By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Democrat Jack Conway was elected attorney general on Tuesday, defeating socially conservative Republican Stan Lee in a race that offered stark differences in political philosophies.
With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Conway had 519,465 votes or 61 percent, to Lee's 332,856 votes or 39 percent.
"We wore out the rubber on our tires," said Conway, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Louisville in 2002. "We trusted our friends in Jefferson County to remember our campaign and just went out and shook a lot of hands."
Conway, 38, a Louisville attorney and one-time gubernatorial assistant, campaigned on promises to crack down on illegal drugs, Internet fraud and child predators.
He will succeed Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who decided against seeking a second term and instead ran for lieutenant governor as part of a slate that lost in the May primary. Stumbo is considering a run next year for the U.S. Senate seat held by four-term Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
Much of Stumbo's term was dominated by his office's investigation of claims that Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration improperly gave protected state jobs to political supporters. Fletcher was indicted on misdemeanors that eventually were dropped in a deal with prosecutors.
Lee said that he called Conway and congratulated him on the victory and pledged to keep working to fight crime in Kentucky.
"I have had a great experience," Lee said. "It's been wonderful running statewide and it was wonderful getting to see so many parts of the state."
Conway and Lee spent much of the campaign portraying the other as too extreme.
Conway claimed that Lee, a Lexington attorney, would let his staunchly conservative personal beliefs influence his decisions as the state's top prosecutor. As a state representative, Lee is known as an ardent opponent of abortion and domestic partner benefits.
Conway ran as a moderate, but Lee claimed Conway was too liberal for most Kentuckians. Lee also argued that Conway lacked legal experience to run the attorney general's office.
It was the first run for statewide office by both.
Conway gained state government experience as an adviser to former Gov. Paul Patton, with roles as deputy secretary of the cabinet and legal counsel.
Conway said he helped write anti-crime legislation requiring violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Lee accused Conway of exaggerating his role.
Both candidates set out ambitious law enforcement agendas.
Conway said he would create an Internet crimes unit to combat child pornography and online fraud, and would be aggressive in forming strike forces to curtail illegal drugs.
Conway said he also would stress consumer protection. One possible focus he mentioned would be the pharmaceutical industry and its marketing of addictive prescription pills.
Lee said he would create separate units aimed at protecting children from Internet predators and protecting Kentuckians from identity theft.
In the fight against illegal drugs, Lee also suggested a statewide reach for the Operation UNITE anti-drug initiative, now limited to parts of eastern and southern Kentucky.
Conway became well-known in his hometown of Louisville after losing a close congressional race to Republican Rep. Anne Northup in 2002.
Conway is a graduate of Duke University and George Washington University law school.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.