Few Problems, Light Turnout As Voters Choose Governor

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A dispute over food and bathroom access led to workers threatening to leave a polling place in southwestern Kentucky, but officials reported few other problems as voters cast ballots for governor and other statewide offices Tuesday morning.

The dispute over whether poll workers could bring food into the polling place at the newly renovated Oak Grove City Hall was resolved by midmorning, said Les Fugate, a spokesman for the Kentucky Secretary of State's office.

Clerks around the state reported few problems and no lines early in the day, but turnout was still expected to reach about 42 percent, Fugate said.

"There's no reason to adjust that up," Fugate said.

Poll workers at Oak Grove City Hall threatened to leave after being denied access to food, bathrooms and phones by city officials, said Melinda Humphries, deputy clerk for elections in Christian County.

Oak Grove Mayor Dan Potter said he was trying to protect the renovated section of city hall from food stains and cigarette smoke brought in by poll workers.

"We don't want Coca-Cola or coffee spilled on the floor," Potter said. "There's a lot of tension right now, but it'll be over by 6 p.m., and we won't have to see them again for at least another year."

Humphries said a new polling place may be found before the 2008 presidential election.

Voters in Jefferson County complained that MoveOn.org, a liberal political group, set up tables outside some polling places and told people they were conducting exit polls.

"A number of voters are complaining that it's intimidating," Fugate said.

Two precincts in the Jefferson County reported problems. One polling place opened about 50 minutes late because poll workers had problems starting the machines, while electioneering was reported at another polling place, Fugate said.

The top race on Tuesday's ballot was between incumbent Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Democratic challenger Steve Beshear. Pre-election polling by various media outlets put Beshear in front by 15-23 points.

Linda Rose, a 54-year-old bank manager from Prestonsburg, voted for Fletcher at the Floyd County Courthouse in eastern Kentucky, where about a dozen voters trickled in within the first hour after the polls opened.

"I'm against gambling big time and for conservative Christian values," Rose said.

Kay Ross, 45, an adult education director for Floyd County, voted for Beshear. Ross said no particular issue influenced her. "I think it would be something new and fresh ... I think he'll listen to the people of Kentucky," Ross said. "Not that I think Governor Fletcher hasn't, but I think he has a personal agenda."

Mickie Sulham, a 55-year-old banker, voted for Beshear at Ashland Elementary School in Lexington. Sulham said she didn't vote a straight Democratic ticket and wasn't voting for Beshear because he was a great candidate.

"I'm not that big (of) a Beshear supporter, I'm just against Fletcher," Sulham said. "I think I voted for Fletcher (in 2003) but I wouldn't swear to it, it's been four years."

Jack Huber, a 46-year-old industrial supplies salesman, voted for Fletcher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, even though two of his children worked for Beshear's campaign. Huber said Fletcher's work bringing the World Equestrian Games to Lexington in 2010, among other things, convinced him the incumbent deserves another shot.

As for the difference with his children?

"I don't talk to my kids about (politics) I let them make their own choices," Huber said. "They're not going to be listening to me anyway."

Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson has predicted about 42 percent of the voters in Kentucky will cast ballots. Kentucky has 2.8 million registered voters, including about 1.6 million Democrats, about 1 million Republicans and 186,451 people registered as "other."

Grayson, Kentucky's top election official, said the projection was based in part on an increase in absentee ballots cast in the days before Tuesday's election. The number was up by about 20 percent from the 2003 election.

"We'd like to have it higher, but that's just what we think it's going to be," Grayson said.

Voters also will cast ballots in several other statewide races.

Incumbent state Auditor Crit Luallen, a Democrat, faces Republican Linda Greenwell in a rematch of their 2003 campaign. Grayson is challenged by Democrat Bruce Hendrickson, a former small-town mayor from southeastern Kentucky. Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, a popular former University of Kentucky basketball player, is opposed by Democrat David L. Williams, a perennial candidate who was once a Republican.

Campaigns for two statewide offices do not involve an incumbent.

Republican Melinda Wheeler, who is running on a platform to abolish the office, is running against Democrat Todd Hollenbach for treasurer. Meanwhile, Democrat Jack Conway takes on Republican state Rep. Stan Lee in the race for attorney general.

------ Associated Press Writer Samira Jafari in Prestonsburg and Joe
Biesk in Frankfort contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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