Democrats On The Attack During Debate As Election Nears

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A truce among Kentucky Democrats running
for governor was frayed considerably Monday night as the half-dozen
candidates wrangled over expanded gambling and their own pasts
during a debate coming barely more than a week before the primary
Former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, the chief proponent of
casino-styling gambling in Kentucky, was on the receiving end of
several barbs from his opponents during the debate on Kentucky
Education Television.
Steve Henry, another former lieutenant governor, said that
Beshear's only solution to improving education and health care has
been expanded gambling. Henry supports allowing voters to decide
the issue, but cautioned that it would take several years for the
state to reap any benefits from casino gambling.
"It's not going to be a panacea," added House Speaker Jody
Richards, who has said he wouldn't oppose an expanded gambling
measure in the legislature.
Beshear responded that if elected governor, he would immediately
push to get expanded gambling on the 2008 ballot and would take the
lead to get it approved by voters. With that timetable, he said,
the state could start collecting tax revenues from casino-style
gambling in 18 months.
That brought a quick response from another candidate, Louisville
businessman Bruce Lunsford, who said the condensed timetable
outlined by Beshear didn't appear to include a local option for
Kentuckians to decide whether they want casino-style gambling in
their communities.
Until Monday night's debate, the candidates had mostly refrained
from attacking each other, heaping much of their criticism on
Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who is in a three-way race in a GOP
primary also featuring former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup and Paducah
businessman Billy Harper.
But with the campaign in its last full week before the May 22
primary, the criticism among the Democrats was much sharper. Much
of the jousting came in response to a question about each
candidate's perceived weakness.
Asked about his stint lobbying for the payday lending industry a
decade ago, Beshear said that in his role he helped pass
legislation that provided consumer protections. He said the measure
limited fees that payday lenders could charge and the number of
times a loan could be rolled over.
Henry replied that it was "a little far-fetched" for Beshear
to claim he was protecting consumers while being paid to represent
the payday lending industry.
"Mr. Beshear, you're a great lawyer, but I don't think that's
going to spin with Kentuckians," Henry said.
Meanwhile, Henry said that claims that he improperly raised
money for his state race were made by a disgruntled former
employee. The former Henry campaign worker filed a complaint about
Henry's fundraising tactics with the Kentucky Registry of Election
Finance in March.
The Democratic race has featured considerable jockeying because
next week's election may not produce a clear-cut winner - meaning
second-place could be a coveted finish. Unless someone gets at
least 40 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to
a runoff five weeks later on June 26.
Also seeking the nomination are Lexington attorney Gatewood
Galbraith and eastern Kentucky demolition contractor Otis Hensley
State Treasurer Jonathan Miller withdrew from the race recently
and threw his support to Beshear. His withdrawal came too late to
remove his name from the ballot. Instead, notices will be posted at
polling places.
The debate gave the remaining candidates a chance to solidify
their images before the final hectic week of campaigning. And it
gave voters another opportunity to compare the candidates.

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

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