Ky. Governor Loses Bid for 2nd Term

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 7, 2007; 11:19 AM

-- Cyclist Lance Armstrong and Kentucky's new governor were among the few people who could get voters to embrace change on a day they seemed inclined to re-elect incumbents and reject ballot measures calling for new proposals.

Democrat Steve Beshear easily bested Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican whose lone term was dogged by a hiring scandal. But Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, one of the few politicians to come out of Hurricane Katrina looking good, handily defeated a Democratic challenger Tuesday to win a second term.

In Virginia, Democrats took control of the state Senate, breaking a 12-year Republican hold on the chamber.

In other races, Houston, San Francisco and Pittsburgh re-elected their mayors. Philadelphia elected Michael Nutter as the new mayor on his promises to reduce gun violence and clean up the city, and Baltimore voters elected Mayor Sheila Dixon to the office she has held since her appointment to it in January.

Even Beshear's election as Kentucky's governor and the passage of an Armstrong-backed measure to fund the construction of a cancer research center in Texas hardly upended their states' status quos. Beshear is a former attorney general and lieutenant governor whose opponent was the first GOP governor in more than 30 years in predominantly Democratic Kentucky.

The Texas measure authorizes up to $3 billion in bonds over 10 years to create the center pushed by Armstrong, a cancer survivor and Texas-bred sports hero.

But voters rejected proposals in other states, including a cigarette tax increase to cover children's health insurance in Oregon, a Utah school vouchers program, and a New Jersey referendum that would have authorized the state to borrow $450 million over 10 years to finance stem cell research.

Beshear cruised to a nearly 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 told supporters.

He 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 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.

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