All seven Democrats for governor signed a "unity pledge" with the party to promise that they will run "a clean, positive and issues-based campaign."
Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan told the party’s executive committee this afternoon that each of the candidates promised not to run personal attack ads during the campaign and get behind the winner of the May 22 primary (or after the run-off five weeks later).
"I fully understand the ramifications of personal, negative attacks toward Democratic candidate during the primary election cycle and I recognize that such campaign tactics have the potential to damage all candidates … and divide the party," the pledge states.
Five candidates — former lieutenant governors Steve Henry and Steve Beshear, House Speaker Jody Richards, Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford and Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith — signed the pledge at a meeting at Democratic headquarters in Frankfort on Thursday. State treasurer Jonathan Miller and Harlan demolition contractor Otis Hensley signed off on the pledge and sent them in later.
Lundergan told reporters later that he didn’t consider it negative for candidates to draw contrasts with each other over issues, positions or voting records. But he said he considered detailing a candidate’s business record or dealings, personal lives or past party loyalty to be "personal attacks."
UPDATE 6:59 p.m.: Some candidates, including Lunsford, already pledged on their own to run a positive campaign. Lunsford has been fielding questions from reporters and Democratic activists since announcing his run on Jan. 30 about his actions during the 2003 governor’s race.
Lunsford and Ben Chandler were engaged in a tough primary battle with sometimes harsh ads. Then Lunsford backed Republican Ernie Fletcher against Chandler in the fall race.
Dale Emmons, a Democratic campaign consultant working with Lunsford, said questions about Lunsford’s actions in that race are fair game.
But Carol Andrews, spokeswoman for Miller’s campaign, noted that Lunsford made a similar promise in 2003 to stay positive. “I don’t know whether any such pledge was signed but he did make public statements that he would back the nominee and stay away from personal attacks and he did neither,” she said.
Andrews said Miller takes the pledge seriously. At the same time, contrasting records in government and business are important to allow voters to make their choice, she said.
For more details on this and the meeting, stay tuned to Pol Watchers and see the "Trail Mix" column in Sunday’s Herald-Leader.
– Ryan Alessi
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