By ROGER ALFORD
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Ernie Fletcher overcame a troublesome political scandal to win the Republican nomination in his bid for re-election, accomplishing what some critics had thought impossible.
Fletcher, who was indicted last May in an alleged scheme to reward political supporters with protected state jobs, withstood challenges by former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville and millionaire businessman Billy Harper of Paducah.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Fletcher had 94,609 votes or 51 percent, to Northup's 66,554 votes or 36 percent. Harper had 24,273 votes or 13 percent.
Fletcher's November opponent will be former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, who emerged from a crowded Democratic field and avoided a June 26 runoff that would have been triggered if no candidate got at least 40 percent.
"Well I guess we've answered the electability question," a beaming Fletcher said at his victory party, referring to statements made by both GOP challengers that he couldn't win re-election.
Northup called him shortly before 9 p.m. EDT to congratulate him on the victory.
"He'll go into the election with broad support across the state," Northup said of Fletcher.
The fractious GOP primary brightened Democrats' hopes of recapturing the governor's office.
Most observers predicted the crowded race would go to a June 26 runoff, but Beshear narrowly avoided it.
Besides Beshear, the primary involved three major Democratic candidates: millionaire businessman Bruce Lunsford, House Speaker Jody Richards and former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry. Two other Democrats, Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith and Harlan County demolition contractor Otis Hensley, ran limited campaigns.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear had 135,046 votes or 41 percent to Lunsford's 70,188 votes or 21 percent. Henry had 55,146 votes or 17 percent and Richards had 42,938 votes or 13 percent.