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Governor's commute -- short, but by car -- derided in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- When Governor Ernie Fletcher's day is over, he leaves his Capitol office, climbs into a Lincoln Town Car driven by a state trooper, and returns to the Governor's Mansion -- across the street.

Meanwhile, his administration is encouraging Kentuckians to get out and walk more for their health.

The Republican governor -- a physician by training -- makes no apologies for riding back and forth to work. ``I think that's been a tradition for a long time," he said. ``That's what security likes."

But his do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do example irks some politicians.

``I just think it's incredible," said Democratic state Senator Ernesto Scorsone, a marathon runner and frequent critic of Fletcher. ``The governor should practice what he's preaching. Otherwise it smacks of being hypocritical."

Across the country, several governors who live near state Capitols routinely walk to work. In Iowa, Governor Tom Vilsack sometimes jogs the 3 miles from the Capitol to his home at the end of the work day.

However, Governor Chris Gregoire in Washington state, Governor Rick Perry in Texas, and Governor Haley Barbour in Mississippi routinely ride to work from their homes next door.

``Security is what drives the decision," said Gregoire spokesman Lars Erickson.

In Virginia and West Virginia, the governors have only a short trek from home to office, and they walk it daily. In Montana, Governor Brian Schweitzer walks, with his dog, seven blocks to his Capitol office. In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush sometimes walks the half-mile to the Capitol. And in Nevada, Governor Kenny Guinn routinely walked the 10 blocks before he had hip replacement surgery.

In Kentucky, the Fletcher administration has begun running radio announcements across the state, calling on people to walk or bike more. In his State of the Commonwealth address earlier this year, Fletcher announced the kickoff of a fitness program to help fight obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

``He has an opportunity to really set a good example for good health, and he's not doing it," Scorsone said. ``If anything, he's setting a bad example."

Larry Forgy, a Fletcher supporter and former Republican gubernatorial candidate, said any criticism of Fletcher was unjustified. ``One of the things I do know is that all security people want anybody who is a potential target not to have a routine," Forgy said. ``The routine of walking across there at 8 o'clock every morning is what they'd want to break up. It's not about laziness. "

Fletcher and his administration have been under fire for the past year. He is under indictment on charges of illegally hiring and firing employees on the basis of their political loyalty.

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