Buford 050604

May 06, 2004


The Jessamine Journal

Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler, a Democrat, acknowledges that he got help in a February special election from state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, despite Buford's strong denials.

Buford has repeatedly denied claims that he helped raise money for Chandler in his defeat of state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, who Buford endorsed after dropping out of the contest himself. Buford is now a candidate in the May 18 primary to get his party's nomination for the seat Chandler now holds. The winner will challenge Chandler in November.

Chandler expressed surprise at Buford's denials.

"I don't know what to say. I don't know why he would deny it, because that's just not the case. We didn't even ask him, he just offered," Chandler told The Jessamine Journal.


Chandler said he and Buford once spoke about the support over the telephone.

"Well, sure, I had a long telephone conversation with him. It was after Mr. (Loren) Carl had given me his number. I had called him on what I believe was his cell phone," Chandler said.

Chandler said that Buford offered to raise money and even talked about some of the problems with Kerr's voting record, especially some of the votes in favor of raising certain taxes.

The accusation that Buford was helping Chandler behind the scenes was first made by Chandler aide Loren "Squirrel" Carl, who worked with Chandler in the attorney general's office and currently works for Chandler's congressional office. Carl recently stepped down as chief of the Woodford County Police.

Carl claims that Buford approached him on two occasions, in December and in January, saying that he would help raise money for the Chandler campaign, and that he even asked to be put in contact with Chandler. It was after the second conversation that Carl said he put Chandler in contact with Buford, and the two allegedly spoke about fund-raising.

"He said he was willing to help raise some money for Chandler during the Alice Forgy Kerr campaign," said Carl. He said that Buford never gave a reason for wanting to help, but "said that he would help get some checks for Mr. Chandler."

Buford, however, tells a different story.

"In December, as the candidate selection was under way for the Republicans and Democrats, they were trying to encourage Ben, but he wasn't a candidate then. Carl and I were having a conversation about the benefits of me running, my 14 years of experience, this and that. He said that he was curious about Kerr running, and he mentioned some things about voting records," Buford said. "If I agreed with him, I agreed with him."

Buford said that Carl's accusations are politics as usual.

"He is just wrong. I did not offer to raise money for Ben Chandler, and I don't know why he is saying these things," said Buford.

"I am sure that I am their worst nightmare to come up in the November election. It's politics," said Buford. "I understand that they would want to criticize anything to assist in me being defeated in this primary.

"My goal has never been to get Ben Chandler in Congress. If it was, why would I be running against him?"

One incident in question involved Buford giving Chandler an envelope at a Jessamine County Rotary Club meeting. Buford said he was given the envelope by a friend who asked him to deliver it to Chandler at the meeting, but that he didn't know what was in it.

Chandler said that Buford knew exactly what the envelope contained.

"Well, he told me that it was money for the campaign. He didn't say who it was from, but it was a $2,000 check from New Mexico," he said. "I mean, everybody knows what's in an envelope like that."

Buford said that the accusations are a strategy by the Chandler campaign to hurt his credibility.

"I can't imagine it being anything else. Ben's got to do something to get me out of this race," Buford said.

Buford filed to run in the regular election before the Feb. 17 special election, explaining that polls showed Kerr was not doing well in the race against Chandler, and that the Republican Party needed a stronger candidate to run in the regular election in November for the new two-year term which begins in January 2005.

The state senator's public remarks at the time showed that he was also bothered by political maneuvering by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to get Kerr the nomination. McConnell provided the core of Kerr's campaign staff and expressed his support. Buford withdrew from the nomination fight for the special election because, he said, McConnell's influence made any challenge unlikely to succeed.

Kerr's brother, Larry Forgy, a former Republican candidate for governor, has announced his support in the May primary for Lexington attorney Bryan Samuel Coffman in part because of Buford's alleged support assistance to Chandler. Another Lexington resident, Don Swarthout, is also seeking the GOP nomination. Kerr had been a candidate for the primary but dropped out after losing the special election.

Buford has the backing of Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, whose third term in the House Chandler is completing as a result of his having won the special election.|5/6/04|***

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