Going negative can hurt in big primary fields, former congressman says

04/01/2012 04:52 PM

One of the key lessons from the 11-candidate Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District in 1994 was that what often works in general elections doesn’t always play well with loyal party voters in primaries.

Mike Ward, a former state representative, came into that race for an open seat to replace longtime Congressman Romano Mazzoli with slightly more name recognition than activist Delores Delahanty and cable company owner Charlie Owen, as well as the rest of the field of relative newcomers. Owen, who was wealthy enough to largely self-fund the race, went negative in ads.

“It backfired on him,” Ward said (4:10).

Ward narrowly won that Democratic primary with 27 percent of the vote with Owen and Delahanty each getting 24 percent and the other eight candidates amassing a total of 25 percent.

Ward, who served one term in Congress, explained how lessons from past populous primary races could come into play during this year’s seven-candidate Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District in Northern Kentucky.

Ward also talked about the challenges of turnout and buying ads in the 4th District (7:30), the upcoming presidential race (5:20) and a preview — including potential Democratic candidates — of the 2014 U.S. Senate race involving Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (9:40)


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.