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Most Members Sitting Out Kentucky Primary

Less than a week before Kentucky’s gubernatorial primary, former Rep. Anne Northup and Gov. Ernie Fletcher, himself a former Member, continue to slug it out in the race for the Republican nomination. And looking to avoid an uncomfortable post-primary phone call, most of their former Congressional colleagues are withholding political contributions, for now.

“The easiest thing is to not to give at all,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) of the uncomfortable prospects of casting pre-primary lots in the Northup-Fletcher matchup. “People don’t need many excuses not to write checks.”

That did not prevent Cole from contributing $500 to Northup’s campaign.

Sen. Jim Bunning was the lone Republican member of the Bluegrass State delegation to contribute to either candidate. Bunning gave Northup $1,000 and publicly endorsed the former Louisville-area lawmaker in February, shortly after she entered the race to great fanfare.

More recent polls, however, have shown Fletcher, despite his administration’s ethical scrapes, leading.

Bunning declined to speak with Roll Call Tuesday about his endorsement.

Although nearly all Republican lawmakers are holding off making contributions for now, according to data available from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, Cole and Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) said personal relationships with the two candidates left them with little choice.

“Ernie and I came in in the same class in 1998,” Hayes said. “We’ve been close friends ever since we met. Our wives are close friends. We were in the same Bible study together.”

Hayes wrote a $1,000 check to Fletcher earlier this year.

Cole said his friendship with Northup, not a dislike of Fletcher, was the primary reason he personally gave her campaign $500 this year. Last year, Northup lost her chance at a sixth term to now-Rep. John Yarmuth (D).

“She’s a good personal friend, someone that I did help come back to Congress,” Cole said. “It’s just an expression of how much I admire her as a person.”

“Probably if I would’ve served with both of them, I wouldn’t have given to either,” Cole added (though he did in fact serve for a year in the House with Fletcher, compared with four years with Northup). “It’s nothing against [Fletcher], it’s just I know Anne.”

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