Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Lt. Gov. hopefuls exchange TV barbs

Heleringer hits at Rudolph's money

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - In a face-off between candidates for lieutenant governor Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television., Bob Heleringer dismissed rival Robbie Rudolph, a millionaire businessman, as someone "on the ticket to write a check."

Heleringer said he and his Republican slate mate running for governor, Steve Nunn, were more qualified by virtue of legislative experience than Rudolph and his gubernatorial running mate, Rebecca Jackson.

Rudolph countered that Nunn and Heleringer "have been a part of Frankfort. ... You all represent Frankfort."

Two other Republican candidates were absent from the show. Steve Pence, an Army reservist and running mate of Ernie Fletcher, was activated for a week of military duty in Alabama. Don Bell, running mate of Virgil Moore, effectively quit the campaign before it ever started.

The most pointed exchange of the program was set up when Rudolph, who made a personal fortune in the tire business in Murray, asked why Heleringer had previously called Jackson and himself unqualified to lead the state.

"I'm sorry that comes as a blow to you, Robbie," said Heleringer, a former legislator who often employed an acerbic wit and devastating sarcasm in countless fights in the Kentucky House. "Really, you're on the ticket to write a check. ... We know state government forward and backward." Earlier, Heleringer remarked that he "didn't buy my way onto this stage."

Rudolph said Heleringer "would rather have (the running mate) be a failure in business, I guess."

Jackson, the former clerk and judge-executive of Jefferson County, previously disclosed that Rudolph recently put some of his own money into their campaign.

Rudolph declined to say how much. He told a questioner to wait until Friday, when the candidates file new campaign finance reports.

Rudolph, who seemed to take Heleringer's shots in good humor, said his business success was a plus for Jackson's ticket, as it would be for the state if he and Jackson are elected.

He said he started a company, Rudolph Tire, that now has 50 employees, and he has vast experience with government regulators and group health insurers. "Rebecca Jackson and I will team together to bring honest, conservative change to Kentucky," he said.

On other topics, Heleringer said he and Nunn favored a constitutional amendment to let voters decide whether to legalize new forms of gambling to help the horse industry. Other slates "have turned their back on the racing industry in this state," he said.

Rudolph said he and Jackson "cannot live with expanded gambling."

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Lt. Gov. hopefuls exchange TV barbs