Thursday, April 17, 2003

Candidates for governor campaign in N.Ky.

Lunsford, Richards outline their platforms during stops

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EDGEWOOD - Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bruce Lunsford and Jody Richards rolled across Northern Kentucky on Wednesday using creative modes of transportation to deliver vastly different messages to voters.

Northern Kentucky native Lunsford and his lieutenant governor running mate - lawyer Barbara Edelman - made stops in Newport and Edgewood in a red, white and blue recreational vehicle dubbed the Fed Up Express.

The RV was named to reflect the campaign's major platform that Frankfort needs an administration of political outsiders who have not held elected office. Lunsford is a businessman most closely associated with running Vencor, a once high-flying health care corporation in Louisville that ran into financial and regulatory problems before emerging from bankruptcy reorganization in 2001. Edelman was a federal prosecutor and is now in private practice.

"I think about what kind of shape education is in," Edelman said during a brief stop early Monday evening at Edgewood's President's Park, where she and Lunsford met with about 30 supporters.

"I think that education is no longer a priority," she said. "The folks in Frankfort are far more interested in the payback system ... and because Bruce is paying for this campaign out of his own pocket, we won't be beholden to anybody. We just won't owe anybody anything, we won't have made commitments that we can't keep, we won't make decisions on who contributed and who didn't. It's going to be about good government."

"That's what this is all about," said Lunsford, a multimillionaire who grew up in Piner in southern Kenton County and is bankrolling his campaign. "This is not a career track for me. I want to change it and make it better because (Frankfort) has been controlled by the career politicians and special-interest groups for so long they are just incapable of making decisions on just what's right."

Earlier they campaigned at Newport on the Levee and are scheduled to greet voters at 9:15 this morning at the Bob Evans in Florence as part of a five-day campaign swing through more than 20 communities.

Richards, the speaker of the Kentucky House, delivered a far more detailed and upbeat message, focusing mainly on education during a late-morning stop he made at Holmes High School in Covington.

Richards continued to maintain that he is the only candidate focused on issues while Lunsford and Attorney General Ben Chandler, the other major Democratic candidate in the race, are trading attacks in a growing series of blistering television ads.

"They talk about each other," Richards said. "I talk about the issues."

In addition to Covington, Richards also made stops in Maysville, Morehead and Ashland as part of his four-day school bus swing that will make more than 20 campaign visits by week's end.

At each stop he detailed his education platform, which includes:

• Enhancing teacher recruitment by offering potential teachers $5,000 low-interest loans to help purchase homes in Kentucky.

• Offering teachers $2,000 stipends for continuing education.

• Fund full-time kindergarten in public schools.

• Lower student/teacher ratios in the first four primary grades.

• Start programs to encourage more parent involvement and mentoring in schools.

Richards has been speaker of the Kentucky House for eight years, the longest tenure of any speaker in state history. During his time as the House leader Kentucky has experienced a "golden age," Richards said.

Using U.S. Census and other economic data, Richards said Kentucky has the third fastest growing per capita income, is reducing poverty rates faster than all but three states, has the lowest electric rates in the nation and is the third-largest producer of automobiles.

"We have so many good things, and really a great foundation we need to build on," Richards said. "We don't need to tear the state down, we need to move forward."

Richards said he is also no "career politician," saying he operates a Bowling Green book company in addition to being a state lawmaker. But he also said some experience in government is vital to the being governor.

"If you want to make changes in state government, you need a person with the kind of experience I have, not one with no real experience," Richards said.

Lunsford does have some government experienced, serving as the secretary of commerce in the late 1970s administration of Gov. John Y. Brown. He said he has come up with specific ideas, including increasing teacher pay by 10 percent and letting the voters decide if casinos should be legalized.

"I don't see how you get into the other issues in depth until you really change the way government works," he said. "And that's what I'm going to in Frankfort."


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