Pubdate: Tue, 05 Aug 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Associated Press


Candiates Set to Face Off at Fancy Farm

OWENSBORO (AP) Heading into Western Kentucky and a showdown with Ben
Chandler, Republican Ernie Fletcher on Friday promised a new attack on
a particular scourge of the region - the illicit trade in
methamphetamine - if elected governor.

Fletcher, the 6th District Congressman, proposed an enforcement
initiative showcasing his running mate, Steve Pence, a former U.S.
attorney with experience prosecuting "meth" cases.

Elsewhere, Chandler courted labor votes at the annual Building and
Trades Labor Luncheon in Paducah, blaming Fletcher and other national
Republicans for a federal budget deficit and mounting job losses in
the weak economy. Chandler, the state's attorney general, has been
pounding the national economy theme for several days.

The two rivals were to go head to head Saturday at the 123rd Fancy
Farm Picnic in Graves County, an event that serves as a ceremonial
kickoff to the general election campaign.

Fletcher said Pence would be the administration point man on drug
enforcement if the slate wins in November. A key part of their
proposal is to get more federal prosecution of cases involving the
manufacture or trafficking of methamphetamine, regardless of quantity.

Promises of a war on drugs, even with local, state and federal
authorities joining in, are nothing new. "But we must have better
coordination, and I believe we need better leadership in Frankfort,"
Fletcher said.

Pence, who was the chief federal prosecutor for western Kentucky
before becoming Fletcher's running mate for lieutenant governor, said
it was his policy as U.S. attorney to take on any meth trafficking or
manufacture case. He said federal prosecution is more likely to result
in jail time, even for a first-time offender.

Pence and Fletcher also promised to give local law enforcement
agencies more resources for fighting drugs - redirecting money from
elsewhere in state government if necessary. But Fletcher said federal
grant money is available and that he and Pence would be better able to
appeal from help from Kentucky's mostly Republican congressional
delegation and the Bush administration.

Chandler's campaign said Fletcher was being hypocritical. A campaign
spokeswoman said the budget for which Fletcher voted actually reduced
funding for a Clinton administration program that put more police
officers on the street. The spokeswoman, Susan Dixen, said Fletcher
"says one thing in Kentucky and does another thing in

Fletcher's spokesman, Wes Irvin, said he could not immediately get
access to federal budget figures so he could not confirm or rebut
Dixen's comment. But Irvin said Chandler, as attorney general, could
have done more about the methamphetamine problem.

"He clearly had the resources. He could have assumed a bigger
leadership role," Irvin said.

Methamphetamine has exploded as a drug abuse issue because it is
comparatively simple and inexpensive to make. In Daviess County and
Owensboro, over 90 percent of narcotics investigations involve meth,
sheriff's Detective Sgt. Jim Acquisto said. Acquisto joined Fletcher
at a news conference in Owensboro.

Authorities found 84 "meth labs" in 1999, a total that increased to
300 in 2002, according to figures from Fletcher's campaign.

"Let's be real," Pence said. "Those are only the ones we are

Chandler has spent most of the week in Western Kentucky, an area of
mounting job losses from factory closings. His ideas for the region
include some major road projects, including the proposed Interstate 66
across southern Kentucky and a complete four-laning of "Highway 68-80"
- - U.S. 68 and Ky. 80 - including new bridges over Lake Barkley and
Kentucky Lake.

Chandler also pledged support and unspecified funding for a Purchase
Area regional industrial park being designed to appeal to an auto
maker or other large-scale manufacturer.

At the labor luncheon, Chandler crossed paths and shook hands with
Gov. Paul Patton, though the two have been harshly critical of each
other as a result of Chandler's attempt to prosecute two of Patton's
closest aides.

Patton, disgraced by the scandal of an extramarital affair and an
ongoing investigation into whether he misused his office, pardoned the
aides, Andrew "Skipper" Martin and Danny Ross, along with a pair of
former Teamsters officials.

All were indicted on charges by Chandler's office that they violated
election laws during Patton's 1995 campaign.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake