Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Ex-Gov. Carroll wins Frankfort seat

State Legislature: Health insurance plan played role in election

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A former Democratic governor beat the brother of the current Republican governor Tuesday to win a state Senate district representing thousands of state employees.

Former Gov. Julian Carroll resurrected his political career with an overwhelming victory over Harold Fletcher, whose younger brother is Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

With 86 percent of precincts reporting, Carroll had nearly two-thirds of the votes.

In the campaign's closing months, the governor released a health insurance proposal that sent teachers to the brink of a statewide strike. Lawmakers from both parties were taking political heat from their constituents over the matter.

The governor called lawmakers into a special session - and took incumbents off of the campaign trails - in early October to deal exclusively with the health insurance issue. After just more than two weeks in session, at the taxpayers' cost of about $55,000 per day, lawmakers eventually settled on a plan that sweetened health insurance benefits for about 229,000 public school employees and state workers.

"He was the governor's brother, and we're state employees right now," Melissa Koger, a 26-year-old teacher from Versailles said. "... The legislature figured it out in 10 days, when (the governor) has had all year."

Republicans have countered that the General Assembly's final plan had support from both parties.

The governor said Tuesday he didn't think voters would still be concerned about the health insurance issue. While it may have interfered with some incumbents' ability to campaign during the final weeks, it should not have hurt any momentum, Ernie Fletcher said.

"I don't think it's going to have any effect," he said.

Meanwhile, Democrats also maintained at least two Senate seats Tuesday, as incumbent Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, defeated his Republican opponent, Chris Ratliff. Democrats also held onto the seat of former state Sen. David Karem, D-Louisville, as Democrat Denise Harper Angel of Louisville beat Ron Burrell, a Louisville Republican.

Heading into Tuesday's election, the Senate had six open seats because of retirements, redistricting and two incumbents' primary losses. In the Senate there were four Democrats and two Republicans facing re-election opposition, leaving eight unopposed incumbents virtually guaranteed another term.

In the House, there were 47 incumbents running unopposed Tuesday - 26 Democrats and 21 Republicans.

Lawmakers' inability to pass a state budget also lingered as a potential issue during the election in which half the Senate and all 100 House seats were on the ballot.

The General Assembly adjourned in April without passing a state budget. Candidates on both sides used the issue as campaign fodder against their opponents.

When the General Assembly adjourned, they were hopelessly deadlocked over what to do about . Ernie Fletcher's proposal to overhaul the state's tax code.

Republicans insisted the state budget and the tax proposal were tied together, while Democrats wanted to first pass a budget.

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