Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Nunn wants to 'move on'

Candidate won't fire lawyer who compared foe to Arafat

By Lori Burling
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Nunn said Tuesday that he changed his mind and will not fire an attorney who compared opponent Ernie Fletcher to Yasser Arafat.

"He recognizes his mistakes," Nunn said at a news conference.

Sam Manly, a Louisville attorney, made the comparison in an appellate brief in a lawsuit in which Nunn's running mate, Bob Heleringer, seeks to have Fletcher removed from the ballot for the May 20 primary.

Heleringer - and by extension Nunn - claims Fletcher is ineligible because his first running mate, Hunter Bates, was disqualified for failing to meet constitutional residency requirements.

A Franklin Circuit Court judge ruled in Fletcher's favor. Manly's brief to the Court of Appeals invoked Arafat to impugn Fletcher's credibility on the witness stand.

"Partisan politics aside, Ernie Fletcher, although rather more personable, was no more credible than Yasser Arafat," Manly wrote.

Nunn, caught by surprise, apologized to Fletcher on Saturday and said he had ordered the attorney fired. On Tuesday, Nunn said he had changed his mind. "We're going to move on," he said.

Fletcher's campaign spokesman, Wes Irvin, said he was "disappointed that Steve didn't keep his word on that." Fletcher said Nunn hurt his own credibility.

Also Tuesday, Nunn questioned the whereabouts of Fletcher and another Republican rival, Rebecca Jackson.

"I ask the people to name one substantial issue they've offered a solution for," he said. He then ticked off 16 forums within the last 40 days that he said Fletcher, a congressman from Lexington, had not attended.

Nunn said he suspected Fletcher and Jackson had attended more fund-raisers than events where state issues have been discussed.

Nunn was the only Republican candidate at a forum on Medicaid and long-term care that AARP and two other organizations sponsored Monday night in Frankfort.

Irvin said Fletcher was at "town hall" meetings, not fund-raisers, that had been scheduled in Bullitt and Shelby counties since January. The AARP invitation came later, and the organization would not permit Fletcher to send a stand-in, Irvin said.

Fletcher has had to "strike that balance" between congressional duties in Washington and the demands of campaigning, Irvin said.

Jackson had agreed to participate in the AARP forum but canceled for the funeral of her mother-in-law.

Nunn also said Tuesday that campaign spots on radio and television would begin statewide soon but offered no more details.

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