Saturday, September 13, 2003

Fletcher campaign is first with TV ads



By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The first television commercial of the fall campaign for Ernie Fletcher went on the air Friday, a 30-second spot in which his wife introduces the Republican candidate to audiences in western Kentucky.

The "bio ad" features Glenna Fletcher giving a rundown of her husband's career highlights - Air Force fighter pilot, engineer, physician, lay minister and 6th District congressman.

Her summation: "With all the healing and changes we need in Frankfort, Ernie's had the right experiences in life to be our governor." It plays on the main theme of Fletcher's campaign - that it's time for a change after 32 straight years of Democratic administrations.

The candidate is seen but not heard - walking down a street among a crowd of pedestrians, donning a stethoscope and ending, portrait fashion, with his wife, children and grandchildren.

The ad began airing on stations in Paducah, Hopkinsville, Bowling Green and Evansville, Ind. "It's clearly an important area. We wanted to ... start sharing Ernie's background with the folks in western Kentucky," campaign spokesman Wes Irvin said.

The Fletcher campaign ad nearly coincided with the debut of a separate "issue ad" funded by the Republican Governors Association. It promotes Fletcher as a "modern-day Kentucky hero" who will "change Frankfort." It does not specifically ask anyone to vote for Fletcher or against his Democratic opponent, Ben Chandler.

But Chandler's campaign manager said the ad lacks only "the magic words," such as "Vote for Fletcher," to qualify as an out-and-out campaign ad.

"There is no 'issue' in that ad. The only issue is: Ernie Fletcher should be elected governor. ... This is an expressed advocacy ad if I ever saw one," Mark Nickolas said at a news conference.

Nickolas said Chandler's campaign would ask the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to investigate the ad. The campaign contends the ad amounts to a contribution to Fletcher's campaign - an illegal one, since the governors association takes corporate contributions, Nickolas said.

Corporations cannot legally contribute directly to candidates in Kentucky, and the law limits contributions by individuals and political parties to $1,000. There is no limit on what donors of any kind can give to organizations such as the governors association.

Fletcher campaign manager Daniel Groves said there was "zero" coordination with the governors association.

Sarah Jackson, executive director of the election registry, said she could not predict what the registry board would do. She said the registry has no jurisdiction over ads that do not "expressly advocate election or defeat of a candidate."




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