By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Richie Farmer kept his political hot streak going by winning a second term as Kentucky's agricultural commissioner over Democrat David L. Williams on Tuesday.
With 86 percent of precincts reporting, Farmer had 529,991 votes or 64 percent, to Williams' 303,863 votes or 36 percent.
Farmer, known in his basketball playing days for his shooting streaks, will continue to lead the state's Agriculture Department and its 320 employees.
"Everybody knows that Kentucky agriculture faces some challenges," Farmer said on Tuesday. "I know if we work together, we will meet each and every one of them. Agriculture is not really a partisan issue."
The agency promotes Kentucky farm products and handles such regulatory chores as checking gasoline pumps, supermarket scanners
and amusement rides.
Farmer says his first term coincided with rising statewide farm cash receipts that surpassed $4 billion in two of the last three years.
However, Kentucky farmers suffered through a difficult growing season this year caused by a spring freeze followed by a severe drought that curtailed hay production and reduced crop yields. The dry spell resulted in a federal disaster declaration for Kentucky, allowing producers to seek emergency loans to help offset losses.
Farmer, a native of Clay County in eastern Kentucky, acknowledged he came from a nonfarming background but noted that he earned a degree in agricultural economics and agribusiness management at the University of Kentucky. Farmer was a financial planner before becoming agriculture commissioner four years ago in his first run for elective office.
Among many Kentuckians, Farmer is best remembered as a former Mr. Basketball in Kentucky and a guard on the 1991-92 UK team immortalized as the "Unforgettables." The Wildcats lost to Duke 104-103 in overtime in the NCAA East Regional finals in what is widely considered one of the greatest basketball games ever.
During his first term, Farmer said he worked to expand "Kentucky Proud," a marketing campaign by the Agriculture Department to promote state-grown products.
On the nonfarm front, he won state funding for a new motor fuel and pesticide testing lab that will allow the state to test more fuel samples each year.
Williams, a retired cable contractor from Glasgow who has run unsuccessful campaigns for other offices, ran a low-profile campaign. He said tobacco should still play a big role in the state's agriculture, noting that overseas markets still loom as a big market. Burley tobacco production has fallen sharply in Kentucky since the tobacco buyout in 2004 that ended a federal program that set production and price controls.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)