Fletcher, Beshear Debate Top Issues

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DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Improving education would be a high priority for Kentucky's gubernatorial candidates in the legislative session that begins in January.

Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Democratic challenger Steve Beshear used a televised debate at Centre College on Sunday evening
to tout their plans for improving education at all levels. Both candidates said they want to increase the salaries of public school teachers, and both offered plans to help Kentucky students afford a college education.

Fletcher said the state may need to consider a moratorium on tuition increases at public universities, while Beshear called for a program that would forgive the college loans of qualifying Kentucky students.

"It's getting to where Kentucky children can't afford to go to Kentucky colleges," Beshear said during the sometimes spirited debate aired on television stations in Bowling Green, Hazard, Lexington, Louisville and Huntington, W.Va.

Fletcher said the state has increased teacher salaries by 10.5 percent since he took office in 2003, and that he wants to continue working to bring those wages up to the national average.

Trailing in recent media polls, Fletcher also lashed out at Beshear, repeating an oft-made claim that electing him would be a step toward legalizing casinos in Kentucky.

"It's not something that we want to bring into the state," Fletcher said. "That's why so many of our church leaders are against it."

Beshear said he's running to clean up state government, pointing to the legal woes that have dogged Fletcher for more than two years.

"Kentucky government today is in a state of moral and ethical bankruptcy," Beshear said. "After four years of corruption, people all over this state are crying out for decent, moral, competent leadership for a change."

Fletcher, the first GOP governor in more than 30 years in this predominantly Democratic state, has been unable to get the focus off the scandal in which Republicans allegedly were rewarded with protected state jobs at the expense of Democrats.

At least 14 people were indicted, including the governor himself, who was charged last year with scheming to violate state hiring laws. Fletcher issued pardons to everyone but himself.

Ultimately, prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charges against him in a deal in which he acknowledged that the evidence "strongly
indicates wrongdoing" by his administration and that the actions "were inappropriate."

The governor has since maintained that the investigation and resulting indictments were politically motivated by Democrats to lessen his chances of being re-elected.

Fletcher drew applause from a bipartisan crowd watching the debate when he said Republicans had been shut out of state jobs for years while Democrats controlled the governor's office. Even so, Fletcher said his administration carefully selected only the best and brightest job candidates, regardless of political affiliation.

"I think a lot of people would question a statement that you've surrounded yourself with best and brightest the last four years," Beshear said, drawing laughter from his supporters.

Fletcher, weakened by the hiring scandal, has tried since early in the campaign to paint the governor's race as a referendum on casinos, saying a vote for Beshear would be the same as voting for expanded gambling.

Beshear said he favors a ballot referendum that would allow voters to decide whether to change the constitution to allow casinos.

Expanding gambling at race tracks and in a handful of communities along the state's borders, Beshear contends, would generate $500 million in additional tax revenues that could be used to improve the lives of Kentuckians.

In the Centre College debate, Fletcher didn't repeat his claim that Beshear profited from the bankruptcy of Kentucky Central Life Insurance Co. while hundreds of employees lost jobs and investors
lost their savings.

That had been standard rhetoric in other debates in recent weeks.

Beshear's law firm, Stites & Harbison, was hired in 1993 by the state insurance commissioner to assist in the liquidation of the bankrupt Kentucky Central. A report, prepared by independent attorneys 12 years ago, said Beshear's law firm had a conflict of interest and should have withdrawn from the case.

The report said Beshear was not directly involved, but that he had "general knowledge" of the conflict of interest that he should have turned over to former insurance commissioner.

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  • by sinzz Location: clay county on Oct 31, 2007 at 05:52 PM
    Well Said Posted by: Jerry Location: Lexington The upcoming week, Ernie needs to say his farewells. Then brush up on his concession speech.
  • by lori Location: somerset on Oct 31, 2007 at 12:27 PM
    I agree with Barbara in Lawrenceburg!!! go Beshear. Republicans have this country in a mess. Let the Dems fix their messes. I believe if we vote in casino gambling it will be more revenue for this poor ole state. Why let the other gambling states have our money? Let's keep it at home people. Go Beshear.
  • by Jack Location: Pike County on Oct 31, 2007 at 07:25 AM
    At least with Beshear we'll have an opportunity to vote on the casino issue instead of just being told "We've decided," when WE don't recall ever being asked.
  • by ben Location: lex on Oct 31, 2007 at 06:19 AM
    And I supposed you missed the period and comma buttons as well, eh Stevie? And I highly doubt you have 30 years of any kind of education.
  • by Wanda Location: rual Pike Co. on Oct 31, 2007 at 04:39 AM
    It makes no difference who gets the office of governer here. We never see anything new. Our rds are still one lane going no where.This is only place I have ever been that two lane high ways run into one lane rds at the bach of ever hollow.=Yet the rds in Pikeville have been redone 6or 7 times over the last few years.I look for Pikeville to sink under the weight of funds and black top. While the rest of the co. is ignored.=Our courts and law enforcement are corrupt,and our people mistreated. Then throwen in jail and straved,and used as slave labor.Nothing will ever help us.
  • by Tired of it Location: southeast ky on Oct 30, 2007 at 08:24 PM
    Wah wah wah. I'm tired of all the wineing about the "Fletcher scandel". He hired his supporters. Do you really think he's the first? And I gurantee he won't be the last. Stumbo started out to be a great attorny general but had to turn to character destruction so his party would have a chance to get the mansion back. For years and years Kentucky has ranked near the bottom in education,job's,and health care. Years and years of Democratic stronghold on the governership and all the sudden its Fletcher's fault. Be real folks we've not had a good leader in Frankfort in years. I agree that we should all have a vote on casino gambling but don't act like Fletcher tore us down. As for not getting any state help. Maybe you haven't where you live but we've seen more under Fletcher in my area than from any other govner in 30 years. So go ahead and elect Beshear and watch us drop much further toward the bottom.
  • by concerned citizen Location: nowhere if a dem wins on Oct 30, 2007 at 04:57 PM
    Yea Beverly i will tell you what the dems will do 1 godless 2 raise taxes 3 no jobs 4 ruin this state with casinos that causes more drugs and suicides. 5 same sex benifeits 6 peaple will lose every thing they own remember casinos allways win. The things they have done makes Ernie fletcher look like a angel stop and look at these clowns in washington they have to crinimalize everyone because they cant win a debate just look for yourselves its in broad daylight the way they treat our military. Dont be fooled these peaple stand for the same thing here this was just a small list they have to have victims thats the only way their party can survive just the same ole playbook. All that Ernie done was hired a few republicans that made dictatorship lib frankfort mad i remember very well i was told you had to be a democrat to get a job and if we do lose this and thats if the wave is still coming my freinds this state is changeing gooday.
  • by Bern Location: L/ burg on Oct 30, 2007 at 04:44 PM
    I keep hearing this ad about Ernie being indicted. Does anyone know that it doesnt mean he was found guilty? IN fact he was not found guilty. This ad seems to portray guilt. If Beshear really is honest he wouldnt point fingers at someone found not guilty. A governor should put in someone that he trusts into a position. Im sure Beshear will do the same if he were elected and not want to be indicted for it. What a hypocrite. And since does a church going man like he claims to be promote gambling? Dont the people have better ways to spend their money than that? And why make a small profit from the taxes that a gambling establishment makes from the people , and make those establishments rich?
  • by Bern Location: Lawrenceburg on Oct 30, 2007 at 04:35 PM
    I keep hearing the ad about Ernie being indicted. Does anyone realize being indicted doesnt mean guilty? He was cleared. So u want us to believe he was found guilty? That isnt so . If the truth is told that would be the bottom line. Besheer says he goes on truth and is a church goer ; does he think he's portraying the truth when Ernie was not found guilty. Governors put in who they trust. Thats not going to change . and im sure Besheer will do the same and not expect to be indicted. what a hipocrite
  • by Anonymous on Oct 30, 2007 at 04:29 PM
    yea you libs had lousiana libs winning to but look what happend republican cleaned your clocks i would not count my chickens before they hatch.
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