Ky. Gov. Loses Election, Miss. Gov. Wins
Wednesday, November 7, 2007; 2:24 AM
-- Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican whose lone term was dogged by a hiring scandal, lost badly Tuesday despite an election-eve effort to woo conservative voters by displaying the Ten Commandments in the state Capitol.
In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour, practically the only politician to come out of Hurricane Katrina looking good, easily defeated a Democratic challenger Tuesday to win a second term.
In other races, Philadelphia elected Michael Nutter as the new mayor on his promises to reduce gun violence and clean up the city, Baltimore made Sheila Dixon its first black woman elected mayor, and Pittsburgh decided to keep the youngest big-city mayor in the nation, 27-year-old Luke Ravenstahl.
The Kentucky governor's race marked an unlikely political comeback for Democrat Steve Beshear, a former attorney general and lieutenant governor who hadn't held office in two decades and only ran for governor because he couldn't recruit another candidate.
Beshear cruised to a 20-percentage-point victory in Kentucky after a campaign in which he repeatedly reminded voters of accusations that Fletcher directed the hiring of political allies for jobs protected by the state's merit system.
"Tomorrow begins the time when I call on every person in this state to come together with us, join hands with us, because together, folks, we can make Kentucky a much better place to call home," the 63-year-old Beshear told supporters.
Beshear made faith a centerpiece of his campaign, citing his religious upbringing and running television ads showing him in front of a church in western Kentucky.
Fletcher, who had been trailing in the polls for weeks, made a last-minute religious overture of his own Monday by ordering that the Ten Commandments be displayed alongside other historical documents in the state Capitol.
But Fletcher, the state's first GOP governor in more than 30 years, was never able to overcome his indictment on misdemeanor charges that were later dismissed in a negotiated deal after a judge said he could not be tried in office. The grand jury later issued its findings, saying Fletcher had approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" to skirt state hiring laws.
In Mississippi, Barbour won by nearly 20 percentage points over John Arthur Eaves Jr. after a race in which the Republican incumbent stressed his successful management of the hurricane recovery, job growth and rebuilding.
Katrina did in other candidates on the Gulf Coast. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, for instance, came under such widespread criticism for her response to the hurricane that she did not seek another term.
Barbour, a former Washington lobbyist credited with using his connections to help his home state, said he wants to "complete the rebuilding and renewal of the coast bigger and better than ever."