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Fletcher Sets Special Election; Late Date Could Boost GOP

Kentucky Gov.-elect Ernie Fletcher (R) is expected to call the special election to replace him in the House on Feb. 17, a later date than many observers anticipated.

Fletcher’s announcement comes one day before he is officially sworn in as governor and must officially vacate his 6th district seat. It also comes amid rampant speculation that unsuccessful 2003 gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler (D) is leaning toward running for the House seat.

Due to state law, the earliest Fletcher could have called the election was for Jan. 13. With both parties’ internal polling showing Chandler with a lead over state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr — the likely Republican candidate — Fletcher’s choice of a later date for the special gives the GOP more time to make up the margin.

Kerr is likely to officially secure the nomination on Saturday when the state party’s executive committee meets. State Reps. Stan Lee and Lonnie Napier, as well as state Sen. Tom Buford, are also mentioned.

Kerr has the backing of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) as well as much of his political team. McConnell Chief of Staff Billy Piper is managing Kerr’s race and two other McConnell aides are on the ground for Kerr.

Capitalizing on the momentum provided by Fletcher’s victory, Kerr has already raised more than $100,000 for the race.

All Democratic eyes are on Chandler, who has let his name float as a potential candidate for several weeks. He lost the governor’s race to Fletcher 55 percent to 45 percent statewide, trailing by that same margin in the 6th.

Despite his defeat, Democrats see Chandler as their strongest candidate with a proven vote-getting base and high name identification from his last run. An announcement on his political future is expected shortly, according to informed sources.

If Chandler does not run, the odds-on candidate would be state Rep. Susan Westrom, who served as party chairwoman during 2003.

The Lexington-based district has a slight Republican lean; it would have given President Bush 55 percent in the 2000 election.

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