Friday, March 28, 2003

Bates' hometown is disappointed

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. - People who watched Hunter Bates grow up in the southeastern Kentucky town of Williamsburg were disappointed by the turn of events that caused him to abandon his bid to become lieutenant governor.

"He would have done such a good job for us," said Sheriff Lawrence Hodge. "I've known him all his life. He's a good guy. Impeccable."

A judge ordered that the Whitley County native's name be stricken from the Republican primary ballot because he had not lived in Kentucky long enough to be a candidate. Instead of appealing, Bates chose to take himself out of the running Thursday.

The mood was somber among his hometown supporters as Bates prepared for a news conference to announce that he was bowing out.

"I think Hunter has taken the high road to let the campaign go on without him," said Mayor Bill Nighbert.

"He could have fought it out, and maybe prevailed. But he felt this was the right thing to do for the campaign."

Judy Brock, a secretary in the courthouse, said people feel that Bates was by far the best qualified candidate for lieutenant governor, despite the residency question.

"This was going to be the starting point of his political career," she said. "It won't be the end. He'll be back."

Bates, 35, was to run as a slate with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher.

Williamsburg automobile dealer Paul Steely said Bates' departure from the ticket is not good for southeastern Kentucky.

"He could have been such a big help," said Steely, Bates' step-grandfather. "Hunter is such a fine man. He's an asset to this part of Kentucky."

Hodge agreed. "We need help down here," he said. "We need funding. And Hunter was going to be my direct line to get it."

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