Tuesday, April 1, 2003

GOP slate may appear in court

State says some votes already cast

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - An attorney for the state Monday said he will try to bring all the Republican candidates for governor into the court fight over Ernie Fletcher and his running mate.

Assistant Deputy Attorney General Scott White, representing the secretary of state, told a judge that important decisions remain to be made about the primary ballot, which has been printed with the name of Fletcher and former running mate Hunter Bates. In addition, many absentee ballots have been distributed.

"There are certain issues as to votes already cast - how they should be counted," White told Franklin County Circuit Judge William L. Graham. "I think we've got to get everybody in," White said.

Bates last week was declared ineligible to run for lieutenant governor on a slate with Fletcher, the 6th District congressman. A judge in Oldham County ruled that Bates had lived for most of the last six years in Virginia, not in Kentucky as the state constitution requires.

A rival slate, Steve Nunn and Bob Heleringer, wants Fletcher declared ineligible as well. To that end, Graham has been asked to issue an injunction to prevent Secretary of State John Y. Brown III, the state's top election official, from allowing Fletcher to pick a substitute running mate. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Graham's courtroom today.

White said questions about the ballot affect all four Republican slates, and he will seek to have gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Jackson and Virgil Moore brought into the case. Jackson, a former clerk and judge-executive of Jefferson County, was dubious. "I don't understand the logic," she said in a telephone interview. The outcome of the ballot "is a matter of law and a judge will have to decide it."

Moore, a state senator from Leitchfield, said "I don't necessarily agree" with White's reasoning.

Other developments:

• Nunn said Attorney General Ben Chandler should "step aside from the court case" because Chandler, a Democrat, also is running for governor. "He's got a lot of conflicts of interest he's dealing with," Nunn said in a telephone interview.

His campaign spokesman, Larry Bisig, later said the campaign was satisfied that the attorney general would follow court orders.

• Fletcher plans to delay selection of a new running mate until after the hearing on Fletcher's own eligibility to run.

Nunn and Heleringer contend Fletcher disqualified himself by registering as a slate with a running mate - Bates - who was ineligible.

"We're going to let them have their little courtroom show," Fletcher campaign spokesman Wes Irvin said. "We're not going to let our announcement of a running mate be disrupted by their antics."

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