Sunday, December 14, 2003

Republicans pick Kerr as candidate for Fletcher's seat



By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A legislator backed by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell was nominated Saturday as the Republican candidate for a special election to fill Gov. Ernie Fletcher's former congressional seat.

State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington got the nomination over two other legislators - state Reps. Stan Lee of Lexington and Lonnie Napier of Lancaster - and a Lexington councilman, Chuck Ellinger II.

Kerr said she expected her Democratic opponent to be Attorney General Ben Chandler, whom Fletcher defeated in the gubernatorial election Nov. 4. Democrats are to select a nominee Monday.

The election, which Fletcher has indicated he will call for Feb. 17, apparently would be the first Republican-against-Democrat contest of 2004, a presidential election year.

"President Bush and others in Washington are watching this race very closely," Kerr said in a final pitch to electors, who came from 15 of the 16 counties of the 6th District. "They know the liberals will stop at nothing to take this seat."

McConnell's political action committee gave $10,000 to Kerr and two of his staffers joined her campaign. Kerr said she had raised $200,000 in all. In addition, national Republicans have created a campaign fund for use in the race.

Kerr is midway through her second term in the Kentucky Senate. Gracious and soft-spoken by nature, she was unusually feisty when sizing up the brief campaign to come.

"Liberals are leading an unprecedented assault on family values," Kerr said.

She said she supported the war in Iraq and Bush's tax cuts, which she said "got the economy moving again, but the liberals want to roll them back."

Kerr won the nomination on a second ballot. There were 32 electors, their votes weighted according to the number of registered Republicans in their county. As a result, three electors from Fayette County - home of Kerr and Lee - cast 41 percent of the vote.

Totals were not publicly announced. Bourbon County, which has fewer than 2,400 registered Republicans, or 1.6 percent of the district's GOP registration, sent no one to the meeting.

There was one glitch in the balloting because of a party rule that the last-place vote getter is to be eliminated from a second or subsequent ballot. But Frank Schwendemann, the district chairman, announced after the first ballot that both Ellinger and Napier were dropped. That implied a tie for third, but Napier said he learned that Ellinger received no votes at all, making himself the low vote "getter" though not the last-place finisher.

Napier objected, but counting of the second ballot was already under way. Schwendemann said he had misinterpreted the rule, ordered a halt to the counting and the second ballot was taken anew.

Napier said he would support Kerr in the special election but might file as a candidate in the regular election, which includes a primary in May.




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