House Speaker Enters Governor's Race

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Surrounded by some 250 cheering
hometown supporters, House Speaker Jody Richards announced
Wednesday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for
"The foundation of our campaign will be honesty and
integrity," Richards said, in an apparent jab at Gov. Ernie
Fletcher, whose term has been marred by political scandal. "The
most effective leaders are those who let moral and ethical values
be their guide."
Richards, accompanied by his running mate, former Secretary of
State John Y. Brown III, promised to cut "fat and waste" from
state government, to make improving education a priority and to
create more high-paying jobs. He said he also wants to provide
prescription drug benefits to senior citizens and he wants to
improve state services for veterans, in part by creating a cabinet
level position to oversee veterans' affairs.
Richards' announcement at the Warren County courthouse came one
day after former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry entered the race. Henry, a
Louisville orthopedic surgeon who served as the state's second in
command from 1995 to 2003 under former Gov. Paul Patton, chose
Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator Renee True as his
running mate.
Other Democrats who have announced their candidacies in the May
22 gubernatorial primary are state Treasurer Jonathan Miller,
former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith
and Harlan County demolition contractor Otis Hensley Jr.
The Republican primary isn't so crowded. Gov. Ernie Fletcher -
the first Republican elected to the post in more than 30 years -
has drawn opposition from former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of
Louisville and Paducah businessman Billy Harper. Both have raised
concerns about Fletcher's ability to win re-election after a first
term filled with legal troubles.
A grand jury spent more than a year investigating whether the
Fletcher 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.
Kentucky is one of three states that will elect a governor in
Richards and Brown planned to visit four other western Kentucky
towns Wednesday before traveling to Frankfort on Thursday to file
candidacy papers with the secretary of state's office.
Brown called Richards a man of "unquestioned integrity."
"I think he is Kentucky's finest leader, and I just could not
have a better person to run with," Brown said.
Richards is the state's longest serving House speaker, having
been in the position for 12 years.
He lost the 2003 Democratic primary for governor to now-U.S.
Rep. Ben Chandler.
Joe Pruitt, a Bowling Green resident who has known Richards for
40 years, said he believes the House speaker would be one of the
most ethical governors ever to serve the state if he were elected.
"He is a good man, an honest man, a fair man," Pruitt said.

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

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