Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Prosecutor joins GOP ticket


Pence gained prominence investigating Democrats

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Steve Pence, a prosecutor who has investigated corruption charges against state officials, became Ernie Fletcher's gubernatorial running mate Monday, said he joined the candidate's race because he's disgusted with events in the capital.

"I know that Frankfort needs change, and I know that the top leadership needs to change," Pence said.

"Some of us have been disgusted to see many of the things that have gone on there," the Republican said.

PENCE FILE
Age: 49
Born: Louisville
Education: Bachelor's in business, Eastern Kentucky University, 1976; Master's in business administration, EKU, 1978; law degree, University of Kentucky, 1981.
Professional experience: Kentucky assistant attorney general, 1981-82; assistant U.S. attorney, 1988-1995; private practice in Louisville, 1995-2001; appointed U.S. attorney for Western District of Kentucky, September 2001.
Military: Lt. Col., judge advocate general corps, U.S. Army Reserve; active duty 1982-87.
Personal: Married to attorney Ruth Ann Cox. Five children.
Pence, who until Sunday was U.S. attorney for the western half of the state, replaces Hunter Bates, whom a judge declared ineligible because he failed to meet the residency requirement.

Pence entered the picture suddenly. Last week, he telephoned James Milliman, an attorney for Fletcher's organization, to let it be known that he was interested in filling the No. 2 spot.

"I was surprised and very happy," Milliman said. "His name had never been mentioned."

Fletcher, the congressman for central Kentucky's 6th District, has been trying to position himself as a reform candidate who will "clean up the mess in Frankfort" from 32 years of Democratic administrations.

Pence gained prominence for prosecuting or investigating Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and Don Blandford, former speaker of the House. He also has been involved in the investigation of whether Gov. Paul Patton misused his office during an extramarital affair.

Fletcher said Pence's expression of interest "immediately caught our attention." The pair met in Washington last week.

"It seemed like just a perfect fit," Fletcher said. "We made the decision at that point - a decision I just couldn't feel better about."

The announcement was delayed until Monday to give Pence time to notify his staff, federal justice officials and some key supporters, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who nominated him for U.S. attorney in 2001. Pence said he did not discuss his plan with McConnell ahead of time.

As with Bates, Fletcher said he promised "a very significant role" for Pence if elected, though both declined to go into details.

Pence was appointed U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky in September 2001. He had been in private law practice since 1995. Before that, he was an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted some of the defendants in a legislative bribery and influence-peddling scandal known by its FBI code name, Operation Boptrot.

Defendants included former House speaker Blandford, and Bruce Wilkinson, nephew and appointments secretary of then-Gov. Wallace Wilkinson. Both were convicted of taking bribes from lobbyists.

As U.S. attorney, Pence declined to file criminal charges but sued Henry, an orthopedist as well as lieutenant governor, for what Pence called "systematic misbilling" of Medicare and Medicaid. Henry is fighting the allegation.

Fletcher is among four Republicans on the May 20 primary ballot. The others are Rebecca Jackson, Virgil Moore and Steve Nunn, whose campaign is still pursuing a court battle to keep Fletcher from being able to replace Bates on his ticket.

Four candidates also are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Related story: Senators will choose prosecutor




"GREAT NEIGHBORHOODS" SERIES
Guide to Hamilton

LAURA PULFER COLUMN
Serving honorably at home

CINCINNATI-HAMILTON COUNTY
Boycott demands consolidated
Judge blasts city's motion, lets Black United Front withdraw
Thomas' mom still seeking closure
Troubled apartment complex purchased
Firm begins search to head UC
Police make 117 arrests in Westwood
Bridge construction begins

TRISTATE REACTS TO WAR ( Latest war news )
Grenade attack victim wishes he could return to war
Dog tags show visible support
Keeping in touch with Tristate military
Military items to be displayed
218,931 Guard, reservists serving

AROUND THE TRISTATE
Road builders seek new ways
Tristate A.M. Report
Good News: Kids raise $31,867 for cancer victim

BUTLER COUNTY
Unwanted horses saved
Court overturns ex-judge's conviction
Suspect used stun gun, woman says
Fairfield seeks levy renewal
Poultry customers lost without landmark bird

WARREN COUNTY
Warren Co. leaders push for college
Warren Co. program spared cuts for now
Deerfield Road neighbors oppose sidewalks

OHIO
State's fee proposal, cuts criticized
House ponders tax increase or gambling
Ohio Moments: Music Hall dedicated 125 years ago

KENTUCKY
Prosecutor joins GOP ticket
Senators will choose prosecutor
Williamstown water found in violation
N.Ky. cops get the lowdown on suburban youth gangs
Around the Commonwealth
Four groups file suit to block forest land swap
Jury deadlocks in ex-official's case