Harper Big Spender On GOP Side of Governor's Race

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Businessman and race car driver Billy Harper has spent more on the Republican gubernatorial primary race than the two candidates he's running against combined.

In a financial statement filed late Tuesday with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, Harper reported spending nearly $4.6 million since entering the primary race last year.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher, seeking re-election, reported spending about $2 million while former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville, the third candidate in the race, reported spending $543,000.

Fletcher has raised $2.9 million in contributions for his re-election campaign despite a hiring scandal that his opponents said would be his political undoing. Of that total, nearly $1.3 million has come in since Jan. 1, according to his campaign finance report.

The report listed contributors for Fletcher from nearly every walk of life. The list of donors was heavy with physicians and other health care professionals from across the state. It also included housewives, retirees, coal operators, state workers, locally elected officials, teachers, road contractors, attorneys, engineers, company presidents and chief executives.

"The governor has a large number of supporters and contributors from all across the commonwealth," campaign manager Marty Ryall said. "This certainly signifies the strength of his campaign. I think it shows the individual voters out there, who are choosing to invest in the candidate they believe in, are choosing Governor Fletcher."

Northup reported raising $1.5 million, including a $500,000 personal loan to her campaign.

Northup said in a statement that she and her running mate, state Rep. Jeff Hoover of Jamestown, are "thrilled" with their support.

"Our efforts have been picking up steam each week, and the momentum is building," Northup said.

The reports, required by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, show that the Fletcher campaign spending has primarily gone toward political advertising, and he still has $935,000 in the bank.

The Northup campaign has $980,000 in the bank with four weeks remaining before the May 22 primary.

Fletcher has received $35,000 from political action committees, $13,000 of which was contributed during the latest reporting period, which ran from Jan. 1 to April 20. Northup had $8,600 from political action committees.

The governor was indicted last year on charges that he illegally rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs after he took office. The indictment was dismissed nearly a year ago 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 called the special grand jury's investigation a political witch hunt. He charged that Attorney General Greg Stumbo, now the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lunsford, pursued the charges for political gain.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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