Challengers bash Gov. Steve Beshear on economy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear faced sharp
criticism on economic policies from two challengers Monday night in
the final televised debate of the general election campaign.

Republican David Williams said Kentucky is worse off than it was
four years ago, and he placed the blame on Beshear failed policies
that have unemployment hovering near 10 percent.

"There's no plan for this administration to improve the
situation," said Williams, the long-time president of the
GOP-controlled Kentucky state Senate.

Independent Gatewood Galbraith, seated between Beshear and
Williams, blamed partisan fighting between Democrats and
Republicans for holding the state back. He called the testy
exchanges between the two Frankfort insiders "a microcosm" of
what's held Kentucky back for the past 20 years.

"This is partisanship, folks," Galbraith said, making his case
for electing an independent governor who can work with both
parties.

Beshear said pointed to the worst economic recession since the
Great Depression for Kentucky's economic woes.

"I can tell you this; we're better off than we were at the
depths of this recession," Beshear said. "We're coming out of
this a lot better and a lot stronger than most states."

The faceoff, broadcast live on the public television station
KET, was only the second of the general election season because
Beshear has turned down most invitations to share a stage with his
opponents.

Beshear also boasted that he has balanced the state budget nine
times since he took office in 2007 by doing the same things
Kentucky families have had to do - cutting spending.

Beshear went into the debate with good news from a federal
agency that has gave final approval of a plan he says will save
some $1.3 billion in the state's Medicaid program over the next
three years.

The U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has cleared
the way for the Beshear administration to switch some 560,000
additional Medicaid recipients into lower-cost managed care
programs.

Beshear has largely focused his re-election campaign on his
handling of the state's financial affairs during an ailing economy
that created a $1 billion revenue shortfall that forced cuts to
nearly every government agency and program over the past four
years. The Medicaid initiative, which will save the General Fund
some $375 million over three years, was the governor's latest
attempt to rein in costs. He boasted of those savings during the
debate.

Williams discounted the savings, saying he isn't convinced the
plan will work even with federal approval.

With polls showing Beshear leading his opponents by more than 30
percentage points, the governor has declined most invitations for
debates.

The lopsided race has generated little excitement in Kentucky.
Secretary of State Elaine Walker said she expects as few as 25
percent of the state's registered voters will cast ballots.

Beshear also holds a huge fundraising advantage. He has banked
more than $10 million since beginning his re-election campaign, at
least five times more than Williams, his nearest competitor.

Despite the hurting economy and an unemployment rate that's
hovering at nearly 10 percent, Williams has been unable to chip
away at Beshear's lead, even with outside political groups running
millions of dollars' worth of ads.

Outside political groups that have spent nearly $4 million to
air TV ads supporting Williams over Beshear have helped keep the
Republican on the airwaves.

The Beshear campaign began airing an ad Monday that heralds his
handling of a series of natural disasters, from floods to ice
storms, which have occurred since he took office.

"Each time Kentucky has faced a crisis, Steve Beshear's steady
hand has led us through," a narrator says with images of property
damages flashing across the screen.

The Williams campaign continued on the attack with a fresh TV ad
Monday linking Beshear with President Barack Obama, an unpopular
political figure in Kentucky. The ad has Williams' running mate,
Richie Farmer, reminding viewers that Beshear has endorsed Obama's re-election next year.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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