By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press
FRANKFORT - John McCarthy, a top aide to Gov. Ernie Fletcher, was endorsed Friday by his boss and other top Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, for chairmanship of the Kentucky GOP.
McCarthy, 36, would succeed Ellen Williams, whom Fletcher appointed to the Public Service Commission.
The party's executive committee is scheduled to meet April 17 to make the selection formal.
McCarthy, of Louisville, is Fletcher's special assistant for personnel. Before that, he was a lobbyist in Frankfort and once was the party's state political director.
McCarthy, of Louisville, said he got his first taste of politics in 1976 when President Gerald Ford was running for a full term. McCarthy's math-teacher mother volunteered to stuff campaign mailers in Louisville. Her 9-year-old son came along. "I was hooked," McCarthy said.
Since then, McCarthy has helped direct numerous state and federal campaigns, including the 1994 upset victory of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis, who joined Fletcher, McConnell and McCarthy for the announcement at a news conference.
McConnell said McCarthy has been "the classic political operative."
In 1990, when McConnell was running for his first re-election, McCarthy handled 3.5 million campaign mailings. "He was absolutely indispensable, the classic volunteer. And his volunteer activities have intersected with virtually everybody in our party every year since then," McConnell said.
McCarthy was a fund-raiser for Fletcher last year, when Fletcher became the first Republican to win the Kentucky governorship since 1967. He was on Fletcher's transition team, then moved into the governor's office as a special assistant and political adviser.
He said his top priorities as party chairman would be getting U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning re-elected, carrying the state a second time for President Bush, and gaining seats in the General Assembly, where Republicans control the Senate but are a 64-36 minority in the House.
McCarthy was a lobbyist in the firm headed by Terry McBrayer, who is on the Democratic National Committee and is a former state Democratic chairman. He and McBrayer enjoyed a good personal relationship, McCarthy said. "But the bottom line is, we've always disagreed on policy."
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