FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Some big names in Kentucky politics who
want to be Kentucky's next lieutenant governor took sharply
differing stands on the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining
while agreeing in a Monday night debate that creating jobs is the
top priority in a state where the unemployment rate is hovering
near 10 percent.
Former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, running mate to
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, said mountaintop removal should be done only in "very rare situations."
"This governor has never, during the four years, issued a new
mountaintop removal permit," Abramson said. "I support the
governor's position on that."
Kentucky basketball icon Richie Farmer, the running mate of
Republican David Williams, was the only one of three candidates in
the race who offered a wholehearted endorsement of the coal
industry and a promise to push back against what he considers the
federal government's overregulation that is harming an industry
that employs some 18,000 people in the state.
"I know how important coal is to this state," Farmer said.
"It's something we should embrace. It's something we should be
proud of. It's something we should fight for."
Marketing strategist Dea Riley, who is running alongside
independent Gatewood Galbraith, said she doesn't oppose the coal
industry, but that she is adamantly opposed to mountaintop removal.
The three have been part of what polls show to be a lopsided
gubernatorial campaign with Beshear and Abramson in the lead. The
Monday debate, broadcast statewide by Kentucky Educational
Television, was their first face-off of the general election
campaign for the running mates.
They had appeared together on stage in early August at the
official kickoff of the campaign season, a church picnic in western
Kentucky, where they delivered back-to-back speeches.
Farmer, one of the most recognizable faces in Kentucky from his
days as the shooting guard of the 1992 University of Kentucky
basketball team dubbed "The Unforgettables," has served the past
eight years in the elected position of agriculture commissioner.
Abramson spent more than 20 years as mayor of Kentucky's largest
city. And Riley, though making her first run for elected office, is
no stranger to Kentucky politics, having managed campaigns for two
sitting Kentucky Supreme Court justices.
Despite a huge fan club dating back to his days at UK, Farmer
has been unable to give Williams, the tough-talking Frankfort
political insider, the boost he needed in the race against Beshear.
Polls show Beshear and Abramson with a lead of 25 to 30 percentage points over Williams and Farmer, and an even larger lead over Galbraith and Riley.
Democrats have pummeled Farmer politically with questions about
spending decisions, including the purchase of two big-screen TVs
for the Department of Agriculture's Frankfort offices. They
questioned the purchase of a small refrigerator for his home
office. And they questioned travel expenses, especially an
excursion to the Caribbean for an agricultural meeting.
Abramson, who served five terms as Louisville mayor, gives the
Beshear campaign a lift in his city where he has proven to be a
Republicans have tried to cast Abramson as too liberal for
Kentucky voters. They've attacked him especially on hot-button
issues, including abortion. Republican challengers have tried to
use that issue to chip away at the frontrunners. On the campaign
trail, Abramson promotes his record of job creation, pointing in
particular to a $700 million expansion of Louisville International
Airport that strengthened the city's job market with a UPS
package-sorting hub that employs more than 20,000 people.
Riley, the political tactician who managed the successful
election campaigns of Supreme Court justices Mary Noble and Will T.
Scott, is sharply critical of both Abramson and Farmer on economic
The three lieutenant gubernatorial candidates offered different
ways to expand the state's struggling economy during the debate
broadcast from the KET studios in Lexington.
Farmer proposed eliminating the personal and corporate income
taxes to make Kentucky more business-friendly. Abramson said he
opposes Farmer's proposal, recommending instead that Kentucky work to improve education and overall quality of life so that businesses want to move into Kentucky. Riley said she favors cutting taxes on small businesses so that they can afford to expand.
Abramson said felons who have served their time should have
their voting rights restored, but only if the prosecutors who put
them away don't object. Farmer and Riley said they favor restoring
voting rights only to felons who were convicted of non-violent
crimes and only after they have completed their sentences.
A Republican political group has been running a TV ad attacking
Beshear for restoring voting rights to people who had been
convicted of murder and rape.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)