Tuesday, October 26, 1999

rivals flail Patton at debate


Gov. stays above fray

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Gov. Paul Patton's three opponents for governor ganged up on him Monday night during their only joint appearance of the campaign, with Republican Peppy Martin going out of her way to take shots at the incumbent.

        Mr. Patton declined to get into much of the banter, trying to appear somewhat more gubernatorial among the crowded set at Kentucky Educational Television.

        “Ms. Martin, do you think everybody in this state is as disgusted with Paul Patton as you and I are?” Reform Party nominee Gatewood Galbraith piped in at one point during a segment when candidates asked each other questions.

        “It looks like your night,” Natural Law Party candidate Nailah Jumoke-Yarbrough, said to Mr. Patton when she added her own jibe.

        Mr. Patton, a Democrat, is the first governor in two centuries who can seek a second consecutive term, thanks to a constitutional amendment earlier this decade. He said the record of his first nearly four years in office should count more to voters than the rhetoric of his opposition.

        “As a candidate, you can say anything, as has been demonstrated here tonight,” Mr. Patton said. “During these four years, we've made a difference here in Kentucky.”

        Ms. Martin took every opportunity to talk about “Paul” doing one thing or another as governor. But she also fired shots at a raft of people and institutions, including law enforcement.

        Without any further reference or evidence, Ms. Martin said 80 percent of sheriffs and 30 percent of the Kentucky State Police are involved in “bootlegging hard drugs.” Ms. Martin said after the forum that such corruption was “street talk across the state of Kentucky that under Paul Pat ton's administration there is an enormous amount of corruption.” Ms. Martin had no specific evidence to support allegations of criminal conduct by any law enforcement personnel, but said officers took payoffs from dealers in heroin and cocaine.

        “Her statements are so ludicrous as to not be deserving of a response,” Mr. Patton said after the forum.

        It was a continuation of a campaign in which Ms. Martin has often made wild allegations or voiced suspicions about conspiracies and crime.

        It was Mr. Galbraith, a Lexington lawyer who has made two previous campaigns for governor as a Democrat, who said the major parties offer no more choices for voters.

        “There's not really a nickel's worth of difference between these two major parties,” Mr. Galbraith said.

        Mr. Galbraith said Mr. Patton had sold out Democratic Party ideals to large companies over ordinary people. “This governor is, in fact, a tool of the corporations,” Mr. Galbraith said.

        On those occasions during the 90-minute forum when substantive issues were discussed, there was less difference than might be expected once the rhetoric was removed.

        All the candidates said they were opposed to forcing merger of county governments. Mr. Martin said talk of county merger was a Patton initiative to create “mega” counties that would be Democratic Party strongholds.

        Mr. Patton indicated he favored more moves toward statewide garbage collection, though stopped short of endorsing mandatory collection. And Mr. Patton and Mr. Galbraith both indicated some support for a proposal that would put a deposit on containers to encourage their return and reduce litter.

        Ms. Martin parted company with both, calling a bottle bill a tax on consumers.

        Mr. Patton was adamant about opposition to a voucher program that would let parents use tax money to underwrite private school tuition.

        He said he supports coal mining using all current methods of removal. Mr. Galbraith said he was opposed to mountain-top removal to get to underlying coal seams. And Ms. Martin said she would favor tax incentives to encourage deep mining instead of surface mining.

        Mr. Galbraith and Ms. Martin both accused Mr. Patton of squandering a state budget surplus from a few years ago and now facing a revenue shortfall this year.

        “Paul, all you're working on is spending people's money,” Ms. Mar tin said.

        The incumbent was also blamed for rising health insurance costs, though Mr. Patton and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry said the health-care debate began under former Gov. Brereton Jones. Mr. Patton called it a “well-intended” effort that did not work out.

        The election is Nov. 2.

       



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