Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Won't Be Fletcher's Running Mate

Kentucky's lieutenant governor, a former corruption-fighting prosecutor, announced Wednesday he won't seek re-election with Gov. Ernie Fletcher, whose administration has been caught up in a state hiring scandal.

Lt. Gov. Steve Pence said he told Fletcher late Tuesday that he will not seek any office after his term expires next year.

Pence wouldn't say if the hiring investigation had weighed in his decision, but he said: "I believe it's held the commonwealth back more than anything on things that could have been done."

Fletcher, Kentucky's first Republican governor since 1971, is under indictment for allegedly breaking state law by rewarding political supporters with protected state jobs after he took office in 2003.

The governor was indicted earlier this month on misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination. Last summer, he had issued a blanket pardon for everyone in his administration who might face charges in the probe — except himself.

Fletcher was "understanding" about Pence's decision, governor's spokesman Brett Hall said. He said he didn't know who Fletcher would choose as a running mate next year.

Pence, a former U.S. attorney for western Kentucky, prosecuted defendants in legislative bribery and influence-peddling scandals in the state in 1990s.

He said Wednesday that he believed Fletcher is an "honest man."

"I believe our administration has made significant accomplishments in the last two and a half years, and in my remaining 18 months as lieutenant governor, I hope we accomplish even more," Pence said. "But I believe the right decision for me and my family is to move on and find new challenges."

Pence had been a late addition to Fletcher's 2003 ticket after original pick failed to meet a residency requirement.

When his term ends, he said, he plans to resign as head of the state's Justice Cabinet, as well.

The move follows a series of cabinet secretaries and other top-ranking officials who have left since Fletcher took office: Personnel Cabinet Secretary Erwin Roberts, Commerce Secretary Jim Host, Health Secretary James Holsinger and former Chief of Staff Daniel Groves have all left, and Fletcher has also had five communications directors.