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Gubernatorial candidates to face off in Richmond

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is scheduled
to face both of his general election challengers for the first time
in a debate at Eastern Kentucky University on Tuesday.

With a huge lead in the polls, Beshear has largely avoided
face-to-face meetings with Republican David Williams and
independent Gatewood Galbraith.

Beshear has agreed to debate his opponents only twice. The other
debate will be at the Kentucky Educational Television studio in
Lexington on Oct. 31. It will be broadcast statewide on public
television stations.

All three candidates haven't shared a stage since early August
when they delivered back-to-back speeches at a church picnic in the
tiny western Kentucky community of Fancy Farm.

The Tuesday night debate, which will be carried live on some
Kentucky television and radio stations, will almost certainly
reveal soft spots in all three candidates.

Williams, president of the state Senate and Kentucky's
best-known anti-gambling advocate, will likely be faced with his
personal record of gambling. He was dealt a particularly troubling
setback earlier this year when a judge unsealed financial documents
in a decade-old divorce case that showed he had frequented casinos
in the past. In a Bible-belt state like Kentucky, the juxtaposition
can turn off a key voting bloc, conservative Christians.

Galbraith, a Lexington attorney making his fifth run for
governor, has been unable to raise substantial campaign cash or
mount a serious challenge. An advocate of legalizing marijuana for
medical purposes, Galbraith has been unwilling to relent on that
issue, which has cost him political clout in Kentucky.

Beshear, who has staked out a pro-abortion rights stand that
sharply differs from his two challengers, holds a huge lead in
recent polls, some of which show him ahead by more than 30
percentage points. Beshear is the only one of the three who
supports the right of women to get abortions, a position his
challengers will likely spotlight.

Political foes have also bashed Beshear on other issues
important to Kentucky's Christian bloc, including an opinion he
issued while serving as attorney general in which he advised
schools to remove the Ten Commandments from classroom walls.

Beshear has skipped multiple debates with his challengers,
including one that was televised statewide earlier this month. The
strategy allowed both Williams and Galbraith to voice unanswered
criticism of Beshear. The duo particularly bashed Beshear for doing
little to improve education, despite calling himself the
"education governor."

By avoiding face-offs with his challengers, Beshear is following
a tactic not uncommon among political front-runners. But pundits
argue that Beshear has an obligation to publicly defend his record
as governor, and they have hammered him on talk radio and on
newspaper editorial pages.

Both the Beshear and Williams campaigns have had to deal with
repeated political attacks, some of which could be re-aired in
Tuesday's debate.

Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson has asked for an
investigation into whether Beshear reported $85,000 in free air
travel aboard state aircraft as a taxable fringe benefit to the
IRS. The Democratic Party reimbursed the state for Beshear's use of
official aircraft, including for a family outing to the NCAA Final
Four basketball tournament last year in Texas.

Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon has called for
investigations into allegations of improper spending, saying he had
learned from news media accounts that Williams' running mate,
Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, had recently purchased and installed two big-screen TVs, including one in his office, at a
cost of more than $6,600.

Logsdon had previously asked State Auditor Crit Luallen to look
into an assortment of expenditures in the Department of Agriculture
under Farmer's watch, ranging from a Caribbean trip to the purchase
of a refrigerator for Farmer's home office. The TVs, plus 10 chairs
that cost taxpayers more than $4,000, were new additions to the
list.

Williams also has been criticized for the purchase of a
big-screen TV for his Senate office.

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


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