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Fletcher, Beshear Reach Out To Voters On Opposite Ends Of State

RUSSELLVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Gubernatorial candidate Steve Beshear,
visiting Democratic strongholds Wednesday, pushed a plan to provide
medical coverage to children and lambasted the Republican
incumbent.
With less than a week remaining before Election Day, the
Democratic challenger has amassed a double-digit lead over Gov.
Ernie Fletcher in recent polls by news organizations, including a
poll released Wednesday by The Courier-Journal showing Beshear
ahead by more than 20 percentage points.
However, during a stop at the Logan County Courthouse in
Russellville, he urged supporters not to assume he has Tuesday's
election in the bag.
"We've got to get our vote out," he said.
Beshear's stop near the Tennessee border in Logan County, which
was home to legendary frontiersman Jim Bowie and four former
Kentucky governors, was part of a traditional, pre-election
Democratic pilgrimage. Beshear has been here twice, jesting to
about 25 supporters on Wednesday that Fletcher has a new nickname.
"He's now called the great unifier," Beshear said, "because
he's unifying Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Everybody's
unified because they know its time to throw this guy out of
Frankfort."
A fired-up Fletcher, meanwhile, touted his accomplishments in
health care, education and road funding during a campaign stop in
central Kentucky.
Speaking to about 70 supporters in Winchester, some 25 miles
east of Lexington, Fletcher said Kentucky's Medicaid system has
become a national model and said his administration has focused on
improving reading and math in public schools.
Fletcher also hit on immigration and casino gambling as other
issues he believes should settle his Nov. 6 election.
Recently, Fletcher has highlighted his stance on illegal
immigrants as he tries to differentiate himself from Beshear.
Fletcher said Wednesday that his administration is taking steps to
either deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes or refer them
to federal authorities.
"We will not allow Kentucky to be a safe haven for illegal
immigrants," Fletcher said.
Standing on a downtown block that included a hardware store and
a diner called Granny's Country Kitchen, Fletcher shook hands and
met with prospective voters. He used the stop to tick off millions
of dollars worth of state road projects that had gone to the area.
He also announced his administration had earmarked $740,000 out of
a discretionary road fund to pay for resurfacing projects on county
roads in the area.
"I'm governor and I'm going to stay governor," Fletcher said.
Fletcher, weakened by political scandal, shouted into a
microphone in his rapid-fire cadence while talking up his
accomplishments. He was indicted last year on misdemeanor charges
that he rewarded Republican political supporters with protected
state jobs at the expense of Democrats, an unpopular action in a
predominantly Democratic state. The indictment was dropped in a
negotiated agreement with prosecutors, and Fletcher, Kentucky's
first Republican governor in 30 years, has since maintained that
the charges were politically motivated by Democrats in an effort to
get him out of office.
Russellville farmer Ronald Starks, a Democrat and a Beshear
supporter, said the scandal influenced his vote. "I've had all the
Republicans I want, after Fletcher went in there and fired the
Democrats," Starks said.
During his Winchester stop, Fletcher also highlighted his
opposition to legalizing casino gambling, a key difference from
Beshear, who favors putting a referendum on the ballot to allow
voters to decide whether to change the state's constitution to
legalize casino gambling.
The governor warned that casino gambling would bring a host of
social ills, including more crime, divorce, bankruptcies and
prostitution. He also said it would take about $1.1 billion a year
out of the state's economy.
"It's going to take from the vulnerable," Fletcher said.
Beshear made the issue a key part of his campaign, saying it
could generate $500 million in additional state revenues that could
be spent to improve government services to Kentuckians.
Lewisburg retiree Warren McReynolds, a Beshear supporter, said
Fletcher has been trying to frighten voters with the gambling
issue. McReynolds said the scare tactic hasn't worked. "People
know this has to be put on the ballot for voters to decide," he
said.
However, the Rev. Henry Baker, a retired Baptist preacher in
Winchester, said he worries that Beshear, if elected, might be able
to push gambling through. Baker said he hopes Fletcher wins
re-election "because if he don't, he's not going to be the loser,
the state's going to be the loser."
The governor had other stops in the day in Lexington, Irvine,
Sand Gap and Richmond. Beshear made appearances in Murray, Cadiz,
Hopkinsville, Russellville, Greenville and Owensboro.
---
Associated Press writer Joe Biesk in Winchester, Ky.,
contributed to this report.

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


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