Millionaire Upsets Brown's Comeback Bid in Kentucky

May 27, 1987|Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Millionaire businessman Wallace Wilkinson scored a stunning upset victory in Kentucky's high-stakes Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday, ruining the comeback bid of former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.

Wilkinson, who made his fortune in real estate and college textbooks, rode his support for a state lottery and a promise not to raise taxes to triumph in his first bid for office. Brown, the former fried chicken magnate, finished second, and six other opponents trailed behind.

With 94% of precincts reporting, Wilkinson had 211,012 votes or 36% to Brown's 156,192 votes or 26%; Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear had 108,422 votes or 18%; and Grady Stumbo, who served as a member of Brown's Cabinet, had 70,822 votes or 12%.

'Defeat of the Old Ways'

"... They said we couldn't do it. But you stood . . . tall for me, you carried my banner," Wilkinson told his cheering supporters. "The only defeat tonight . . . was a defeat of the old ways in Kentucky. You will be remembered as the generation that got this state moving again."

Brown, in his concession speech, said: "The greatest thing in life is to be a winner. I've had that opportunity . . . the next best thing to being a good winner is being a good sport and I plan to do that."

Wilkinson will be heavily favored to win the Nov. 3 general election over the Republican nominee, state Rep. John Harper, for the right to succeed Gov. Martha Layne Collins. She was barred by the state constitution from a second consecutive term.

Brown, 53, had been considered the front-runner from the moment he entered the race to regain the job he held from 1979 to 1983.

His glamorous life style, including his penchant for high-stakes gambling and his marriage to Phyllis George, the former Miss America and TV star, drew criticism from some of his rivals. But it seemed to endear him to many voters for the attention it drew their state.

Wilkinson, 45, painted Brown as part of the history of mediocrity in Kentucky that has it leading the nation in unemployment and trailing in educational achievement. He pledged never to raise taxes and said a lottery would provide the funds needed for his programs.

In other voting Tuesday:

--Jacksonville, Fla., residents elected former Democratic state Rep. Tommy Hazouri as their new mayor by a 3-1 margin over Republican City Councilman Henry Cook. Incumbent Jake Godbold was barred from seeking a third term.

--Voters in the small mountain community of Telluride, Colo., gave overwhelming approval to having the Grateful Dead rock group perform two concerts in a town park in August. Residents opposed to the events put the issue on the ballot through a petition campaign.

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