All five area counties vote Republican

November 05, 2003|HERB BROCK

Boyle County Democratic Party Chairman Tony Wilder was inside the county clerk's office in the courthouse Tuesday night when the votes in the general election were being tallied. Still, he could feel a very stiff breeze - a political gust that he didn't welcome but accepted.

"The central message of the Fletcher campaign was change, and we could feel the winds of change tonight," said Boyle's county-judge executive.

Those "winds of change" blew through Boyle and the other four area counties Tuesday as Republican Ernie Fletcher, along with his lieutenant governor running mate, Steve Pence, decisively defeated his Democratic opponent, Ben Chandler, and his running mate, Charles Owen. In carrying Boyle, Casey, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties, the U.S. 6th District representative from Lexington captured 18,636 votes to 11,170 votes for the state attorney general from Versailles.

Fletcher won more than 62 percent of the votes cast in all five area counties, which is particularly impressive given the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans 37,791 to 29,487, or by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent. In Boyle County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans about 12,000 to 5,300, or Fletcher garnered nearly 5,000 votes to slightly more than 3,400 for Chandler and carried 23 of the county's 25 precincts.


The gap between Fletcher and Chandler in the five-county area was wider than the 55-45 percent margin he achieved statewide against the Democrat on his way to becoming the first Republican governor since 1971. While Chandler also is from Central Kentucky, Fletcher represents Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties in Congress and has done well in his congressional elections in the four counties.

Fletcher not only easily won the two counties in the area with large Republican registration margins - Casey and Garrard - but he also did well in Democrat-dominated Boyle and Mercer counties and also in Lincoln County, where Democrats enjoy a comfortable but not a wide registration advantage.

What voter registration advantages Democrats have in Boyle and two other area counties were offset by "issues" surrounding the outgoing administration of Democratic Gov. Paul Patton and a lack of unified support for Chandler, according to Wilder.

"We knew going in the general election campaign, it was going to be difficult to deal with what had preceded it, the Patton issues and all of that situation," said Wilder, referring to his adultery with Tina Conners, criminal charges that grew from the governor's affair and other political scandals that have rocked his administration.

Also, Chandler did not enter the general election campaign in a very strong position, Wilder said, noting that he had survived a close primary election.

"But I thought Ben did a good job in what was an uphill campaign," said the judge-executive. "He worked very hard and ran basically a positive campaign."

Wilder's counterpart in the local GOP, Boyle County Republican Party chairman Tom McClain, said a big reason for the success of the Fletcher campaign was "just plain hard work."

"The congressman and his people set the tone on the issues and on the kind of campaign that was going to be run, and we simply tried to mirror the aggressive, grassroots effort of the state campaign," said McClain, at a victory party held at the New Beginning Community Church on Stanford Ave.

"The credit for this victory goes to the hard work a lot of people put in and the kind of candidate we were working for," he said.

With Fletcher's victory in Boyle, the county is able to add to its reputation as something of a political bellwether. Boyle has voted for the winner in five of the six gubernatorial elections held over the last 20 years. In the 1995 race, the county voted for Republican Larry Forgy over the winner, Democrat Patton.

Meanwhile, voter turnout varied from county to county. It ranged from a low of about 34 percent in Lincoln County to a high of slightly over 50 percent in Mercer County.

Central Kentucky News Articles