McConnell Declines To Offer Endorsement In Governor's Race

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Friday he wasn't ready to offer an endorsement in the governor's race and declined to evaluate the performance of Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who is seeking a second term.

In an interview with The Associated Press, McConnell remained tightlipped about Fletcher, a fellow Republican who has been embroiled in legal and political turmoil this year.

"I'm not ready to endorse anybody right now," said McConnell, the chief architect behind the Republican rise to power in Kentucky. "There's obviously a lot of flux going on. It looks like there's going to be primaries on both sides. I may have more to say about that later, or I may not."

Fletcher's spokeswoman didn't offer an immediate comment when asked to respond to McConnell's statements.

Fletcher formally entered the 2007 governor's race when he filed his candidacy papers this week.

Republican Billy Harper, a western Kentucky businessman and Fletcher's former political ally, has said he plans to challenge the governor. Harper is already running television ads promoting his candidacy.

Veteran state Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, has also said he is considering a run for governor.

When McConnell was asked if his lack of an endorsement could be seen as a slap at Fletcher, the senator replied, "You can draw whatever conclusion you want to."

McConnell made the comments after his appearance before the Kentucky Farm Bureau convention.

McConnell was a key Fletcher supporter when Fletcher was elected in 2003, becoming Kentucky's first Republican governor in a generation. McConnell has been noncommittal about Fletcher since the governor became caught up in an investigation into whether his administration illegally rewarded political supporters with state jobs after he took office. Fletcher, who maintained the
investigation was politically motivated, gave a blanket pardon in August 2005 to anyone except himself who could be charged in the probe.

A Franklin County special grand jury indicted Fletcher on misdemeanor charges that were eventually dropped this year in a deal with prosecutors. The grand jury's report which was recently released found that Fletcher had approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" to skirt state hiring laws.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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