By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Near the end of his speech to 35 or so supporters Thursday at Corbin city hall, David Williams said he wanted to explain “a little controversy that’s happened.”
The “little controversy” was an outcry over comments the Republican candidate for governor made this week about incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s participation in a Hindu “ground blessing” ceremony at an Indian-owned new manufacturing facility in Elizabethtown. At the hour-long ceremony, Beshear was photographed without his shoes, sitting with his legs crossed while an Indian priest chanted prayers and incense burned.
Williams might not have needed to explain.
Neither Michelle Jarboe, 35, of Williamsburg, nor Gail Gibbs, 37, of Corbin, were aware of the controversy. The two nursing home administrators are registered Republicans who support Williams’ election over Beshear and Independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith.
When Williams said he wasn’t criticizing Hindus but did what Christians should do by inviting them to “love and know Jesus,” people nodded. When he asked if “isn’t it time that someone stood up for (Christians) for a change?” some applauded.
“I just brought to people’s attention that it’s rather odd that a governor that wouldn’t stand up for Bell County’s schools ability to say a prayer before a football game and didn’t want to call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, he wanted to call it a holiday tree, and when he was attorney general didn’t want to post the Ten Commandments, climbed down in a pit and to do a Hindu prayer,” Williams said.
Williams’ bus tour was headed later to Middlesboro in nearby Bell County where the school system was advised by the Kentucky Department of Education not to allow prayers before a high school football game. Earlier in Beshear’s administration, he sent out an invitation to a ceremonial lighting of a “holiday tree.”
“What I want to do is to make sure you have a governor that has a conviction about something and will stand up for something,” Williams said.
Polls show Williams trailing Beshear by as much as 25 points, but Williams and his running mate, Richie Farmer, the former University of Kentucky basketball star who gained fame first playing for neighboring Clay County, said those polls don’t matter while conceding they trail Beshear.
“Now a lot of people look at the polls and say that Richie and I are behind,” Williams said. “And that could very well be – we might be behind in the polls, but the election will be decided by who turns out and votes.”
Farmer said the polls are wrong but reminded the crowd of a famous come-from-behind win by UK’s basketball team: “I remember a basketball team that was down 31 at halftime to LSU – and we won.”
Farmer said Beshear has no agenda and won’t discuss issues in debates while running negative ads.
“We have tried to engage them on the issues,” Farmer said. “They have tried to disparage and talk negatively about David and me. They’re trying to hide behind that and distract from what the real issues are. They’ve done nothing and they have no plan to do anything.”
Williams’ wife, Robyn, took on Beshear’s claims about balancing the state budget nine times, creating jobs and creating a surplus.
“Steve Beshear is not being honest with you about his record or about my husband,” she said. “There’s not a shred of truth in any one of those things.”
Gibbs, the nursing home administrator, said she supports Williams and “thinks it’s still anybody’s race.” She and Jarboe said they’ve seen lots of Williams yard signs and he’ll do well in the mostly Republican region.
Gibbs and Jarboe support Williams because they like his opposition to the way Beshear is implementing managed care of Medicaid, which pays for long-term care for many older people, and because Williams has helped the area with funding.
“He’s from this area and he knows the needs of our communities,” Gibbs said. “And he’s tried to do what he can for our older residents and their health care needs.”
Also on the tour were Republican candidates for attorney general Todd P’Pool, treasurer K.C. Crosbie and auditor John Kemper. All called for support of the entire Republican ticket and all urged voters to get out to the polls on Tuesday – because “that’s the only poll that counts.”
Williams and P’Pool promised to stand up to the policies of President Barack Obama and along with Farmer, extolled the benefits of coal, an important part of the region’s economy.
By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
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