The Not So Great Debate
By John Butwell

"Ben Chandler and Bruce Lunsford tore into each other," in their first KET debate, reports Charles Wolfe of the Associated Press.

Curious to see the lust for torn dress shirts or slashed ties, I logged onto to see what all the commotion was about.

The debate is archived there, and you can access it online, along with the Republican debate the previous week. But you can watch the entire affair without seeing any blood or ripped fabric-until you turn the volume up.

Mostly you'll see four middle-aged men in suits and ties, with varying degrees of political experience, gesturing and posturing, pursing their lips, working their jaws, visually trying to be more "just folks" than the other guy.

There's little doubt dark horse Otis Hensley, Jr., a demolition man from Harlan County, was included out of fairness, not because he might win.
Ben Chandler
Bruce Lunsford

Chandler was ready for the fight, having been attacked by Lunsford as a candidate who'd be a slave to his contributors.

Chandler, pointing out Lunsford's six figure contributions to primarily Republican candidates and conservative causes, said, "It seems to me you are in fact a special interest yourself."

In responding to Lunsford's promises of state reorganization, Chandler observed, "Mr. Lunsford's experience in that area seems to be limited to Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code."

Lunsford denied that his Vencor nursing home chain really went broke since it spawned profitable successors. And he described Chandler as an example of "an unholy alliance between the career politicians and special-interest groups."

Even the two candidates' websites are already spattered with mud, with Lunsford's announcing April 15 he would be campaigning in a bus dubbed the "Fed Up Express," two months to the day after he announced his campaign for "Total Change in Frankfort."

Chandler's website counters with "What others are saying about Bruce Lunsford" as its lead item, coupled with a photo of Chandler himself speaking at Hillbilly Days in Pikeville.

He's apparently trying to out-hillbilly Lunsford, who got in trouble for his unauthorized use of The Beverly Hillbillies song in a campaign ad.

Not surprisingly, Albert Benjamin "Ben" Chandler III's campaign bio holds forth on his two terms as attorney general, but says nothing about his grandfather Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler I, the famous former governor of Kentucky and Major League Baseball commissioner. (Any gain he gets by the association, he's already won. Actively highlighting the connection drags in the baggage of: dynasty, career politician, and any residual bad feelings that might still linger around ill-chosen phraseology committed by his grandfather in his twilight years.)

His website DOES show him surrounded by a happy family consisting of his wife Jennifer and three young sons-including Albert Benjamin Chandler IV.

Richards, referring to both his major opponents during the debate: "I do not intend to buy the governor's office. I do not intend to inherit the governor's office. I intend to earn it."

The speaker has a point. Lunsford is financing his campaign entirely by himself, without taking donations, to the tune of $4.25 million, claiming he "has chosen to self-finance his campaign so he can remain free from the special-interest influence that has caused much of the mess in Frankfort."

But that sure sounds like "buying" the governorship to Richards, who has raised only about one-tenth of Lunsford's war chest so far.

Chandler has come in second with about $2 million in contributions, exceeding Republican frontrunner Ernie Fletcher's total by about half a million dollars.

But Chandler has a financer too, a Louisville lawyer-turned-businessman and political wanna-be just like Lunsford: Chandler's running mate for lieutenant governor, Charlie Owen.

Chandler and Lunsford's similar political philosophies give the lie to the notion that there's any real difference between them-or between them and Republican candidates who say we can get by without raising new revenues by just cutting waste.

Williams killed the public financing of governor's races by holding the state budget hostage last year, and now we're paying the piper as next month's primary literally appears "up for sale."

Still, Richards appears in tune philosophically with the common man Hensley, whose best quote in the debate was: "I worry about people's bills. Light bill, phone bill-everything's so high, it's hard to make a living."

It's about time somebody worried about THAT, which Chandler and Lunsford seem to be addressing only rhetorically. Instead, they're amusing themselves (if not the rest of us) by trying their best to plant knives in each other's backs.

Keepin' it Clean

Clean up downtown on Friday, April 25 between 12 noon and 4:30pm. Meet in Cheapside Park where t-shirts and lunch will be provided to the first 100 registered volunteers. Call 231-7335 to volunteer.

UK's Taylor Education building will be the site of a conference with Japanese and American scholars and activists weighing in on grassroots environmental movements, Friday and Saturday. The conference is free and open to the public.

March of Dimes

The March of Dimes will host charity walk Saturday, April 26, at the University of Kentucky Good Barn Field. Registration for the event will take place at 9am.

The Walk itself will begin at 10am. To join up for the cause, call 859/278-4630.

Sending out an S.O.S.

The "Rally to Save the Carnegie Center" will be held Sunday, April 27, at 4pm, at the Center, 251 W. Second St. in Lexington. The event will feature readings by authors Lynn Pruett, Jeff Worley, and others. Also featured will be high school poets, a Spanish-English puppet theater, and local musicians.

Supporters of the Carnegie Center are holding the rally to bring attention to the Center's threatened city funding. The mayor has proposed to end the city's $243,000 annual contribution to the Center. That represents about 75 percent of the Center's budget, and could result in the Center closing its doors for good on June 30.

Walking with purpose

AVOL is hosting the 11th Annual AIDS Walk for Life Sunday, April 27 in Triangle Park. Registration begins at noon, with a pre-Walk party from 12:30pm - 2:30pm.

During the pre-walk party, there will be music, entertainment, and games. Prizes will be awarded to the team with the most walkers and the individuals and team that raise the most money. Check out for more info.

This is SportsCenter

ESPN's SportsCenter host Rece Davis will be coming to UK, Tuesday, April 29. SportsCenter, once just a place to catch up on the scores of last night's games, has grown into its own niche and style of sports broadcasting, including much sarcasm, popular slang, esoteric and arcane references, and those fabulous "behind the scenes" ads. Davis will lecture at UK's Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall at 7pm. Oh yeah, and it's free.

Required attendance

The final forum on an alternative school calendar will be held Tuesday, April 29 at 6:30pm at Henry Clay. The Board of Education is studying the impact of implementing an alternative calendar for the entire district. The Board is seeking input from parents in regards to what type of impact a calendar change would have on students and parents.

Doin' it for themselves

The National Association of Women Business Owners will hold its 8th Annual Winner's Circle Award Banquet, honoring Sylvia Lovely, CEO League of Cities May 6, 2003, Tuesday 11:30am to 1pm at the Hyatt Recency. Reservations required by April 30 www.lexnawbo or 859-273-6988. Additional awards will be given for Women Business Owners.

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