FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A staffer on Louisville millionaire Bruce Lunsford's gubernatorial campaign has defected, taking a position with Democratic rival Otis Hensley Jr., a long-shot candidate running on a shoestring budget.
Jason Shemanski, a political consultant from Slocomb, Ala., had agreed to join the Lunsford campaign as a field coordinator but resigned shortly after arriving in Kentucky, citing philosophical differences with the candidate.
Shemanski, a former member of the International Association of Machinists, said he quickly realized that Lunsford wasn't the strong pro-labor candidate he had hoped for. So he gave up the $2,500-a-month job last week and joined Hensley as an unpaid campaign manager.
Several unions have lined up against Lunsford, whose chief transgression, in their view, was his 2003 endorsement of Gov. Ernie Fletcher. After being elected, Fletcher began pushing for a measure that would open all union workplaces to nonunion workers. Labor groups have vigorously opposed the measure.
Hensley said he's glad Shemanski opted out of the Lunsford campaign.
"I am honored that he has come over on my side," Hensley said Thursday. "And anyone else who wants to join us is more than welcome."
Lunsford spokesman Adam Bozzi said Shemanski worked only one day for the campaign "as a low-level field staffer."
"Working on a campaign, you have to feel something for the candidate," Shemanski said. "I couldn't vote for Lunsford."
Hensley, a rough-edged demolition contractor from Wallins Creek in Harlan County, said he's counting on support from Kentucky's working people for votes in the May 22 primary election. He has been campaigning on the message that millionaires, who have no idea what it's like to make ends meet on a blue-collar income, have held the seat of power for too long.
"He has about as much chance of winning the election as I do of winning the lottery," Shemanski said of Hensley. "But he's doing it for the right reason. It's good to see people doing that."
Hensley, a lifelong Harlan Countian, faces Lunsford and five other opponents in this year's primary: House Speaker Jody Richards, state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, former lieutenant governors Steve Beshear and Steve Henry, and Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith.
Hensley is no polished politician. His best suit cost $75 at Wal-Mart. He said people are tired of polished politicians and their campaign consultants who spend millions to hone an appealing image.
"We have way too many people like the Lunsfords of the world who think they can buy their way," Shemanski said.
Hensley has been working after-hours hauling junk cars to a scrap yard to generate money for his campaign, Shemanski said.
"You have to totally respect somebody like that," Shemanski said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)