Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Fletcher joins gubernatorial fray

Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher joined the burgeoning list of prospective Republican candidates for governor Monday, saying he offered a new vision for leadership.

        “I think it's healthy for a state and certainly for the Grand Old Party to have a primary,” Mr. Fletcher said during a news conference at the Capitol.

        Like the others, Mr. Fletcher, who represents Kentucky's 6th District, declined to make a formal announcement of his candidacy but will create an exploratory committee that allows him to raise and spend up to $90,000.

        A formal candidacy would kick in Kentucky's public financing law on gubernatorial campaigns, which has already become an issue swirling around Fletcher.

        The Kentucky General Assembly has been unable to come up with a state budget because of Republican opposition to public financing. Democrats claim the topic is an issue because of the desire by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell to get Mr. Fletcher elected governor.

        Mr. Fletcher said Monday he has tried to stay out of the debate and has not decided whether he would take part in public financing. But he also echoed the line that legislative Republicans use to oppose it.

        “I think it's wiser to spend tax dollars on teachers and education and health care than on welfare for politicians,” Mr. Fletcher said.

        Republicans who have already formed exploratory committees include Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson and state Rep. Steve Nunn of Glasgow. State Sen. Virgil Moore of Leitchfield and educator Bert Minton of Somerset are also in the field.

        After departing the Capitol, Fletcher planned the traditional fly-around, making several stops in Kentucky to draw local crowds and attention. Frankfort was his only stop in his political base in central Kentucky.

        Fletcher, 49, already has a full resume. He graduated from the University of Kentucky as a mechanical engineer, who then went into the Air Force to fly fighter jets. He went to medical school and practiced for a time in as a missionary in India. He is an ordained Primitive Baptist minister. He also served a term in the state House of Representatives before his election to Congress in 1998.

        Fletcher is in an enviable political position. He has no opposition for re-election to Congress in November and does not have to resign from the House to conduct his gubernatorial campaign. He would have to leave the House if elected governor in November 2003.


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