Monday, September 8, 2003

Energy hot button in Ky. gov. campaign

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Energy policy is not usually a hot topic in Kentucky gubernatorial races. But that was before the Aug. 14 blackout that hit the East Coast, Michigan, Canada and northeastern Ohio put a national focus on the cost and delivery of electricity.

Now, Democratic governor candidate Ben Chandler is attacking the energy policy record of his Republican opponent - three-term Lexington Congressman Ernie Fletcher.

With U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney scheduled to be in Cincinnati today to help Fletcher and the Kentucky Republican Party raise campaign money, Democrats have ratcheted up their attacks.

Cheney is the point man on energy policy in the Bush administration and Fletcher has supported the administration's energy bill that is moving through Congress.

Democrats plan to protest Cheney's visit. The Kentucky Democratic Party has been using e-mail to recruit protesters, who are to gather at 9:30 a.m. on Fountain Square. The fund-raiser will be a block away at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

Democrats contend that Bush's energy bill will deregulate delivery of electricity and drive up rates in a state that has some of the lowest rates in the nation.

"Ernie Fletcher voted for legislation in Congress that will deregulate the whole energy business," said Chandler campaign manager Mark Nickolas, noting that as attorney general Chandler lobbied federal lawmakers to oppose federal deregulation.

In an interview last week and during a gubernatorial forum in Erlanger, Fletcher said while he did vote for an original version of the Bush energy plan, he might still vote against the final version.

"I'm not going to vote for a bill that's going to raise our energy rates," Fletcher said at the forum.

"Apparently you do not know what you are voting on," Chandler told Fletcher.



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