TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

May 23, 2011

Republicans go for show of unity, but hints of cracks appear

CORBIN — By RONNIE ELLIS / CNHI News Service

Frankfort, Ky. – Republicans proclaimed unity Saturday after nominating David Williams for governor in Tuesday’s primary, but there were hints of cracks in that unity.

Williams downed Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite Phil Moffett by 10 points and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw in the primary. He faces incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in the fall. As they have after recent primaries, both winning and losing Republican primary candidates and party brass gathered at state headquarters to show they’re all on the same page.

But Moffett didn’t speak even though a spokeswoman for the party on Friday said he would. Neither did Holsclaw. Both joined Williams on stage after he publicly invited them. Before the event, Moffett said he hasn’t formally endorsed Williams, resisting the word endorse when asked by a reporter – but he still expressed a preference for Williams over Beshear.

“I’d much rather have David Williams in office than Steve Beshear,” Moffett said.

Williams was clearly angling for Moffett’s support. He said Moffett’s ideas were his ideas and Moffett was the hardest working candidate he’d ever seen. He even seemed to hint Moffett might have an immediate role to play.

“We’re not going to wait until the next election after this one to keep Phil Moffett involved,” Williams told the crowd.

Moffett said afterward he is not interested in joining a Williams administration. He also said he didn’t know he’d be called on to join Williams on stage.

The crowd was perhaps smaller than expected and certainly smaller than last year’s rally after Rand Paul beat Trey Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary. But like last year, a lot of the faces were new to party headquarters, supporters of the Tea Party movement.

Sen. Mitch McConnell and Congressman Bret Guthrie were there, but no other member of the congressional delegation. Williams’ running mate, Richie Farmer, was on hand, but did not speak. Paul addressed the crowd by video linkup, recalling last year’s rally “and what a mob scene it was.”

“I’m really proud of this ticket,” Paul said. “And I’ll do whatever I can to help them.”

The way Williams and Republicans plan to go about winning was clear. They’ll hit Beshear for a lack of leadership and accomplishment, promise to make Kentucky friendly to business in order to create jobs, and run against Democratic President Barack Obama as often as much as against Beshear.

“The best way to stop Barack Obama and get Kentucky going in the right direction, all on the same day, is to elect David Williams the next governor of Kentucky,” McConnell said before introducing Williams.

Williams showed off his stump skills, telling the audience he had a physical on Friday.

“They determined that I do have a heart,” said Williams, who critics say is sometimes a bully. “They knew I had a brain, but unlike Steve Beshear, I’ve got a spine.”

Like the others who spoke before him, Williams said Kentucky is being left behind surrounding states whose policies are more friendly to business and conducive to job development.

He invited Tuesday’s winning nominees for the other constitutional officers to join him on stage and said the ticket will be pro-life, pro-second amendment and will “help change the federal government.” He said he’ll change the tax system, change the state employee pension system – both things he’s championed as President of the Republican Senate but has been unable to pass through the Democratic House.

Williams also promised to reform the education system, especially in Jefferson County so that “we will leave no child left behind over there any longer no matter where they live.” Williams sponsored legislation to allow parents to enroll children in schools closest to their residence, something for which he’s been criticized by teachers’ unions and The Courier-Journal as undermining racial and economic diversity.

But he ended by again going after Obama and appealing to the coal and agriculture industries.

“We’ll challenge Barack Obama and those who would shut down our coal industry and would shut down our agriculture industry and impoverish our people and unconstitutionally force them to buy insurance,” Williams said.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort, Ky. He may be contacted by email at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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