Two Democrats Disregard Pact Against Mudslinging

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates
are sharply criticizing Louisville millionaire Bruce Lunsford, one
of the top contenders in the race for governor, disregarding a
written pact that they would not go on the attack.
Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith, a perennial candidate,
charged that Lunsford is trying to use his personal wealth to win
the race.
"He's just another in a long line of people who have tried to
buy the office of governor," Galbraith said when he arrived at the
Frankfort Convention Center on Wednesday for a gubernatorial
debate.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Miller accused
Lunsford of calling labor leaders "stooges," and of calling U.S.
Rep. Ben Chandler of Lexington, the state's only Democratic
congressman, "deceitful."
Lunsford said he doesn't know where Miller came up with the
alleged characterizations, though he said he once did refer to a
Chandler television ad, during the 2003 gubernatorial race, as
deceitful.
Lunsford said he, like the other candidates, pledged not to
politically attack other Democrats and that he's going to stick to
it.
That pledge, brokered by Kentucky Democratic Party leaders,
calls on the candidates not to attack one another leading up to the
May 22 primary election.
Miller said other candidates need to stand up against Lunsford.
He said they have all been conspicuously quiet. "Silence equals
complicity," he said.
Galbraith criticized all of his Democratic opponents, saying to
elect any one of them would be a debacle.
"These people up here are just talking the same sweet message
to you," he said. "You can't continue to elect them and expect
anything different."
Gov. Ernie Fletcher skipped the political forum, which put both
Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates on the same
stage.
"We had never said we were going to be there," Fletcher
campaign manager Marty Ryall said. "We look forward to debates,
but we've got to do something other than debate."
Democratic candidates, in their first televised debate on
Monday, had sharply criticized Fletcher for his involvement in a
hiring scandal.
That wasn't the reason Fletcher, a Republican seeking a second
term, didn't attend Wednesday's forum at the Frankfort Convention
Center, Ryall said.
The event was sponsored by the Kentucky Commission on Women and
the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.
Fletcher faces former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup and Paducah
businessman Billy Harper for the GOP's nomination. The winner will
face the winner of the Democratic primary race.
Northup didn't take part in Wednesday's forum either, leaving
Harper as the only Republican on stage.
Harper has not been a target for criticism by Democratic
candidates. Instead, they have harshly criticized Fletcher, whose
administration was embroiled in a lengthy investigation by a
special grand jury.
The governor was indicted last year on charges that he illegally
rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs. The
indictment was dismissed in a deal with prosecutors, but a special
grand jury later issued its findings in the case, saying Fletcher
had approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" to skirt state
hiring laws.
Fletcher said the investigation and resulting indictment were
the results of "politics of destruction."
Ryall said only that Fletcher had a prior commitment on
Wednesday. He declined to say what the prior commitment was.
Fletcher is "absolutely not" afraid to participate in a debate
with Democrats, Ryall said. "We'll have at least four months to
debate Democrats," he said.
Ryall said the Democrats have been focusing their criticism on
Fletcher because they fear they'll have to face him in the fall.
"It just shows the growing strength of Governor Fletcher and
that they're afraid of him," Ryall said.
Northup and Harper, both former political allies of Fletcher,
said when they entered the race that the governor has been damaged
politically beyond repair and would be a weak candidate to put up
against Democrats in the November election.
Besides Lunsford, Miller and Galbraith, former Lt. Gov. Steve
Henry, House Speaker Jody Richards, Harlan demolition contractor
Otis Hensley and former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear are also seeking the
Democratic nomination.

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

AP-NY-04-18-07 2114EDT


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