- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015
GOP governor candidates focus on background in crowded field

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - James Comer told a room full of Kentucky Realtors on Tuesday that a recent poll showed him leading three other candidates for the Republican nomination for governor.

But that’s only partly true. The real front-runner is “undecided.”

A pair of recent public polls shows most likely Kentucky Republican voters have not decided who they will vote for in the May 19 primary, hinting at a wide open race with a little more than three months to go. With so little time left - and few if any disagreements on major policy issues - the four Republican candidates are selling their backgrounds and their personalities to voters who are still recovering from one of the most expensive and closely-watched U.S. Senate races in the country.

That’s why Matt Bevin, known mostly for his unsuccessful primary challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell last year, spent most of his time before the Kentucky Association of Realtors on Tuesday joking about life with his nine children. And it’s why former Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott dispensed with a microphone as he boldly roamed the space in front of the stage to talk about the 3,800-square-foot northern white cedar home he raised his family in.

“What I’m giving people is somebody who has a fuller life experience than most of those in the race,” Bevin told reporters after his speech, highlighting his experience running several businesses and managing a large family.

Comer, the state Agriculture Commissioner, has the most governing experience in the race. He was a state legislator for 11 years before becoming the state’s only Republican statewide officeholder in 2011 when he won the race for agriculture commissioner. He has raised more than $1 million, keeping pace with Attorney General Jack Conway, the presumptive nominee for governor. And he said his western Kentucky roots, where most voters are still registered Democrats, put him in a strong position to win a general election.

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MADD president backs ignition interlock bill to combat DUI

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A lawmaker’s proposal to test the sobriety of drunken driving offenders when they get behind the wheel won support Tuesday from groups that crusade against impaired driving and promote the bourbon industry.

State Rep. Dennis Keene’s bill drew praise from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. The legislation aims to have ignition interlock devices installed in the vehicles of DUI offenders as a way to keep them from putting lives in danger by drinking and driving again.

“Interlocks keep drunk drivers from driving drunk,” MADD national President Colleen Sheehey-Church said at a Capitol rally. “They protect the public and they allow offenders to continue with their daily lives.”

The rally came as the Kentucky General Assembly resumed its 30-working-day session Tuesday after a three-week break. The session will continue into March.

Twenty-four states currently have ignition interlock laws similar to Keene’s bill, according to MADD.

Keene, D-Wilder, said his bill would require repeat DUI offenders to have the devices installed in their vehicles. First-time offenders could be back on the road sooner if they had the devices in their vehicles, he said. That would allow them to drive to their jobs without putting other motorists at risk, he said.

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Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey sales up in US; exports top $1B

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Producers of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey scored another round of U.S. sales growth in 2014, while exports topped $1 billion for the second straight year, a distilled spirits trade group said Tuesday.

Mixed together, U.S. revenues for bourbon and Tennessee whiskey rose by 9.6 percent to $2.7 billion last year, the Distilled Spirits Council said. Domestic volume shot up 7.4 percent to 19.4 million cases, it said.

The revenue and volume gains last year were similar to increases the category registered in 2013.

“Consumers in the U.S. and around the globe are increasingly enjoying bourbon and Tennessee whiskey because of their distinctive flavor profiles and authentic American heritage,” said the council’s chief economist, David Ozgo.

The domestic numbers reflect sales from producers or suppliers to wholesalers.

In another good sign for producers’ bottom lines, the category’s super premium products notched 19.2 percent gains in both revenues and volumes - by far the biggest increases across price spectrums. Super premium products age longer and fetch higher prices.

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Defense: Lack of evidence against mom in NY poisoning death

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) - A woman accused of killing her 5-year-old son by feeding him salt through a stomach tube calmly “watched and waited” for the poisoning to take effect, summoning help only after he began writhing and retching, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

In her opening statement at the murder trial of Lacey Spears, Assistant District Attorney Doreen Lloyd said she researched, planned, carried out and tried to cover up the killing of her blond, blue-eyed son, Garnett-Paul.

“It seems to go against nature,” the prosecutor said. “But Lacey Spears is not like most people.” She said Spears enjoyed the “attention and sympathy” she received from having a sick child.

Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, had documented Garnett’s declining health on social media. She wiped away a tear as the prosecutor spoke.

Defense lawyer Stephen Riebling told the jurors there are no eyewitnesses and no direct evidence that the 27-year-old Spears poisoned her son.

He added: “There is no evidence in this case that legitimately answers the question ‘Why?’”

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