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GOP gubernatorial candidates to debate on statewide television

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Gov. Ernie Fletcher is scheduled to meet two former political allies in a televised debate Monday night, as he seeks the Republican nomination in next month's primary election.

Fletcher was scheduled to join former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup and Paducah businessman Billy Harper for a debate that will be broadcast live across the state. The appearance would mark the first televised debate leading to the May 22 gubernatorial primary.

Kentucky is one of three states holding a governor's race this year.

Northup is coming off a bruising campaign last fall in which she lost her Louisville congressional seat to Democrat John Yarmuth. Harper was Fletcher's finance chairman during the governor's 2003 campaign, and helped him become Kentucky's first Republican governor in more than 30 years.

Both challengers say Fletcher has been too politically weakened by a state hiring investigation to withstand a Democratic challenge in the fall.

For more than a year, a grand jury in Frankfort investigated allegations that political supporters were improperly handed protected state jobs. The panel indicted Fletcher, who had pardoned everyone else in his administration, on misdemeanor charges that were eventually dropped in a deal with prosecutors.

Fletcher has maintained the investigation was politically motivated.

The Democratic primary includes former Lt. Govs. Steve Beshear and Steve Henry, Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith, demolition contractor Otis Hensley Jr. and House Speaker Jody Richards.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

This Debate Will Air Monday, April 9 at 8:00pm EST/7:00 pm CST


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