- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott kicked off his campaign for governor on Tuesday by selecting a former rural sheriff as his running mate and endorsing expanded gambling as a way to raise money to meet Kentucky’s public pension obligations.

Scott, a Republican, introduced former four-term Menifee County Sheriff Rodney Coffey as his lieutenant gubernatorial candidate.

His choice matches two eastern Kentuckians on the same ticket, but Scott downplayed the lack of geographical balance. He said his ideas will appeal to voters and touted Coffey’s statewide experience as a former president of the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association.

“This may not be your typical run for governor,” Coffey said. “But I tell you what you do have here today: You have two men who love the Lord, who love Kentucky and know firsthand what the suffering is that’s going on across the state and are willing to do something about it.”

Scott, a Pike County native, said he supports amending Kentucky’s constitution to legalize casino-style gambling as a way to generate big sums of money to deal with the state’s ongoing problems in meeting its pension obligations. Scott estimated that license fees for five casinos would generate $125 million in the first year, and that casino-style gambling would produce as much as $250 million in state revenues per year.

The proposal would earmark most of the money to pay down the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, Scott said. Racetracks would be in line to get four of the licenses, which would boost the state’s horse racing industry, Scott said. He stopped short of saying where the fifth license would go.

A small portion of gambling-related revenue would go to help “isolated, elderly people” pay their heating bills, Scott said.

Scott acknowledged many rural residents oppose expanded gambling for religious reasons. But he predicted he could sell the plan as a way to eventually free the state from its long-running pension woes.

“We do understand obligations and promises,” he said. “And I believe the people, if they have the right to choose, based upon the plan I’ve said, will vote to keep a promise and vote to take care of that unfunded liability.”

Expanded gambling proponents say Kentucky is losing money going to casinos in neighboring states. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear made expanded gambling a centerpiece of his campaigns but has been unable to get such legislation through the General Assembly.

Beshear is in his second term and can’t serve again because of term limits.

Scott, 67, stepped down from the state’s highest court at the end of 2014. He is the third Republican to enter this year’s wide-open gubernatorial race. The other GOP hopefuls are state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner. Democrats in the race are state Attorney General Jack Conway and former congressional candidate Geoff Young.

Scott said he wasn’t worried about the big head start Comer and Heiner got in fundraising and organizing.

“You all will never have seen a campaigner like me,” he told reporters after his announcement.

Scott also made a pitch for charter schools and a lower corporate income tax rate in his announcement Tuesday in the cold in downtown Louisville.

Adding charter schools to Kentucky’s education system would give families more freedom in charting their children’s path, he said. The competition would be beneficial for public schools, he said.

“They will react, and we’ll get better school systems,” Scott said.

A gradual lowering of the state’s corporate income tax rate would improve Kentucky’s competitiveness in attracting new business without hurting the state budget, he said.

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