Sunday, September 14, 2003

Ky. Dems promised national party help

By Mike Torralba
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe pumped up state party members on Saturday, framing the governor's race as a prelude to an upset of President Bush in 2004.

McAuliffe promised to pay special attention to Kentucky in the 2004 campaign if Ben Chandler is elected governor in November.

"In order to win next year, we have to win this year," McAuliffe said, drawing a crackling round of applause from the audience of several hundred at a state Democratic dinner.

He presented the state Democratic party with a check for $125,000.

Susan Westrom, chairwoman of the state party, said the money would go to "coordinating campaigns," including door-to-door drives.

McAuliffe took the podium after Chandler. The state attorney general repeated his campaign mantra that his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher and the Bush administration are responsible for the loss of jobs in Kentucky.

Fletcher has dismissed Chandler's claims, saying Kentucky needs a change in leadership.

The Republican Governors Association has aired a TV "issue ad" in western Kentucky praising Fletcher, but not specifically asking anyone to vote for Fletcher or against Chandler.

The Democratic campaign, saying the governors' association takes corporate contributions, has contended that the ad amounts to a contribution to Fletcher's campaign.

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

Fletcher's campaign denied any coordination between the campaign and the governors' association.

Chandler said the ad "violates the spirit of the law."

But he said he would not rule out similar ads of his own in the future.

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