R.I.P. Gatewood Galbraith, Iconic Kentuckian

R.I.P. Gatewood Galbraith, Iconic Kentuckian

Gatewood with Willie Nelson, photo Ace Archives, by Peggy Blythe

Kentucky political icon Gatewood Galbraith died in his sleep overnight, according to news reports from Lexington television and newspapers.

Gatewood Galbraith

The perennial independent candidate for Kentucky’s governor, who  sometimes campaigned with the likes of Willie Nelson, at one point traveling in a hemp-oil fueled Mercedes, had stood again for the Commonwealth’s top post in the 2011 election that was won by Democrat Steve Beshear.

According to WKYT, the news was first posted on the Facebook page of his 2011 running mate, Dea Riley. Other news outlets reported that the death of the Lexingtonian was confirmed by the coroner.

Galbraith, who was an attorney, had owned a tractor company and done a variety of “On The Road” style jobs before entering politics as a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner in 1983. One notable plank of the Galbraith platform, no matter which office he was running for, was the legalization of hemp and the health benefits of marijuana.

In 1991, 1995 and 1999, he ran for governor, sometimes vying for the Democratic nomination, sometimes as a general ticket candidate. In 2000 and 2002, he ran for Congress. Read about his 2000 race from Ace Weekly coverage here.

In 2007, he again ran for governor.  His final race for governor, in the 2011 election that pitted Republican David Williams against incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear, saw him posting a respectable loss.

It can easily be argued that with more than 31 years on the ballot, Gatewood Galbraith’s name recognition, earned incrementally and through no- to low-cost campaigns, was higher statewide than that of many candidates who were successful in 2011.

In the 2011 Kentucky gubernatorial election, Galbraith received 8.99 percent of the vote statewide, or 74,860 votes. (That’s more than two times the 30,015 Iowa caucus ballots received by winner Mitt Romney in last night’s GOP Presidential Caucus.) In his home county of Fayette, which includes Lexington, Galbraith received 21.81 percent of the vote, or 13,131 votes.

State election finance records show that 2011 was Galbraith’s most expensive campaign — with $175,436 raised and nearly all of it spent.  In 1999, when he garnered nearly 15 percent of the statewide vote for governor, he spent only 34,830.  Finance records for two other statewide campaigns he ran state the amount raised and expended at $00.00.

A public memorial is scheduled for Thursday, January 12 at Lexington’s Carnegie Center.

A version of this post and additional essays appear on page 4 of the January 12 print edition of Ace Weekly.