Fletcher Wins Ky. GOP Gubernatorial Nomination

Posted May 21, 2003 at 10:16am

Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) and state Attorney General Ben Chandler will face off in the Nov. 4 race for governor in Kentucky.

Fletcher overcame a legal challenge to win 57 percent of the Republican primary vote Tuesday.

His Republican primary opponent, Steve Nunn, a state Representative, tried to get Fletcher’s bid tossed out after Fletcher was forced to find a new running mate. His first, Hunter Bates, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was disqualified for not meeting the state’s residency requirement.

But the state Supreme Court declared Fletcher and his new running mate, Steve Pence, eligible May 7.

Fletcher won 103 of the state’s 120 counties.

Nunn finished third with 13 percent, carrying five counties. Former Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson finished second with 28 percent of the vote, carrying 12 counties. State Sen. Virgil Moore claimed 1 percent of the primary vote.

Fletcher, the 50-year-old, three-term Representative of Kentucky’s 6th district, was on track to spend $1.7 million — more than any other Republican hopeful — to win the nomination, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Chandler, Fletcher’s opponent in the general election, is the grandson of A.B. “Happy” Chandler, a popular former governor who also served in the Senate and as Major League Baseball commissioner. Chandler squeaked out his win with 50.2 percent of the Democratic vote.

He was bruised in the primary by wealthy businessman Bruce Lunsford, who dumped almost $8 million into the race before dropping out Friday and throwing his weight behind Kentucky House Speaker Jody Richards.

Richards finished second with 46.5 percent, followed by political unknown Otis Hensley Jr., a demolition worker who won 3.3 percent of the vote.

The 43-year-old Chandler first won statewide office in 1991 when he was elected state auditor.

He will try to succeed the term-limited and scandal-plagued Democratic Gov. Paul Patton.

Voter turnout was low; only 18 percent of registered Democrats cast ballots and 17 percent of Republicans went to the polls.