Politics & Government

Fletcher readies TV campaign

Gov. Ernie Fletcher will launch the televised portion of his re-election campaign next week with a 60-second commercial instead of the standard 30-second spot.

The ad buy is a particularly expensive one, costing more than $150,000 to run on the major network stations in Louisville and Lexington next week.

The largest single network buy that the Fletcher campaign purchased was the $50,560 for 89 spots that will run March 13 through March 19 on WKYT-TV, Channel 27, in Lexington, according to political ad records made available to the public at the CBS affiliate. The ads are also scheduled to run on WBKO-TV, Channel 13 in Bowling Green, station manager Brad Odil confirmed yesterday.

The Lexington, Louisville and Bowling Green television markets cover roughly three-quarters of Republican voters who showed up at the polls in the 2003 primary election, according to a Herald-Leader analysis.

Marty Ryall, Fletcher's campaign manager, declined to discuss the focus or details of the commercial.

"It will be a very informative ad," was all Ryall would say.

So far, Fletcher has kept his campaign message positive, focused largely on what he has been billing as the accomplishments of the administration: doling out a record amount of road money, helping to spread broadband Internet to rural areas and restructuring the state's Medicaid system.

In 2003, Fletcher became the first Republican governor in 32 years. He now faces two GOP opponents, former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville and Paducah businessman Billy Harper in the party's May 22 primary.

Harper, a concrete company owner and political neophyte, has been running campaign ads almost continuously since October 2006 to introduce himself to Kentucky GOP voters.

Harper's campaign manager Stan Pulliam wouldn't say how the Fletcher campaign's 2007 debut on the airwaves might affect Harper's strategy.

"We're excited that the final stage of the campaign has begun," Pulliam said. "We believe when Billy gets his positive message to voters that he will win in both May and November."

Northup's campaign wouldn't reveal when it would start airing TV ads.

But campaign spokesman Barry Peel said Fletcher's eagerness to begin running commercials two-and-a-half months before the primary is "an attempt to redefine himself."

"What other reason would he have to go up this early?" Peel asked.

"Every Republican in Kentucky knows that whatever support the governor has is eroding, and over the last couple of months his support has been in a true free fall."

Northup's main campaign message so far has been that Fletcher's political troubles have made him "unelectable."

Seven Democrats are running for that party's nomination for governor. None has reserved air time in Lexington yet.