The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Power for USEC an issue
Ernie Fletchersays in area visits that if TVA doesn't improve the plant's rates, he'll seek others who will.

By C.D. Bradley
LANCE DENNEE/The Sun Stop in Clinton: Republican gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher speaks to employees of Harper’s Country Hams in Clinton during a campaign stop Monday.


U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher said if he is elected governor Nov. 4 and the Tennessee Valley Authority does not improve its offer of power rates to USEC for a new plant in Paducah, he will push for a new power plant to be built in western Kentucky.

Speaking to workers at the MeadWestvaco plant here Monday, Fletcher said TVA needs to step up its offer before USEC chooses between Paducah and Ohio, "and they've been reluctant to do that ... TVA is not doing what it should do."

Fletcher said later that if TVA remained hesitant, he would want to offer incentives for companies to build a clean-coal facility to provide power to USEC at near cost, with additional power available for sale on the open market.

"TVA and USEC need to know that we're very serious about this," Fletcher said. "If we have to, we will look at alternate providers."

Fletcher's comments came as he campaigned in westernmost Kentucky eight days before Election Day. With a published poll over the weekend showing him ahead of Democratic opponent Ben Chandler by 9 percentage points, Fletcher and his entourage spent much of Monday reminding supporters there's still work to do.

"In the past, we have lost in the end in what we call the ground campaign," said U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who was campaigning with Fletcher, during a stop at Graves County GOP headquarters in Mayfield. "We need to maximize our opportunity this time."

"Sometimes, unfortunately, we can be like Kentucky's football team," Fletcher added in remarks to more than a dozen volunteers. "We don't know how to close the deal ... Let's not get complacent. We still have to run as if we're 10 points down."

Fletcher began his day at the Graves County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Holmes Family Restaurant, shaking hands and greeting potential voters before detailing his "prescription for Kentucky" — a 52-page document with his platform and proposals. He was followed by a surprisingly feisty Whitfield, who told the more than 100 people that Fletcher could bring the leadership to Frankfort that has been sorely lacking.

"I didn't even realize I was going to speak," Whitfield said as he wound up, "and now here I am, getting carried away."

After giving a pep talk to county GOP volunteers — and ignoring the Job Terminator, a Democrat-sponsored Fletcher doppelgänger that has often become the congressman's shadow on the trail — the campaign bus went to Wickliffe, where he toured the paper mill and met with several employees.

The bus continued on to Bardwell for a fish fry at the Bardwell Fire Department. Former University of Kentucky sports voice Ralph Hacker, a Fletcher supporter, took a picture of the crowd, explaining that the nearly 100 people present constituted "the biggest Republican gathering ever in this town." Carlisle County voter registration is about 80 percent Democratic.

The campaign brought out several Democrats who are supporting Fletcher, a theme stressed during the day. Among them were Franklin County Judge-Executive Teresa Barton and Ballard County resident Charlie Martin, a veteran of the administrations of several Democratic governors. They chair the statewide and Western Kentucky Democrats for Fletcher, respectively.

"I guess I'm about as yellow dog Democrat as they come, but there comes a time when things have to change," Martin said. "There's only one guy who can do that in this race, and that's Ernie Fletcher."

Fletcher addressed the crowd, stressing points on economic development, lowering health-care costs, and attacking illegal drugs that filled his remarks in the past few days spent in western Kentucky. He grabbed a quick lunch before heading on to Clinton, Hickman and Murray, where the campaign entourage stayed Monday night before an 8:30 appearance this morning at the Cadiz Restaurant.

Shelby Harris, a Democrat from Cunningham, said after listening to Fletcher that she will consider voting for him.

"I liked a lot of the things he said, that they were positive," she said. "I think he has a grasp of what we need here in the county and the state."

She said she planned to read the 52-page booklet, which was distributed at campaign stops. "I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt," she said.

For Buddy Hixon of Arlington, who switched to the Republican Party a couple of years ago, there is no doubt.

"I'm all for him," said Hixon, eating fish and cole slaw while leaning against his military-style jeep. "I think he's got the connections in Washington, he's got the experience, and any man capable of being an Air Force pilot has got more than enough brains to run this state, unlike old what's-his-name."