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Candidate For State Treasurer Wants To Abolish The Office

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republican state treasurer candidate
Melinda Wheeler wants voters to elect her for one reason - so she
can help abolish what she sees as a do-nothing office.
If elected, Wheeler said Friday, she would push for an amendment
to the state's constitution that would eliminate the office. Most
of the treasurer's meaningful duties have been stripped over time,
leaving it as a post in which officeholders must look for
meaningful work to do, Wheeler said.
"The time has come to eliminate the constitutional office of
treasurer," Wheeler said. "There is very little substantive work
done by this office."
Wheeler is one of four candidates seeking the GOP nomination in
the May 22 primary. The others are state Reps. Lonnie Napier, of
Lancaster; Brandon Smith, of Hazard; and Ken Upchurch, of
Monticello.
Incumbent Treasurer Jonathan Miller is running four governor,
and four Democrats are running for a chance to replace him. They
are Patrick Dunmire, of Frankfort; L.J. "Todd" Hollenbach, of
Louisville, Mike Weaver, of Elizabethtown and Jack Wood, of Valley
Station.
Wheeler said she made the decision after pondering what she
would do with the office once elected. Finding the answer proved
difficult, leading her to decide it should be eliminated, Wheeler
said.
The treasurer serves as the state's top financial officer, and
among other things, the office is responsible for maintaining the
state's unclaimed property. The state treasurer also sits on
different boards, including the Kentucky Lottery Corporation and
the state's investment commission.
Those aren't enough duties to justify the office, and they could
be divvied up elsewhere in state government, Wheeler said.
"I don't think, from what I found out, that it's relevant
today," Wheeler said.
Kenneth Mansfield, a spokesman for Miller, said the treasurer
disagreed and thought the treasurer needed more oversight powers of
state funds.
"We think, in fact that the treasurer needs to get back some of
the responsibilities that have already been taken away from it,"
Mansfield said.
Wheeler's move, although it has been done before, was fairly
unique for political candidates, said Kendra Stewart, a political
scientist at Eastern Kentucky University. Whatever her motives, it
would not likely have a major positive effect on her campaign,
other than attracting media coverage, Stewart said.
"It's not like this is an issue that people are going to rally
around and all of a sudden overwhelmingly support her candidacy,"
Stewart said. "The most impact it's going to have is increase the
media coverage of their campaign - which is certainly good
timing."
It could also backfire on her candidacy, Stewart said.
Wheeler's opponents said they disagreed with her opinion and
some questioned her timing. Wheeler entered the race on Jan. 8.
Smith said he thought there was a "great need" for the
treasurer when it comes to tackling issues such as bankruptcy. As
the state's financial figurehead, the treasurer has the ability to
raise awareness about such issues, Smith said.
"If I personally thought there was an office that had no value,
I wouldn't be running for it," Smith said.
Wheeler has spent time and money campaigning, and changing her
thoughts on the office now was "a peculiar campaign strategy,"
Napier said.
"If she doesn't think it's an office worth running for, may she
shouldn't be running for it," Napier said. "Maybe she should just
get out of the race."
Upchurch echoed those comments, saying the timing of Wheeler's
move was "puzzling" and she should withdraw her candidacy.
"If she feels so strongly that the office should be abolished,
I would question her motives for actually running for the office,"
Upchurch said. "It's just another example of her lack of
insight."

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

AP-NY-04-13-07 1754EDT


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