Northup Offers Sharpest Criticism Yet Of Governor

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Anne
Northup unleashed her sharpest criticism yet of Gov. Ernie
Fletcher, charging that he didn't keep his promise to return strong
ethics to state government and that he has embellished his
administration's accomplishments.
"This administration has not been without scandal, because of
that the Democrats are lined up to run against us," Northup said
during a televised debate on Monday.
Six Democrats, including two former lieutenant governors and the
speaker of the House, are in their party's primary election race.
The governor was indicted last year on charges that he illegally
rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs. That
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
politically motivated.
Northup, a former U.S. representative from Louisville, and Billy
Harper, a wealthy Paducah businessman, 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.
"They're not going to trust the current adminstration to lead
again," Northup said.
In the final and most testy of Kentucky Educational Television's
Republican gubernatorial debates, Northup also criticized Fletcher
for using a state airplane to travel to campaign fundraisers and
for not releasing names of donors to a legal defense fund set up to
cover his attorney fees related to the special grand jury
Fletcher said he is reimbursing the state for many of those
campaign trips. His campaign announced last week that it would pay
the state $19,359.21, a prorated share of travel expenses that
totaled more than $50,000 from July 2006 through April 2007.
Fletcher said he hasn't released names of donors to his legal
defense fund because he fears retribution from Attorney General
Greg Stumbo, whose office assisted the special grand jury that
brought the indictment against the governor.
Stumbo, who is the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Bruce Lunsford, leaves the attorney general's office at
the end of the year.
"As soon as this attorney general is out of office, we'll
release those names," Fletcher said.
Northup said there is "a bright line" between official and
campaign expenses. She charged that until Fletcher got caught, he
didn't offer to pay the money back.
Fletcher also defended his accomplishments, claiming he
inherited and erased a projected budget deficit in excess of $1
billion after he took office, that he has built more roads than any
previous adminstration and that he reformed the state Medicaid
program to ensure that the poor and elderly will continue to
receive medical services.
The governor listed other accomplishments, from increasing
teacher pay to creating new jobs, to initiating a newborn health
screening program that is saving the lives of babies.
"That was a long list of accomplishments, and I must say I wish
it was true," Northup said. "The fact of the matter is it is an
embellished record."
Harper stayed out of the fray between Northup and Fletcher,
presenting himself as a businessman who will bring business
principles to state government. "I'm not a politician," he said.
"I'm not a legislator. I'm an executive."
Northup, who began her political career in the state House,
served 10 years in Congress, representing Kentucky's largest city.
She held onto the seat against a series of challengers, gaining a
reputation as a prolific campaign fundraiser and bare-knuckled
political fighter. Her winning streak ended in November when she
lost the seat to Democratic challenger John Yarmuth, a Louisville
In Monday's debate, Northup said she is offering voters a fresh
start after Fletcher's marred administration.
"It does not have to be this way," she said. "We can elect
somebody who gives us a fresh start and a new opportunity."
The Democratic candidates are scheduled to take part in a debate
next week at the public television studio in Lexington.
State Treasurer Jonathan Miller withdrew from the race on Monday
and endorsed former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear in the Democratic
primary race. That leaves Beshear in the race with Louisville
businessman Bruce Lunsford, Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith,
former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, House Speaker Jody Richards and Harlan
demolition contractor Otis Hensley.

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

AP-NY-05-07-07 2207EDT

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