2003 Kentucky gubernatorial election
Fletcher: 50–60% 60–70% 70–80% 80–90%
Chandler: 50–60% 60–70% 70–80%
|Elections in Kentucky|
The Kentucky gubernatorial election, 2003 was held to elect the Governor of Kentucky on November 4, 2003. Republican candidate Ernie Fletcher defeated Democrat Ben Chandler and became the first Republican governor of Kentucky in 32 years.
Incumbent Democratic Governor Paul E. Patton was term limited from seeking a third term of office and was facing investigations after admitting to an affair. This led to the other Democratic candidates distancing themselves from him. State Attorney General Ben Chandler won the primary narrowly defeating the Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives Jody Richards, whose running mate was Tony Miller. He had led in the polls for several months before the primary.
Earlier businessman Bruce Lunsford had dropped out of the primary after Chandler launched adverts talking of abuse at nursing homes run by Lunsford's company. Lunsford had spent 8 million dollars of his own money during the primary campaign and after his withdrawal backed Richards against Chandler and said he would vote against Chandler in the general election if he won the primary.
Physician and former Air Force pilot Ernie Fletcher won the Republican primary easily. Earlier Fletcher had to replace his running mate for lieutenant governor, Hunter Bates, as he did not meet the residency requirements. Fletcher was backed by U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and led in most polls before the primary.
Fletcher tried to link Chandler with the scandals that incumbent governor Patton's administration had been racked with. However Chandler attempted to distance himself from the governor, calling for him to resign and describing himself as a maverick.
Chandler meanwhile attacked President George Bush for his handling of the economy and linked Fletcher with his policies. Nevertheless, Fletcher was assisted late in the campaign by President Bush, who made five visits to Kentucky to support him. Fletcher led in the polls throughout the campaign and towards the end pulled out a lead of 7 to 9 percent over Chandler.
Just before the election the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits for some residents of largely Democratic districts in West Louisville to try to get an injunction to stop Republicans from putting challengers in their precincts. Kentucky law allowed challengers to be stationed in precincts to question whether voters were eligible but the ACLU claimed they were targeting black voters and could intimidate people. However a judge refused to issue the injunction and allowed the challengers to go ahead.
Exit polls showed that Fletcher got a quarter of Democrats to support him as well as a majority of independents. Male voters backed Fletcher over Chandler by 59% to 41%, while women split almost equally. They also showed that 18% of voters used their votes to express opposition to the incumbent governor Paul Patton.
|Republican gain from Democratic||Swing|
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