FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear has declined to participate in a Kentucky Press Association forum for gubernatorial candidates, a move that has drawn criticism from his opponents.
KPA executive director David Thompson said Beshear's campaign informed him that "he'll be busy being governor, and we think there will be plenty of time post-primary for these kinds of things."
Thompson said he is disappointed that Beshear will not attend the Jan. 21 forum at the KPA's winter convention at Louisville's Hyatt Regency. The association represents 160 newspapers in the state, including the Herald-Leader.
Beshear's campaign manager, Bill Hyers, said in an e-mail that Beshear "is concentrating on the upcoming legislative session and will be happy to appear with the Republican nominee after their primary."
Thompson noted that three other gubernatorial candidates who were invited will attend: Republicans David Williams and Phil Moffett, and independent Gatewood Galbraith.
Ernie Fletcher participated in the KPA's gubernatorial forum in 2007 while governor, Thompson said.
Fletcher had two opponents in the 2007 Republican primary election. Beshear's only opponent so far in this year's Democratic primary is Otis "Bullman" Hensley of Harlan County, who was not invited to the KPA forum.
Thompson said Williams, president of the Kentucky Senate, was tentative about participating in the forum when he heard Beshear would not be there, but Williams' campaign has said he will be there with or without the governor.
"I guess it's hard work sitting on the fence and sending out press releases about things that never come to pass," Williams' campaign manager, Scott Jennings, said of Beshear and his decision to skip the event.
Moffett's campaign manager, David Adams, said, "With the billions of dollars in debt Kentucky has amassed under Beshear, I'm not surprised he wants to mail in his re-election effort.
"The fun part is Williams voted for every dime of that debt, and he will be there crying about Kentucky being adrift. Phil Moffett is the only candidate with a real plan for getting Kentucky on the right track."
Galbraith, a Lexington attorney who has run previously for governor, said Beshear's decision "does not speak well of his transparency or his accountability. My whole campaign has been about putting forth my ideas publicly."
The KPA forum is to run for 90 minutes and be moderated by Al Cross, director of The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.
Each candidate will give an opening statement and then take questions from Cross and the audience.