Kentucky Gov. Leaves Office With Head Bowed

Gov. Paul Patton (search) thinks "it'd be a miracle" if history looked kindly on him for an extramarital affair that derailed his political career.

Patton, 66, was seven years into what many considered a productive administration focused on education and the economy when news of the two-year relationship with former nursing home owner Tina Conner led him into retirement.

Patton leaves office Monday, just over a month after Democrat Ben Chandler lost to Republican Ernie Fletcher (search) in a race affected at least in part by the scandal. Fletcher will be the first Republican to become Kentucky's governor in 32 years.

Patton said he was planning a leisurely final day at the Capitol - no mass pardons or appointments - before he returns to his hometown of Pikeville in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Patton at first denied, then tearfully acknowledged his affair with Conner. He has consistently denied doing anything illegal or misusing his power to help Conner - or to harm her businesses after the affair, as she alleged in a sexual harassment lawsuit last year.

Patton settled ethics charges against him last month by acknowledging two instances of using his power and influence to benefit Conner. He agreed to accept a $5,000 fine and a public reprimand.

Before the scandal, Patton seemed well on his way to national prominence, having aspirations to run for the Senate and serving as chairman of the National Governors Association (search) in 2002.

He also had built a solid record on education, including far-reaching changes for the very young and for students beyond high school that continue to be manifested across the state.

The state made a significant investment in university research under Patton, and a sixth of the state's multimillion-dollar share of a national tobacco settlement (search) was set aside for early childhood education. In addition, community and technical colleges were blended into a single system.

Despite his achievements, Patton fears any good he did for the state will be overshadowed by his shortcomings as a husband. "If you add up my whole term, the good far outweighs the bad," Patton said.

Still, he said most of the criticism he has received was deserved.

"In this last year, even though I have felt that it was really excessive, I also felt that I personally deserved it," he said.

Fletcher said Patton probably will be remembered for his accomplishments.

"Unfortunately, when somebody makes the mistakes that he made, that detracts from what otherwise would have been a very good legacy," Fletcher said. "But, history over the years has a way of looking at the positive things in people."