Thursday, May 23, 2002

GOP seizes on land dispute as campaign issue

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Republican Party says a property dispute that involves a gas company in which Lois Combs Weinberg is an officer shows another side to the Democratic senatorial hopeful.

        The GOP called a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol to highlight the dispute, which Chairwoman Ellen Williams said rebutted Ms. Weinberg's campaign ads that she will represent the “little people.”

        Ms. Williams said she was interested in “letting the voters of Kentucky know that what (Ms. Weinberg) says is not necessarily what she does.”

        A spokeswoman for the Weinberg campaign said the event showed how worried Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is about his re-election.

        Kentucky Democratic Party spokeswoman Susan Dixen was more blunt in her assessment of the event.

        “It's just another one of Mitch McConnell's dirty tricks,” Ms. Dixen said.

        Ms. Williams said it was coincidental that the news conference was called the week before the primary election, in which Ms. Weinberg is favored to win the Democratic nomination to oppose Mr. McConnell. Ms. Weinberg's primary opponent is Tom Barlow, a former one-term congressman from Paducah.

        Mr. McConnell knew about the news conference but was too busy to take part himself, Ms. Williams said. Ms. Williams said she will not be Mr. McConnell's “attack dog” in the coming election campaign.

        Rose Baker said she is not interested in the politics of her dispute but wants an end to the property dispute. Her attorney, Susan Lawson of Harlan, said Ms. Baker was “happy to have this forum to tell her story.”

        The disagreement involves a gas well located on property in Knott County that Ms. Baker said has belonged to her family for generations. In a lawsuit pending since 1997, ownership of the gas has been in dispute between Ms. Baker and members of her family and the Clean Gas Co.

        Clean Gas Co. is a family owned company. Lois Weinberg is corporate secretary. Spokeswoman Betsy Hatfield said the property dispute dates back 50 years, long before Ms. Weinberg's involvement.


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- GOP seizes on land dispute as campaign issue
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