By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press Writer
PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) - Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Democratic challenger Steve Beshear rallied supporters Monday in the waning hours of their hard fought gubernatorial campaign.
The two kicked off fly-arounds that would visit airports in cities across Kentucky.
Beshear started his day with a rally that drew about 80 supporters at Backwoods Bar-B-Que in Paducah. He urged his supporters not to let up until the polls close.
Fletcher started the day in Lexington and was scheduled to travel to northern Kentucky later in the morning. He was touting his administration's accomplishments in education, health care and economic develompent and warning that electing his "liberal" opponent would be bad for Kentucky.
On Sunday, Beshear played up his small-town roots in a homecoming of sorts while Fletcher went door-to-door stumping for votes around Louisville and northern Kentucky. He had capped the weekend with a day of campaigning in western Kentucky with a homecoming rally in Dawson Springs, where he grew up.
Beshear reminded a crowd of about 250 supporters that he kicked off his first run for governor in the same gym 20 years ago. That campaign ended in defeat in a crowded Democratic primary. He thinks this one will end differently.
"If things go the way they're going right now, we're going to have one heck of a celebration. Because we're going to have one of the biggest victories that this state has ever seen," he said.
Earlier Sunday, Fletcher addressed placard-carrying supporters at a Republican Party in Louisville before hitting the streets for an afternoon of door-to-door campaigning.
"We luv the guv," one four-foot-wide banner announced.
"No casinos," read another, a phrase that has become familiar in Fletcher's race against Beshear, who favors legalizing casinos in Kentucky.
Fletcher encouraged campaign volunteers to redouble efforts in the final hours before Tuesday's election.
"It depends on all of you as we come down to this final stretch," Fletcher told nearly 100 volunteers Sunday, many of them college students from as far away as Minnesota and Montana. "We're not going to stop working until we win this thing."
Fletcher supporters, like Jason Cundiff of Bardstown, have been working long hours reaching out to prospective voters amid media polls that show Fletcher trailing Beshear from 15-23 percentage points.
"One poll says one thing, another says something else," Cundiff said. "The one that counts is Tuesday. You just keep working as hard as you can because it's not over until six o'clock Tuesday."
Fletcher, an ordained minister, started out Sunday by attending a worship service at Westport Road Church of Christ in Louisville with his wife, Glenna, and grandson, Joshua. He didn't speak publicly at the church, but he talked with members individually after the service.
Beshear spent part of Sunday in Owensboro addressing a senior citizens group. He drew responses of "amen" and "yes" from some in the crowd of about 75 at the Roosevelt House.
Beshear, 63, the son of a Baptist preacher and funeral home operator, said his upbringing was probably similar to many of those in the audience. One of five children, Beshear praised his parents for going the extra mile to fill in the gaps.
"We didn't have a lot in the way of material goods," Beshear said. "But what we didn't have in the way of material goods, they more than made up for by instilling in us a strong belief in God and a belief in being accountable and responsible for ourselves."
Fletcher told supporters in Louisville that Beshear is a liberal Democrat out of touch with the average Kentuckian. Fletcher said Beshear's support for casinos is one example of that.
"This individual," Fletcher said, "basically is just a worked-over part of the political machine that has been there for years."
Fletcher has tried to paint the election as a referendum on casinos, saying people who oppose a constitutional amendment to legalize them should vote for him. Those who favor casinos should vote for Beshear.
Casinos, Fletcher warned Sunday, would change the culture of Kentucky, even if they're opened at horse tracks where wagering on races already takes place.
"No longer are people going to be out cheering for the horses," he said. "They're going to be out there in the slot machines."
Beshear had focused much of campaign on Fletcher's legal troubles, but on Sunday decided not to take a swipe at the investigation into whether Fletcher's administration violated state hiring laws in an alleged scheme to reward political supporters with state jobs.
Fletcher, Kentucky's first Republican governor in more than 30 years, was indicted last year but the charges eventually were dropped in a settlement with prosecutors.
At least 14 of the governor's aides and associates also were indicted. Fletcher pardoned everyone in his administration except himself. The governor maintains the investigation was a political witch hunt.
Stressing the issues facing the state, Beshear said if elected he would fund an existing state program that would assist qualified older Kentuckians in paying for their prescription medication. He said there were seniors having to choose between buying food or medicine.
"No senior citizen in this state or in this country ought to have to make that kind of decision," Beshear said.
Sibyl Rumage, 85, said Beshear's plan to assist some seniors with drugs costs appealed to her.
"I loved it because mine are very high," said Rumage.
Rumage said she has a private prescription drug plan and worries constantly about rising drug costs and whether she'll have to pay more out of pocket.
Associated Press writer Roger Alford in Louisville contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)