FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Back-to-back debates revealed differences
among Kentucky's three Republican gubernatorial candidates on
Monday over proposals to expand gambling, ban smoking in public
places, and restrict sales of some cold and allergy medications to
curb meth production.
Trying to win favor with Kentucky conservatives, state Senate
President David Williams, Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and
Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw also lashed out at President
Barack Obama on Monday. Each claimed to be the most electable in
this fall's general election against a popular Democratic
Obama is considered anti-coal, an unpopular position in a state
where mining is a major employer, and the candidates stood in sharp
contrast, voicing support on the campaign trail even for
mountaintop removal coal mining, a controversial procedure that
involves blasting away entire ridgelines to unearth the mineral.
Polls show Williams with a substantial lead in the three-way
race, but with turnout predicted at a near record low, the
Burkesville lawyer is leaving nothing to chance, having spent more
than $1 million so far on the primary campaign. That's 10 times
more than Moffett, the tea party candidate and the second leading
fundraiser who banked $100,000.
Only about 15 percent of Kentucky's registered voters are
expected to cast ballots in the May 17 primary, creating
uncertainty in some quarters about polling results.
The candidates can count two groups - tea party activists and
stalwart Republicans - to turn out. Both groups tend to be made up
of the state's most informed voters, many of whom will have
listened to or watched the gubernatorial debates.
In debates Monday on WLAP-AM radio and Kentucky Educational
Television, Holsclaw claimed to be the most electable candidate in
the general election, in part because the state's largest city,
Louisville, is her political base.
"I bring conservative Democrats, independents and tea partyers
with me," Holsclaw said.
Moffett and Williams both gave their own reasons for being the
GOP's best chance of winning the governor's office. Moffett said
his support among tea party Republicans makes him most electable
while Williams said he has proven that he can stand up to the
liberal agenda in Frankfort and that he can fund a competitive
"I think I've shown the ability to raise the money," said
Williams, the GOP's leading fundraiser.
Midway through the debate, Moffett charged that Williams, who
has served in the state legislature for about 20 years, was one of
the architects of what he described as the state's failed
educational system. Williams, who has been dubbed "the bully from
Burkesville" by political foes, was clearly agitated by Moffett's
"You're all hat and no cattle," Williams retorted to Moffett.
In the earlier radio debate, Williams was the only candidate who
spoke in favor of a statewide ban, calling secondhand smoke a
noxious substance that should be avoided.
"I consider it a matter of workplace safety," he said.
Holsclaw said smoking bans are local issues that should be
decided at the county level, preferably through ballot referendums,
while Moffett said individual business owners should make the call.
"If you own a business and you want to allow smoking in your
business, you ought to be allowed to do so," Moffett said. "I
don't think the state should really butt into our personal
Holsclaw stood alone in her support for expanding gambling in
Kentucky, an issue that has received widespread debate over the
past three years.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear had pressed for casino-type games
in Kentucky to generate money for state government and horse tracks
where wagering already is allowed on races. Williams has been a
leading gambling opponent in the state legislature, refusing to
allow the issue to be voted on in the Senate.
Moffett sided with Williams in opposing expanded gambling,
though the tea party favorite suggested he may support an expansion
if the legislature first passes his tax report proposal, which
includes eliminating state income tax.
"You know, gambling is already in the state of Kentucky,"
Holsclaw said. "Some of this to me is kind of a silly issue. We
have pull-tabs, we have bingos. We have a lot of different ways to
gamble. I am not for making Kentucky into a Las Vegas by any means.
But I think we should help our horse industry, and I think we
should have expanded gaming."
Williams was the only candidate who said he favors requiring
prescriptions for medications containing pseudoephedrine. Holsclaw
and Moffett said that would cause hardships for cold and allergy
In Kentucky politics, public television debates are considered
key because they give voters a chance to see and hear the
candidates the week before Election Day. The candidates' have been
polished after months of campaigning. Williams repeated the refrain
that Kentucky is adrift and needs new leadership. Moffett promised
to rein in government spending and reduce the state's debt. And
Holsclaw lamented the political gridlock in Frankfort, saying she
will bring leaders together for the good of the state.
The winner of next week's primary in the fall will face Beshear
who is proving to be a political dynamo despite having taken office
in the midst of an economic recession that forced more than $1
billion in budget cuts. He has already raised $5 million for his
Beshear spent $9.7 million in his 2007 race.
In a report filed Monday with the Kentucky Registry of Election
Finance, the Beshear campaign reported raising another $200,000
just in two weeks in April.
Beshear campaign manager Bill Hyers boasted that Beshear banked
nearly three times the amount raised by Williams, the best-funded
Republican. Williams reported raising $77,000 for the same two-week
In addition to the GOP primary winner, Beshear will face
independent candidate Gatewood Galbriath, a Lexington lawyer.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)