking the suspension bridge built by John Roebling are new buildings on the Covington waterfront, and new subdivisions are rising on the hills in Boone County, above the river and near the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. In 2008, Fidelity Investments opened a campus in Covington with 4,600 employees. Newport, with its panoramic view of the Cincinnati skyline plus its entertainment and nightlife, has become a regional hot spot; local features include the aquarium and Labor Day fireworks on the river. It is also the hometown of one-time Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, the noted cultural conservative.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District of Kentucky is the most northernmost district in the state. It includes the counties along the Ohio and also lightly populated counties just inland. Economically, it runs the gamut from coal mining towns to rich suburbs. Politically, it has some of the most Democratic counties in America, like mountain-bound Elliott County, which voted 61%-36% for Barack Obama in 2008, his strongest county in Kentucky, and 70%-30% for John Kerry in 2004. It also has some of the most Republican territory in Kentucky, like Oldham County, which voted 65%-34% for John McCain in 2008 and 69%-30% for George W. Bush in 2004. The three northern Kentucky counties across the river from Cincinnati cast nearly half the district’s votes, and they too are heavily Republican.
Rep. Geoff Davis (R)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Oct. 26, 1958, Montreal, Canada .
Education: U.S.M.A., B.S. 1981.
Family: Married (Pat); 6 children.
Military career: Army, 1976-87.
Professional Career: Technology consultant, 1989-2004; Owner, Republic Consulting, 1992-2004.
The congressman from the 4th District is Geoff Davis, a Republican elected in 2004. He grew up in Pittsburgh and worked as a janitor in high school to help the family pay their bills. He was the victim of an abusive, alcoholic stepfather and left home right after high school to join the Army. His life turned around after he received an appointment to attend the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He studied Arabic and Asian and European cultures, focusing his studies on national security and international affairs. In the service, Davis was an assault helicopter flight commander in the 82nd Airborne Division, and later ran U.S. Army aviation oversight on the Israel-Egypt border. After 11 years in the military, he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, then to Northern Kentucky, where in 1992 he started a consulting firm that advised companies on how to streamline manufacturing technology.
|Geoff Davis (R)||190,210||(63%)||($1,811,169)|
|Michael Kelley (D)||111,549||(37%)||($19,531)|
|Geoff Davis (R)||30,189||(85%)|
|Warren Stone (R)||2,831||(8%)|
|G. E. Puckett (R)||2,427||(7%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (52%), 2004 (54%)
In 2002, he ran against U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a conservative Democrat first elected in 1998; Davis lost 51%-48% after receiving very little assistance from the national party. Lucas decided to honor his pledge to serve only three terms and announced his retirement in 2003. Davis became the frontrunner in this heavily Republican district in 2004, but he still faced a formidable challenge from Democrat Nick Clooney, a locally famous newspaper columnist and television commentator, and the father of actor George Clooney. Through his son, Clooney got checks from movie stars Paul Newman, Kevin Costner and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Davis charged that his opponent had more in common with the people of Southern California than with those in Northern Kentucky, and national Republicans called the Democrat “Looney Clooney.”
Billing himself as a moderate, Clooney said he supported President Bush’s tax cuts and opposed same-sex marriage and abortion rights. The Davis campaign unearthed columns Clooney had written over a period of 15 years, including one in which he criticized gun ownership. Davis touted his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association. Despite Clooney’s help from Hollywood, Davis had a big fundraising advantage; he spent $2.6 million to Clooney’s $1.5 million. Clooney won rural and mining areas in the eastern end of the district, but Davis carried the three Cincinnati-area suburban counties and won the race, 54%-44%.
In the House, Davis established a solidly conservative voting record, especially on foreign policy. In 2006, Bush signed into law Davis’s bill to protect military personnel from being sold overpriced insurance and investment products. He worked on other military issues, including increasing compensation for repeat deployments in combat zones. From his seat on the Financial Services Committee, which he held until 2009, he won passage in the House of a bill to require annual reports to Congress from federal regulators on the costs of financial reporting and another piece of legislation to make it easier for licensed insurance agents and brokers to do business across state lines. As a member of the committee, Davis pushed for a cap on interest rates on “payday” loans to members of the military. However, Davis received criticism on the issue after news stories reported a donation he had taken from a payday loan chain owner.
In 2006, national Democrats decided to challenge Davis by recruiting Lucas, a conservative who opposed abortion, same-sex marriage and gun control and who had held the district for three terms. Davis, usually a reliable vote for Bush administration policies, distanced himself from Bush by saying he strongly disagreed with the White House on immigration and on the partial privatization of Social Security. And Lucas had difficulty tapping into national anti-Republican sentiment or disenchantment with the Iraq war. He had voted for the Iraq invasion, which he later said he regretted. Davis won 52%-43%.
After the election, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigated whether visits by two Cabinet members to Davis’s district during 2006 were politically motivated. Davis said the visits were policy related and criticized the inquiry as partisan. In 2008, he easily won re-election against Oldham County physician Michael Kelley. But he was blasted after he referred to African American presidential candidate Barack Obama as a “boy” during a political dinner in April. Talking about Obama’s lack of military experience, he said, “That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button.” Davis quickly made a public apology to Obama.