“If we win that race,” then-Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole told Human Events the evening of May 24, 1994, “there will be at least five heart attacks on the Democratic side of the aisle.”
Dole was talking about the special congressional election in Kentucky that day, in which Republican Ron Lewis was running for the seat that Democratic Rep. Bill Natcher had previously held for more than four decades. In fact, the Bluegrass State’s 2nd District (Bowling Green) had never sent a Republican to Congress.
But that day, Lewis made history. In winning the district that had been terra incognita to the GOP, Baptist minister and bookstore owner Lewis not only got headlines nationwide but, in effect, fired the first shot in an historic national election battle that year—one which gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress and their first majority in the House in 40 years.
Today, Lewis is a little older (he’ll be 60 September 14) and grayer, and serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. His 11-year-old daughter who cried the night of his election (“Now I’ve lost you, Daddy!”) is now engaged to be married (“Now I’ve really lost you,” he tells her with a smile). But Ron Lewis has never trimmed his conservative sails (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 93%) from the day he led the charge that culminated in the “Gingrich Congress.”
And that may be a big part of the reason that, in an election year that may be good for Democrats nationwide, Lewis faces his first significant Democratic challenger in years: Mike Weaver, state legislator and Vietnam veteran. Like so many of the veterans running for Congress on the Democratic ticket this year, the 67-year-old Weaver makes opposition to the Iraq War a key plank in his platform.
“Well, just a minute,” says Lewis, “He’s against the war, all right, and at first said we must have a timetable for withdrawal. Now he says he’s against a timetable. But I’ve always stood with the President—we’re in Iraq for the right reason, to fight terror, and to support our ally, the new government.”
As for Weaver’s claim to be a “conservative,” Lewis responds: “Far from it, he’s voted for every tax hike to come before him in the state legislature, including a gas tax increase, and he’s had campaign help from Wes Clark, who favors abortion on demand and gay marriage. For 12 years, I’ve kept my promise never to vote for a tax increase, and I’m solidly pro-life and for a constitutional definition of marriage.”
As Ron Lewis tries to repel his first strong Democratic assault in 12 years, do not conservatives nationwide owe strong support to the man who “led the charge?”