Republican candidates agree to take furloughs

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Trying to appease some 30,000 state
workers, three Republicans running for lieutenant governor said
Monday they would participate in any future unpaid furlough days if
The issue has been nagging for one of the candidates, Kentucky
basketball icon Richie Farmer, who said during a televised debate
that he regretted not having taken furlough days over the past year
in his job as state agriculture commissioner.
"It was really a mistake on my part not to have done it," he
Two lesser-known candidates, state Rep. Mike Harmon of Danville
and retired Navy Command Master Chief Petty Officer Bill Vermillion
of Caneyville, said they would participate in furloughs.
The candidates addressed a broad spectrum of issues, including
expanding gambling, a push to make some cold medicines available
only by prescription, and a proposal to allow Kentucky farmers to
grow hemp.
Farmer and Vermillion said they favor allowing Kentucky voters
to decide whether to lift restrictions on casino-style gambling so
that people could bet on more than horse races in the state. Harmon
said he opposes expanded gambling.
Harmon and Vermillion said they oppose a move to make
pseudoephedrine-based coal medications available only by
prescription. Farmer said he favors such a move to combat meth
production in the state. Such a proposal was introduced in the
state legislature earlier this year, but failed to garner enough
support to pass.
All three staked out varying positions on hemp. Harmon said he
favors allowing Kentucky farmers to grow it for industrial
purposes. Farmer said he sees potential for production in the
state, though it creates "a nightmare issue" for law enforcement.
And Vermillion said he is staunchly opposed to the notion.
"To me, it's a gateway crop to legalizing marijuana in the
future," he said.
Kentucky Educational Television has hosted debates among
candidates for all state offices in recent weeks, perhaps none as
civil as the one involving the lieutenant gubernatorial hopefuls
who at times laughed together on the set in Lexington.
Despite his celebrity status as a shooting guard on the 1992
University of Kentucky basketball squad dubbed "The
Unforgettables," Farmer has been under fire in recent weeks for
some of his actions as agriculture commissioner, including choosing
not to take part in the furloughs.
In hopes of putting the issue to rest, Farmer donated $2,000 to
charities last month. That money equaled his wages for five days -
the number of furlough days ordered for state employees so far.
He had initially refused to take part in the furloughs, but when
that decision became a campaign issue, he gave $1,000 to Capitol
City Christian Church and $1,071.42 to the Kentucky National Guard
Memorial Fund. Those contributions equaled his wages for five days
- the number of days state employees had been forced to take off as
unpaid furlough days.
Farmer said he still disagrees with Gov. Steve Beshear's
decision "to balance the state budget on the backs of state
employees" by forcing them to take unpaid leave.
"I don't believe they deserve that kind of pay cut," he said.
Asked by host Bill Goodman about qualifications to serve as
lieutenant governor, Vermillion touted his 30 years as a
non-commissioned officer. "I've been battle-tested and tried," he
said. "I have proven myself as a leader."
Harmon said his five terms in the state legislature gives him
the institutional knowledge needed, while Farmer said the
leadership skills he developed from basketball under the tutelage
of great coaches, plus two terms as agriculture commissioner, has
prepared him.
Despite his celebrity status as a guard on the 1992 University
of Kentucky basketball squad dubbed "The Unforgettables," Farmer
has been under fire in recent weeks for spending decisions he has
made as ag commissioner, including an expenditure of more than
$1,500 for four nights in a Lexington hotel during the state high
school basketball tournament in March.
Farmer defended the expenditure, saying he was at the tournament
- some 30 miles from his Frankfort home - in his official capacity
promoting Kentucky farm products. Neither Harmon nor Vermillion
were sharply critical during the debate, though Harmon said he
probably would have driven back and forth.
Farmer is the running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate
David Williams, a state senator from Burkesville. Harmon is running
alongside Louisville businessman Phil Moffett. And Vermillion is
running with Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw.

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

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