Bunning Endorses Northup In Governor's Race

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning broke with the
sitting governor from his own party on Monday, throwing his support
behind Anne Northup's campaign to unseat Gov. Ernie Fletcher in the
Republican primary.

Fletcher has garnered endorsements from a number of Republican
politicians, but Bunning became the biggest name to back a
candidate in the May GOP primary.

Fletcher said he didn't consider it a snub. "I'm very confident that this is just all in the family, if you will, and after the primary we'll all come together as a family again," Fletcher told reporters in Frankfort after Bunning's announcement.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Jody Richards, who unsuccessfully
sought the nomination in 2003, was planning to enter the race later
this week with former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III as his
running mate, Brown told The Associated Press.

Richards and Brown are planning to officially announce their entry into the race at 9 a.m. CST Wednesday in Bowling Green, Brown said.

"I had not planned on getting back into politics in 2007, but
the governor's race sort of shaped up in an unorthodox and
unanticipated manner and I was asked by Speaker Richards to be his
running mate," Brown said in a telephone interview. "After sizing
up the field, I thought that we would have the best chance of
winning in November."

In Washington, Bunning, R-Ky., revealed his support for Northup,
a former five-term congresswoman from Louisville, during a
breakfast sponsored by the Kentucky Right to Life Association in
Washington. "Lately, I have put a lot of thought into how important it is
for Kentucky to have a strong Republican that shares our values
leading our commonwealth," Bunning said. "And today I would like
to announce that I think Anne Northup would be the best Republican
pro-life candidate to lead Kentucky forward."

The endorsement comes days after Northup entered the governor's
race and introduced Jeff Hoover, the top Republican in the Kentucky
House, as her running mate. Northup offered herself as an
alternative to Fletcher, who she said was politically damaged by
his troubles in office, including his indictment - and subsequent
dismissal - on misdemeanor state hiring charges.

Northup lost her congressional seat last November to Democrat
John Yarmuth.

Meanwhile, the field of Democrats running for governor is
expected to grow Tuesday with a scheduled announcement by former
Lt. Gov. Steve Henry at a kickoff event at a Louisville union hall.

Gatewood Galbraith said Monday he plans to file his candidacy
papers Tuesday in his fourth run for governor.

State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear
and Otis Hensley Jr. of Harlan have announced their candidacies in
the Democratic primary.

Candidates have until Jan. 30 to officially enter the race.

In the GOP race, Bunning became the highest-ranking Kentucky
Republican to make an endorsement in the May GOP primary, which
also includes Paducah businessman Billy Harper.

In 2003, Fletcher ran with the GOP establishment firmly behind
him in becoming Kentucky's first Republican governor in a
generation.

But Fletcher's term has been marred by an investigation into whether his administration illegally rewarded political supporters with state jobs after he took office.

The governor maintained the investigation was politically
motivated and gave a blanket pardon in 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 last year in a deal with prosecutors.

The grand jury's report found that Fletcher had approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" to skirt state hiring laws. Northup said Monday she was "thrilled" by Bunning's endorsement.

"Senator Bunning has the respect and affection of Republicans
across the state, and his endorsement is another great step forward
for our campaign," Northup said.

Fletcher said he remained confident of winning renomination for
another term. "As I've traveled around the state, the support is very strong out there," he said.

Stan Pulliam, Harper's campaign manager, said the endorsements
for Northup and Fletcher are a reaction to Harper's willingness to
"shake up politics as usual."

"Our campaign wants to change the way things are done in
government," Pulliam said. "So government officials who want to
change the way things are going, we invite their endorsement. And
politicians who want to stick with politics as usual, they should
probably find another candidate."

Bunning said that primaries can be a "healthy part of our representative government," adding that he rarely has gotten involved in Republican primaries. "We each have to make our own choice, but I wanted to share with my close friends here today that I think Anne and Jeff will
win the primary in May and carry the governor's office in November," Bunning said.

Hoping to show it has broad Republican support, the governor's
campaign has said Fletcher picked up endorsements from 15 of the
state Senate's 21 Republicans.

Notably absent from the list was Senate President David Williams of Burkesville. Fletcher's campaign also has touted support from various county judge-executives.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the state's senior senator, previously said he wouldn't endorse anyone in the Republican primary but added that Northup would be "a formidable opponent."
---
Associated Press writer Joe Biesk in Frankfort contributed to
this report.

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


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