Gov. Steve Beshear -- creating jobs or just 'minding the store?'

01/11/2011 07:28 PM

While they were in studio last week, political aides Les Fugate and Colmon Elridge offered their competing takes on the issues that will shape Kentucky’s governor’s race in 2011.

Republican Les Fugate, left, and Democrat Colmon Elridge, right

They also gave their early handicapping of how two other key races — attorney general and auditor — could shake out during the lead up to the candidate filing deadline on Jan. 25 and beyond.

Fugate is a Republican and the deputy assistant secretary of state, whose boss — Secretary of State Trey Grayson — announced Friday he would resign by the end of the month to take a job as director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. (That news broke after this interview was recorded.)

Elridge is executive assistant to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and executive vice president of the Young Democrats of America.

Fugate said the eventual Republican nominee for governor will likely build a campaign around describing Beshear as a “caretaker governor” and also try to link him to President Barack Obama, who remains unpopular in Kentucky. The two GOP candidates already in the race, state Senate President David Williams and Louisville businessman Phil Moffett, already have moved to describe Beshear as a caretaker at every chance they get.

Elridge said the governor has proven to be much more than a caretaker governor by aggressively trying to recruit new employers to the state.

“If that’s the argument that Senator Williams or whoever the Republican nominee … will be, I will say Steve Beshear will be re-elected as governor,” he said.

Beshear has touted the creation of 11,500 prospective jobs in 2010 as companies such as Ford Motor Co. in Louisville, U.S. Bank Home Mortgage in Owensboro and Corning Incorporated in Harrodsburg announced expansions or relocations.

But Fugate said the slow recovery of the economy will undermine that argument.

Kentucky’s unemployment rates have plateaued at around the national average of about 10% in recent months.┬áThe rate dropped by just a half a percentage point from November 2009 to November 2010, according to state and federal statistics.

“If we’re talking about jobs and that’s what decides the election, I feel great about the Republicans’ chances,” Fugate said.

Elridge and Fugate also talked about the upcoming race for state auditor.

The interview, recorded last week, aired on the day that Adam Edelen, a Democrat, officially filed his paperwork to run for state auditor. The only other candidate to file so far for that position is Republican John Kemper, a Lexington developer.

And Elridge and Fugate weighed in on the coming redistricting process, in which the state legislature will redraw the lines of congressional, state Senate and state House districts by early 2012.

“The people of this state are looking for grownups in the room — for folks to do what’s in the best interest of Kentucky,” Elridge said.

- Ryan Alessi


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