Democrats Focus Criticism on Fletcher

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidates who gathered in northern Kentucky Tuesday for a political forum directed their sharpest criticism yet toward Gov. Ernie Fletcher, speaking as if he has the GOP nomination in hand.

None of the seven Democratic candidates even mentioned either of Fletcher's GOP challengers in the May 22 primary election. And two of them specifically presented themselves as the best option to defeat Fletcher in November.

House Speaker Jody Richards said political polls show Fletcher in the lead among GOP candidates, but, he said, "I'm targeting him because I think he's done a poor job."

Fletcher was indicted last year on charges that he illegally rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs after he took office. That indictment was dismissed in a deal with prosecutors, but a special grand jury said Fletcher had approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" to skirt state hiring laws.

Fletcher has said that the grand jury's investigation was politically motivated.

The two Republican challengers, former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville and construction contractor Billy Harper of Paducah, entered the race saying Fletcher is a weak candidate to put up against Democrats in November.

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