VERSAILLES — John-Mark Hack, independent candidate in Central Kentucky's special House election this month, railed Thursday against involvement of heavily financed outside special interest groups in the race.
He was especially concerned about the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee that has spent $140,538 to benefit the Republican candidate Lyen Crews.
Hack, during a news conference at the Woodford County Courthouse, called on both political parties to stop the "messaging that has nothing to do with the issues of importance to this campaign."
Voters in the state House 56th District that covers Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties will decide June 25 who will replace Democrat Carl Rollins of Midway. Rollins resigned from the legislature to take a higher education post.
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The candidates are Hack, Crews and Democrat James Kay II. All three are from Woodford County.
Hack said Thursday that the "misinformation campaign" by the Republican State Leadership Committee is "sordid and unfortunate."
He noted that the GOP group this week sent out a mailer that showed Kay dressed in a jockey's outfit for a Halloween party. It said, "This jockey is a joke."
The GOP group also is airing a TV ad that calls Kay and Hack "liberals."
Jill Bader, a spokesperson for the Republican PAC, said, "We just want to be sure the people of this district have a chance to look at the candidates' records." She would not say if the group plans to spend more money.
Records with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance show that the GOP group spent $76,917 this week for "media placement."
Other expenditure reports show money spent for door-to-door canvassing, mail and get-out-the-vote phone calls. It also has a website at Kentuckysobviouschoice.com.
The independent political action committee known as Kentucky Family Values, which tries to support Democratic candidates, has raised $7,500 and has received $17,500 in in-kind contributions of research and polling from the state Democratic Party, according to records filed with the state finance registry.
Its chairman, Cary Blankenship, said Thursday he is not sure how the group will spend its money, "probably something to do with getting out the vote." He said he knew nothing about reports of phone calls the group made in the district that question Crews' work performance as a financial officer for the former Woodford Memorial Hospital and for Midway College during its failed attempt to build a pharmacy school in Johnson County.
Kay said he was not aware of what Kentucky Family Values is doing in the race. He did say the race, to him, was about the 56th District and not "Washington-style politics."
Kay also said the jockey photo was indeed taken at a Halloween party.
Hack, a partner with Marksbury Farm Market who headed the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund for former Gov. Paul Patton, said he wants both of his opponents "to elevate the discussion."
He said he called both Crews and Kay in early May and pledged to run a positive campaign.
He played a recording of a return phone call from Crews, pledging to do the same.
"I want to believe Lyen Crews is a man of his word," Hack said.
Crews, in response, said, "I have directed all funds I have control over to operate on an issues-based campaign and to stay out of the negative."
Hack said Crews' answer is "insulting" to the district's voters.
Crews said he was concerned that Hack held the news conference within 300 feet of a polling place, which state election laws do not allow.
Hack's campaign consultant, Kim Geveden, said Hack had planned to hold the news conference outside "but a big storm blew in."
He also said there was no signage in the courthouse that said the area of the news conference was near a polling place for early voting and noted that a Republican Party aide held a brief news conference in the same place after Hack finished.