Name-calling and the airing of personal family details are competing with the issues in the Kentucky gubernatorial campaign, where the Republican nominee, John Harper, has called his Democratic opponent "sleazy," "seedy," "tacky" and "Wally in Wonderland." Wallace Wilkinson's Democratic campaign, meanwhile, has conceded it tipped the news media on stories about Harper's son, who was shot to death attempting a burglary.
James Carville, Wilkinson's campaign adviser, discounts the exchanges as "colorful lapses," and says there has been only "a little name-calling and a lot of issue distinctions."
Wilkinson, a multimillionare businessman who spent two years and nearly $4 million to win the Democratic nomination, has a 10-to-1 edge in fund-raising and a 59 percent to 26 percent lead over Harper, a state representative, in the latest poll by The Louisville Courier-Journal.
Harper has made some gains. A poll taken by the newspaper after the May 26 primary showed Wilkinson with 71 percent, Harper with 12 percent. The Republican recently won the support of a teachers union.
When accused by Wilkinson of name-calling at a recent debate, Harper acknowledged some of the charges, but denied calling his opponent a Nazi. He also apologized for calling Wilkinson "a little weasel."
"I intend to take the high road in this campaign," Harper said. But then he told Wilkinson: "You have to toughen up your hide."