Democrat Seeks To Unseat Well-Known Agriculture Commissioner

Associated Press Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - David Lynn Williams' persistence won him a spot on the statewide general election ballot after a series of primary election losses.

The retired cable contractor from Glasgow defeated central Kentucky cattle farmer David Neville in the May Democratic primary for state agriculture commissioner. He faces a huge challenge against Republican incumbent Richie Farmer in the Nov. 6 election. Farmer has shown he can put up big numbers at the ballot box from voters who remember his days as a University of Kentucky basketball player.

The commissioner heads the state Agriculture Department, where responsibilities include promoting Kentucky farm products and inspecting gasoline pumps, amusement rides and retail price scanners.

Williams' primary victory came as a surprise to many, and even prompted some ribbing from a prominent Republican who shares his name. At the annual Fancy Farm political picnic this year, Senate President David Williams of Burkesville jokingly thanked Democrats for voting for him for agriculture commissioner.

The David Williams actually running for the job says he would be an independent advocate for Kentuckians. Williams has run as a Republican and a Democrat in a number of primaries over the years.

"I'm not a politician," he said. "I'm not obligated to nobody but God."

Williams, 69, stresses his rural roots, having grown up on a farm, and his business background running a company with hundreds of employees. He bemoans suburban sprawl that encroaches on farmland.

"You're going to wind up with no land" for farming, he said.

Williams says tobacco, once the king of Kentucky agriculture, should still play a big role. Burley tobacco production dropped off sharply following the tobacco buyout in 2004 that ended a federal program that set production and price controls. Williams says export markets still loom as a big consumer of Kentucky leaf.

"Tobacco is more popular worldwide than ever before," he said. "The burgeoning economies of East Asia are large tobacco consumers. We don't need diversification; we need to produce our current crops more efficiently."

On food-safety issues, Williams touts Kentucky's cattle-tracking system as "an example for the rest of the United States." Williams also advocates the use of natural gas to run automobiles and other motor vehicles.

"The commissioner of agriculture should strongly promote alternative energy sources," he said. "This helps everyone except the oil industry `robber barons."'

Williams has been a fixture on Kentucky's ballot for years, going back and forth between the two main political parties. He has made unsuccessful runs for governor, Congress and the U.S. Senate.

Williams developed throat cancer and underwent surgery in the mid-1990s, which left him speaking through an electronic voice box. His campaign manager, Adam Smith, said that hasn't deterred Williams from speaking his mind.

"I think he's an inspirational person," Smith said. "He has this speech disability and he's still willing to tell people what he thinks. I think that's pretty courageous."

However, Williams has faced legal issues in recent months.

Williams was charged earlier this year with menacing, disorderly conduct and harassment, all misdemeanors, following an incident with his niece, a city official in Glasgow. The incident flared when Williams turned in an open records request and was told the city wasn't in possession of the records that Williams wanted.

A trial has been set for Jan. 10 in Barren County District Court, a court official said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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