Tuesday, April 02, 2002

GOP contenders act cordially

U.S. representative pays courtesy call to House comrades

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher and state Rep. Steve Nunn reached a tentative agreement Monday to conduct a civil primary if they both pursue the GOP nomination for governor next year.

        Rep. Nunn has already announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a gubernatorial campaign. Rep. Fletcher is pondering a race.

        But both agreed that the recent history of divisive Republican primaries — notably 1991 — provides a lesson on what to be avoided.

        There is already one substantive topic of disagreement between the two.

        Rep. Fletcher, who is from Lexington, said he thinks public financing of elections is bad policy, while Rep. Nunn, from Glasgow, said it serves a legitimate purpose.

        Coincidentally, Rep. Fletcher got dropped into the legislative debate on public financing Monday. The state Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans, has refused to accept the House budget plan that includes money for public financing in 2003.

        House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark said the GOP wants to get rid of public financing, and the spending caps it imposes, so the party can “buy the Capitol. It's about getting Ernie Fletcher elected. That's what it's all about.”

        Rep. Fletcher said he would not get involved in the budget debate.

        He also said he would not commit to taking or rejecting public financing. “That's too far down the road,” he said.

        Rep. Nunn, on the other hand, said he would consider participating in the spending match and caps.

        “I think it gives a man without great personal wealth an opportunity to run for public office, who may not be the hand-picked candidate,” Rep. Nunn said.

        Rep. Fletcher held a closed-door meeting with state House Republicans. Rep. Fletcher served a term in the state House.

        Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson has also formed an exploratory committee for a gubernatorial campaign. State Sen. Virgil Moore of Leitchfield has also formed an exploratory committee but is considered more of a fringe candidate.


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