Lunsford To Endorse Fletcher - News, Weather & Sports

Lunsford To Endorse Fletcher

(LEXINGTON, Ky., October 20th, 2003, 1 p.m.) -- Millionaire businessman Bruce Lunsford, who was involved in a bitter Democratic primary with Ben Chandler, said Monday he was supporting Republican U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher for governor.

Lunsford made the announcement with Fletcher and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell at a morning news conference in Frankfort. He said comments that Chandler, the state's attorney general, has made in recent weeks about their primary race helped bring him to his decision.

"I will support the congressman anyway he wants me to," Lunsford told reporters.

Fletcher said he accepted Lunsford's support and that it showed his ability to build consensus.

"I am deeply honored to have Bruce here endorsing me and my candidacy for governor," Fletcher said.

Lunsford, of Louisville, dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary after spending $8 million on his campaign. He withdrew just four days before the election in May, citing a set of ads unveiled by Chandler, who was his main Democratic opponent. The ads talked about abuse of patients in the nursing homes Lunsford's company operated.

"I just don't believe anyone should be subjected to that," Lunsford said at the time.

Lunsford threw his support behind House Speaker Jody Richards, but Chandler won the nomination. Lunsford has not spoken to Chandler since the primary.

Lunsford told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday that his decision to cross party lines for Fletcher "isn't personal."

"I'm not a guy to hold grudges," he said.

Mark Nickolas, Chandler's campaign manager disagreed. He said Lunsford's support for Fletcher was "irrelevant" and "more driven by his ego" than by good politics.

"This is a case of picking the right person for the job," Lunsford said. "At times like this, a fresh face can do things in a much more creative way than somebody who's been around for years."

Fletcher's campaign manager, Daniel Groves, said he was glad to have the endorsement, but did not know whether Lunsford would take any active role in the campaign.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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