Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Governor candidates espouse N.Ky. needs



By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Democrat Ben Chandler listens as Republican Ernie Fletcher, whose image appeared on a screen, responds during a debate at NKU Tuesday.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - With the election too close to call, Kentucky's gubernatorial candidates took few chances but plenty of shots at each other during a debate Tuesday at Northern Kentucky University.

With five weeks remaining in a race that polling shows is a tossup, Democrat Ben Chandler and Republican Ernie Fletcher stayed with their campaign themes and rolled out no new initiatives during an hour-long debate that attracted a crowd of more than 800 at NKU's Regents Hall.

Both candidates said they are opposed to raising the state's cigarette tax. Both want to fund an arena at NKU and favor funding for a new Brent Spence Bridge, but neither could say where they'll get the money to pay for the projects. And each said he is the best man for the job.

Chandler said the economic policies of the Bush administration that Fletcher has supported as a three-term congressman from Lexington have plunged the nation and Kentucky into steep budget deficits. Fletcher said 32 years of Democratic rule in Frankfort has created a "mess" that needs to be cleaned up by the Republicans. He pointed to the state's high poverty rate and low ranking in education as problems wrought by Democratic administrations that have included Chandler.

"It's time to make a change," he said. "We don't need anymore shuffling of chairs."

Both candidates said they would work to get state funding to help pay for the potential replacement of the Interstate 75 Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River. The candidates also said that while NKU deserves its own on-campus arena, neither would commit to money for the project because the new governor will face a 2004 budget deficit of as much as $600 million.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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