By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - On a day when the Kentucky gubernatorial race took a dramatic turn, candidates from the three Republican camps made their campaign pitches to Northern Kentucky's leading business group.
By noon Friday, word had not yet spread to the posh Metropolitan Club that Democrat Bruce Lunsford, a Northern Kentucky native and wealthy Louisville businessman who had spent $8 million of his own money on the race, had dropped out of contention.
But since it was an all-Republican card at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce gubernatorial forum - Democrats appeared last month - it was unlikely that revelations about Lunsford's departure would have changed much of the stump speaking during the 45-minute program.
With just four days until the primary, the candidates played to their strengths before a crowd of about 100.
Steve Pence, the former federal prosecutor running for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher, talked mainly about his running mate's diverse political and professional background.
Fletcher, Pence pointed out, has not only served two terms as a congressman from Kentucky's Sixth District in and around Lexington, but has also served in the Kentucky House of Representatives, was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and worked as a doctor and an engineer before entering politics.
"We need someone who has done something other than draw a government paycheck most of their life," Pence said. "Someone who has shown they have the ability to learn multiple and complex disciplines."
Rebecca Jackson, a gubernatorial candidate running on a ticket with western Kentucky businessman Robbie Rudolph, talked mostly about how she changed the culture and performance of her two stints in elected office, first as Jefferson County Clerk and later as county judge-executive.
That experience will be important in making state government operate more efficiently.
"We do have to change, and we have to make bold changes," Jackson said.
"When we look at what we need in Frankfort, we need a governor who understands that we first go in and make government run efficiently. I've done that."
Former state lawmaker Bob Heleringer of Louisville is running as lieutenant governor on a ticket with current state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Steve Nunn, whose father is former Gov. Louie Nunn, the last Republican to hold the governor's office.
Heleringer delivered the strongest policy statement and the harshest rebuke of another campaign when he promoted legalizing casino style gambling in Kentucky. He and Nunn say allowing race tracks to operate video slots and other casino games will help the racing industry compete against riverboat gambling in neighboring states while providing needed revenue for the state.
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