Kentucky's Gov. Patton Favored To Win Four-Way Race Nov 2
By Angie Muhs, Special to Stateline
Kentucky's one term-and-out rule no longer applies to the governor's office, thanks to a 1991 change in the state constitution.
Most political observers expect incumbent Gov. Paul Patton, a Democrat, to become the first beneficiary of succession. Patton faces three challengers in his re-election bid, but all are trailing him in funding and name recognition. None of his opponents has ever held political office. Patton is being challenged by Republican Peppy Martin, a publicist from Bonnieville, and by Gatewood Galbraith, a Lexington lawyer who is running on the Reform Party ticket. The Natural Law Party also is fielding a slate headed by Nailah Jumoke-Yarbrough, a Louisville caf owner who is believed to be the first African-American woman to run for governor.
The four candidates and their running mates held their first and only campaign debate on Kentucky Educational Television Monday night.
Patton had raised roughly $1 million for his re-election campaign roughly 20 times as much as his opponents -- by the state's Oct. 4 deadline for fund-raising. The Patton-Lt. Gov. Steve Henry ticket is using TV advertising, and the governor has conducted a campaign tour that he says will take him to all of the state's 120 counties.
Patton believes his greatest threat is low turnout. Kim Geveden, his campaign manager, says the campaign is hoping for turnout of 26 to 28 percent. "Clearly our biggest challenge is energizing Patton-Henry supporters to go to the polls on Election Day and not take the election for granted," he says.
Patton sees the election as a referendum on his first term, which was marked by massive changes that he successfully pushed in the state's workers' compensation laws and public higher education system. Last spring, Patton floated the idea of bringing casino gambling to Kentucky. He also mused publicly about raising the state gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon.
Patton is quick to say he has not endorsed either idea, though his opponents have blasted him for them.
Galbraith, the Reform Party candidate, has never held office but enjoys some name recognition fueled by his past activism in support of hemp and marijuana legalization and his two past runs for governor in Democratic primaries.
Saying he fears voter fraud in the Nov. 2 election, Galbraith two weeks ago called for former President Jimmy Carter to monitor the vote in Kentucky. Carter ignored him.
Galbraith has blasted Patton for the changes in workers' comp and has criticized the current administration's economic development incentive programs. His campaign also has taken a strong pro-gun stance.
He had initially intended to mount a write-in campaign before hooking up with the Reform Party. He has attempted to use Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's upset win as a model. Ventura's campaign manager, Doug Friedline, has traveled to Kentucky several times to advise Galbraith.
However, it appears unlikely that Ventura himself will campaign in Kentucky, as Galbraith's campaign had hoped. (Galbraith did, however, attract support from singer Willie Nelson, who played a concert on his behalf.)
Several prominent Republicans decided to pass up the race this year, leaving Martin, whose candidacy has led some GOP leaders to privately worry that she may trail Galbraith. Martin's bid got off to a rocky start; in the May primary, she barely edged a political novice who didn't campaign. Then, at the August Fancy Farm picnic in Western Kentucky, the traditional kick-off to fall races, Martin was snubbed by many fellow Republicans, who barely mentioned her in their speeches.
Martin whose only prior campaign was an unsuccessful race for the Kentucky House has been highly critical of Patton. She has said her priorities would be to repeal many of the changes Kentucky made in its health insurance laws in order to draw more companies to do business in the state. Martin also said she would cut taxes and revisit workers' comp, which she accuses Patton of "ruining."
Martin said she has been running a grassroots campaign and isn't disturbed by the disparity in fund-raising. She said she will spend about $50,000. "I've been a marketer my whole career, so I think I can spend it wisely," she said.