From the Kentucky Post:
Gov. Ernie Fletcher and a big lineup of candidates wanting his job covered lots of ground and shook every hand in reach Monday as their campaigns neared the finish line amid predictions of a low turnout for today's primary election.
Candidates traveled by air and ground to reach as many voters as possible in the last full day of a campaign overshadowed by Fletcher's fight for political survival. The governor faced two challengers, while six Democrats competed for their party's gubernatorial nomination.
Voters had plenty of down-the-ticket choices as they prepared to select nominees for attorney general, state treasurer, secretary of state and agriculture commissioner. Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who oversees Kentucky elections, had predicted 85 percent of Kentucky's registered voters won't bother to go the polls today. His spokesman, Les Fugate, was optimistic Monday that turnout could be slightly higher than earlier forecast, noting an upswing in absentee balloting statewide in the past week. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.
Scott Lasley, a political scientist at Western Kentucky University, said the campaign had been "surprisingly lackadaisical," considering the drama of a seemingly vulnerable incumbent facing a strong challenge within his party, plus a competitive race among Democrats. Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, agreed, saying, "For whatever reason, it just has not seemed to have gotten the public really excited."
Kentuckians won't have the weather as an excuse for not turning out to vote. Forecasters predicted mostly sunny conditions statewide today with highs in the 80s. In the Republican primary, Fletcher's rivals are former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup and Paducah businessman Billy Harper, his finance chairman in the 2003 campaign. The challengers claimed Fletcher was irreparably harmed by his indictment last year on charges that he illegally rewarded political supporters with state jobs. The charges were dismissed in a negotiated agreement with prosecutors.
Fletcher has maintained the special grand jury's investigation was politically motivated. He claims that Attorney General Greg Stumbo, now the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lunsford, pursued the charges for political gain. Fletcher led in a recent statewide poll in The Courier-Journal of Louisville. The governor said it was a reflection that voters are looking past the investigation. "People realize the true mark of leadership is results, and we've gotten outstanding results," Fletcher said Monday between stops during a multi-city fly-around of Kentucky.
Fletcher said he was hopeful of a clear-cut victory without a runoff. Unless someone gets at least 40 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will compete in a June 26 runoff. Northup, who campaigned in heavily Republican areas of rural Kentucky before a rally in Louisville, her hometown, said she would tap into dissatisfaction with Fletcher. "I feel like there's still a lot of people that haven't made up their minds, but they don't want Ernie Fletcher," she said.
Harper, who logged 42,000 miles on his campaign bus in recent months, had stops in GOP-leaning cities in Southern Kentucky before winding up on election eve in Paducah. Harper waged an extensive television campaign that started last year, bankrolling most of his campaign himself.
Meanwhile, the Democratic primary might not produce a nominee but simply narrow the field. Lunsford said a runoff in the Democratic race seemed a likelihood. Still, he said many voters were undecided or not totally committed to a candidate. "I think there's an awful lot of soft support out there," Lunsford said while campaigning in Henderson and Owensboro in Western Kentucky. "That means they can still change their mind late, which could have an impact."
Another Democratic candidate, Steve Beshear, a former lieutenant governor and attorney general, said that avoiding a runoff was "certainly a possibility."
"We're going to end up in the lead and be in the lead substantially tomorrow," said Beshear, who had rallies planned in Louisville, Shelbyville and Lexington on Monday. "I think the only open question is whether we can get to that 40 percent."
The Louisville newspaper's recent poll showed Beshear with a lead. Other Democrats running are House Speaker Jody Richards, former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith and eastern Kentucky demolition contractor Otis Hensley Jr. Richards continued his focus on Western Kentucky as he spent Monday campaigning in Warren County, his home, and neighboring counties. Henry made more than a half-dozen stops during a campaign swing Monday.