FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Bruce Lunsford got a head start on his Democratic gubernatorial rivals Thursday by launching his first television ad, which offers a biographical sketch and stresses his plan for universal health coverage.
It's the start of what's expected to be an advertising blitz by Lunsford, a millionaire businessman who founded a Louisville company that operated nursing homes.
"He'll be on the air through the primary," Lunsford spokesman
Adam Bozzi said.
Lunsford's opening 60-second spot will air across Kentucky and was to debut during the midday telecast of the men's NCAA tournament basketball game between the University of Louisville and Stanford, Bozzi said.
A similar ad running in eastern Kentucky prominently features Lunsford's running mate, Attorney General Greg Stumbo. That ad cites Stumbo's Appalachian roots and says he combatted illegal drugs and government corruption as attorney general.
The Lunsford commercial comes just days after Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher started his ad campaign with a 60-second spot that compares the investigation of his administration's hiring practices to being confronted by schoolyard bullies.
"I don't like to see a horse get too far out in front," Lunsford, a thoroughbred owner and breeder, told reporters Wednesday when asked about advertising strategy.
The governor was indicted last year on charges that he illegally rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs. The indictment was dismissed in a deal with prosecutors, but a special grand jury later issued its findings in the case, saying Fletcher had approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" to skirt state hiring laws.
Fletcher has maintained that the investigation, which was led by Stumbo, was politically motivated.
Lunsford talks directly into the camera during his commercial, reminiscing about his upbringing on a farm, his stint in the Army Reserves and his business background.
"I think Kentuckians have had to endure a lot of hardships over the years," he said in the ad. "They are tremendously resilient. They know how to pick themselves up off their backside and so do I."
Louisville-based Vencor, which Lunsford founded, rose to a Fortune 500 company, but later spiraled into bankruptcy in 1999, and many investors lost nest eggs.
Lunsford blamed his company's decline on government's cuts in medical reimbursement rates as part of the 1997 balanced-budget law. Vencor emerged from bankruptcy in 2001 and was renamed Kindred Healthcare.
The commercial says that Lunsford has a plan to "get Kentucky back in business." It says that plan includes ensuring that all Kentuckians have access to health care.
"There's just no moral reason why we can't provide universal health care for all Kentuckians," Lunsford says in the ad.
The other Democrats running for governor in the May 22 primary are former lieutenant governors Steve Henry and Steve Beshear; House Speaker Jody Richards; State Treasurer Jonathan Miller; Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith and eastern Kentucky demolition contractor Otis Hensley Jr.
Two Republicans are challenging Fletcher: former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup and Paducah businessman Billy Harper. Kentucky is one of three states electing a governor this year.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)