Friday, May 16, 2003

Chandler ad goes for emotions

Says patient abused at former nursing home of Lunsford

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Democrat Ben Chandler is airing a scathing commercial that hammers gubernatorial opponent Bruce Lunsford for the way a nursing home owned by Lunsford's former company allegedly mistreated a patient.

The commercial, running on statewide television, features Martha "Jeri" Stevens of Louisville. She claims her mother was physically abused while a resident at a Vencor Inc. nursing home, Liberty Care Center in Casey County, in 1997. Lunsford owned Vencor at the time.

"My mother was abused in a Bruce Lunsford nursing home. Two broken fingers, skin tears, malnourished, blatant abuse," Stevens says in the commercial. "Bruce Lunsford didn't care that my mother was abused. ... She was just a dollar figure to him."

The commercial was one of two that began airing Wednesday. The other is calculated to emphasize what Chandler has done as Kentucky attorney general, said Mark Riddle, Chandler's campaign manager.

Lunsford's running mate, Barbara Edelman, said the ad about Liberty Care Center was a "gross distortion." Edelman said an administrator at Liberty Care Center discovered the abuse, notified authorities and started an investigation. Liberty was one of 360 Vencor facilities at the time.

"There is absolutely no factual basis for this statement. There's nothing to say that Bruce was even aware of this woman," Edelman said in a telephone interview. "The truth is that Bruce had no opinion of this woman one way or another."

Lunsford's camp earlier said Chandler was exploiting a "family tragedy" for political gain. Chandler denied it. He said Stevens, the woman in the commercial, came to him.

The administrator, Jennifer Mateyoke, said the employee was fired and pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal abuse. Mateyoke said she helped get the employee's confession. "Throughout the office of attorney general's investigation, we willingly assisted these officials," Mateyoke said in a statement.

Lunsford has begun running his own TV ad in Louisville and Northern Kentucky about legalizing casino gambling. Lunsford has said he would support six to eight casinos.

Meanwhile Thursday, House Speaker Jody Richards ventured into Chandler's political back yard, making stops in Woodford County. Richards met with supporters at a Versailles restaurant before heading on to a second restaurant in Lawrenceburg.

Richards said he thought the campaign attack ads between Lunsford and Chandler would work to his benefit on Tuesday - Election Day.

"If people are telling me the truth, they're really sick and tired of it. I've had people just say, 'I'm not going to vote for those other two guys,' "Richards said.

Among Republican candidates, Rebecca Jackson had scheduled campaign stops in Campbellsville. Steve Nunn was scheduled to campaign in Jackson and Perry counties.

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