A giant leap - from a plane - for Kentucky governor hopeful

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2015 3:35 PM
A giant leap - from a plane - for Kentucky governor hopeful

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) — Will T. Scott does not hold statewide office. He is not a former councilman in the state's largest city. And he did not challenge one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress in a closely watched U.S. Senate race.

So what is the 67-year-old retired paratrooper supposed to do for attention in Kentucky's crowded governor race?

Jump out of an airplane — because he knows how.

The Vietnam War veteran made the jump from about 3,500 feet on Monday with a hunk of chewing tobacco in his cheek at the Elizabethtown Airport as a friend in overalls played the banjo. Then, in a blue and red jumpsuit, Scott walked over to a lectern and held a 30-minute news conference with most of the state's media about his plan to help military veterans find jobs.

And he did it all before he could catch his breath.

"Would you be here asking me a question if I didn't jump out of an airplane today?" Scott said. "I think that answers it."

While Republicans dominate Kentucky at the federal level, they've managed to elect only one governor in the past 44 years. But 2015 could be the party's best chance to send a Republican to Frankfort. The May 19 primary has attracted four competitive candidates, including state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, former Louisville metro councilman Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin, the Louisville businessman best known for his unsuccessful challenge to Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Senate Republican primary.

Scott has little financial resources to get out his message, forcing him to resort to the types of publicity stunts rarely seen among Kentucky's serious politicians. Last week, as state lawmakers hashed out a compromise on a high-profile bill to combat the state's heroin epidemic, Scott called a news conference in Louisville to unveil his plan to battle the state's addiction problem. But only one reporter from an online publication showed up.

Scott didn't have that problem Monday, with reporters from the state's largest newspapers and TV stations there. Scott spent a year in Vietnam in the 1960s. He was a trained paratrooper with the famed 82nd Airborne Division but never made a combat jump.

He predicted a large reduction in force in the U.S. military as it scales back its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would affect Kentucky's two military bases.

"There's going to be a lot of them out of work in Kentucky," he said

If elected governor, Scott promised to continue and possibly expand a state program that gives preference to military veterans applying for state jobs. He said he would work with private businesses to give veterans jobs but didn't offer specifics on that proposal.

He said he also wants to hold a parade for veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars to march to the state Capitol on inauguration day. They would be formally thanked by the state and welcomed home from battle. Scott said veterans of those wars haven't received the recognition they deserve — he said he once was spit on while exiting a New York City subway in his uniform.

"I'm the one who got spit on," Scott said. "... We've never been thanked by America."