FRANKFORT — Republicans tried to heal rifts from Tuesday's primary elections for state offices and unify party support for November's general election at a rally Saturday at party headquarters.
The two losing candidates for the Republican primary for governor — Louisville businessman Phil Moffett, who enjoyed widespread Tea Party support, and Jefferson County Clerk, Bobbie Holsclaw, who prevailed in the state's most populous county — were there to stand by party nominee David Williams.
But they said later that their roles in Williams' fall campaign remain uncertain.
Moffett, who was backed in the primary by several Tea Party groups across the state and finished better than expected in second place, said he thinks Williams would make a better governor than Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear, who is seeking re-election.
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Moffett, who declined an invitation to address the crowd, said he has not yet endorsed anyone in the fall race but hopes he will be able "to advance Tea Party principles" of limited government.
He said he will not try to be a write-in candidate for the fall race.
Asked if he will urge Tea Party members to vote for Williams, Moffett said, "That's left up to David Williams. He has the opportunity to come and work with them. Their support for someone is not granted by another candidate."
Asked if she will work for Williams' campaign, Holsclaw simply said, "I will support the ticket." She declined to comment when asked whether Beshear contacted her after Tuesday's election.
Williams, a Burkesville attorney who has been president of the state Senate since 2000, said he is confident that the party will be united in the fall.
After calling Tuesday's primary winners to join him and his running mate, Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, on stage before a crowd of about 200 people, Williams said, "If anyone doubts our unity, our resolve, let the word go forth that we are unified."
Williams said Moffett will be involved in the fall campaign and that he has never seen a candidate with better work ethic.
As governor, Williams said, he would challenge the federal government that has imposed too much regulation on Kentucky's coal industry and has forced its people to buy health insurance. He said he would be pro-life.
Williams said he has the strength and stamina to work for the people of Kentucky.
He said he had a physical exam Friday at the University of Kentucky, and that despite claims by the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal, a series of tests showed that, "I do have a heart."
He added to loud applause: "They knew I had a brain. And, unlike Steve Beshear, I have a spine."
Williams also criticized Beshear for not appearing earlier this month with President Barack Obama at Fort Campbell to honor Navy SEALs who took out terrorist Osama bin Laden and soldiers who were returning from duties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Steve Beshear went to a horse race because he was worried about his own race," Williams said.
Beshear has said he did not attend Obama's visit to Fort Campbell because he had interviews with potential investors in the state at the Oaks race at Louisville's Churchill Downs.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville told the party stalwarts Saturday that Kentuckians can take the first step in removing Obama from office next year by electing Williams.
"The best way to stop Barack Obama and get Kentucky going in the right direction — all in the same day — is to elect David Williams the next governor of Kentucky," he said.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, did not attend the rally but was featured live on a televised screen from Glasgow, where, his state director Jim Milliman said, he was performing free eye surgeries as an ophthalmologist at a clinic for the needy.
Paul said he was excited about the GOP ticket this fall and is confident that Williams is going to make Kentucky more attractive to businesses.
The most heated comments at the rally came from Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool, who is running for attorney general against Democratic incumbent Jack Conway of Louisville.
He said the GOP is "the party of life, the party of liberty and the party that will kick Barack Obama out of the White House in 2012."
P'Pool called Conway "the architect of Aqua Buddha," referring to a controversial campaign ad Conway used against Paul in last year's U.S. Senate race that dealt with Paul's college days.
P'Pool also said Conway and the other Democratic candidates were "cheerleaders" for Obama.
P'Pool was especially critical of Beshear's running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, saying he needs to explain his position on gun control and the unborn.
When Abramson campaigns in Western Kentucky, P'Pool said, he should not wear "those alligator shoes with tassels. We will take off those tassels and use them for fishing lures."
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, said Kentucky's Republican congressional delegation "stands ready" to help Williams and other GOP candidates in the fall.