LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An independent group's attack ads that depict Republican gubernatorial nominee David Williams as a big-spending Frankfort politician and a gambler aren't sitting well with his wife, who called them "disgusting."
One ad, paid for by the Kentucky Family Values PAC, criticizes Williams for spending $17,000 to upgrade his Capitol Annex office, including the purchase of a 60-inch television. Another claims Williams rails against the evils of gambling by day but goes to casinos at night.
"There's a whole lot better way they could spend their money than to disparage somebody personally," Robyn Williams told reporters at a Kentucky Farm Bureau breakfast in Louisville on Thursday. "I think it's disgusting."
The remark came at a must-attend event for Kentucky political candidates, an annual get-together that raises money for state charities by auctioning a prize-winning ham, which was purchased this year by Republic Bank for $600,000.
David Williams, who is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, has been taking a thrashing from the independent political group on Kentucky's airwaves over the past month.
The Williams campaign hasn't responded with spots of its own to refute the attacks.
"I really don't think they're saying anything to respond to," David Williams told reporters Thursday. "And I'm not going to be in the business of responding to every negative ad or mudslinging that comes up."
Polls show David Williams trailing Beshear by more than 20 percentage points with more than two months remaining before the Nov. 8 election.
The Williams campaign could get a boost Thursday evening with a fundraiser headlined by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, giving some hope to a candidate who has lost two campaign managers since the May primary.
"So, we feel very good about what's happening," David Williams said.
Both the Williams and Beshear campaigns have been closely guarding fundraising information. As of June, the last time the candidates filed campaign finance reports, Beshear had some $2.7 million in the bank, and Williams less than $100,000. But the Williams campaign has had major fundraisers since then, including one that generated more than $500,000.
"We have adequate resources to provide a vigorous campaign," David Williams said Thursday.
A third gubernatorial candidate, Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith, is running as an independent, but has raised relatively little campaign cash.
Beshear, who chose former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson as his running mate, said he "feels good" about his fundraising and polling.
"The numbers are all looking great right now," he told reporters. "Jerry Abramson and I are working like we're 10 points behind, and that's the way we'll run every day until Nov. 8.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Kentuckians are fortunate to have candidates of the caliber of Beshear and David Williams running for governor.
"Both of them are honest people, competent and qualified to serve," Stumbo told reporters. "I believe that Gov. Beshear has done a very good job of managing our state's resources over the past four years and deserves another term, but that isn't to say David Williams isn't qualified to be governor."
Stumbo also said it's too early to write David Williams off.
"There's a lot of this race to run," Stumbo said. "The campaigns are just now getting in full gear, and we'll just see what happens."
Beshear, speaking to some 1,600 people who attended the ham breakfast, boasted that he has balanced the state's budget nine times since he took office in December 2007.
Beshear also reminded the crowd, made up largely of farmers and political operatives, that he and his wife, Jane, have a small farm in Clark County where they raise horses. "As the saying goes, we've got manure under our nails," he said. "Jane mucks stalls out at the farm, and I do the same thing sometimes in Frankfort."
Other speakers addressed the current political climate.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, criticized Obama administration policies that he said have hurt the national economy through overspending, over-borrowing and overregulating.
"I'll say this for the president; he didn't inherit a good situation," McConnell said. "No question about it. But I think after two and half years it's fair to say he made it worse."
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky's junior senator, said both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the nation's fiscal problems.
"It's not always one party's fault," he said. "It's not that Democrats are inherently evil, or that Republicans are inherently evil. There's blame to go around. To find a solution, we have to get beyond the empty partisanship."