Tuesday, September 9, 2003

State office-seekers criticize foes in TV debates

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Richie Farmer's celebrity as a former University of Kentucky basketball player, and whether he is relying on it to be elected commissioner of agriculture, was an issue Monday night in a televised forum with his opponent, Alice Baesler.

"This election is not a basketball game," said Baesler, who has a Kentucky basketball connection of her own - husband Scotty was a captain of the Wildcats - but also years of experience running a cattle and tobacco farm in Fayette County.

"We need to take it off the basketball court and into the plowed field," Baesler told a Kentucky Educational Television audience.

Farmer, a Republican from Manchester, is in the financial services business but graduated from UK's College of Agriculture. He said he would "surround myself with quality people" in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

Farmer also objected to any implication that he has no ideas of his own. "I have a positive agenda for agriculture," including plans to promote aquaculture and develop an array of farm markets, Farmer said.

Baesler, a Democrat, worked in the Department of Agriculture before becoming a candidate. The forum with Farmer and Baesler was the first of two Monday night on KET. It was followed by 30 minutes with the candidates for secretary of state - Republican Trey Grayson and Democrat Russ Maple.

Grayson charged that Maple used his former office as a Jefferson County commissioner as leverage for raising campaign money from developers. Maple said the charge was false.

The two agreed on most matters involving the workings of the secretary of state, who by law is Kentucky's top election official. Both pledged to try to increase voter registration and turnout.

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