Gatewood Galbraith

January 4, 2012 by staff 

Gatewood GalbraithGatewood Galbraith, Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith, a perennial candidate for public office and one of the more colorful characters on Kentucky’s political landscape, has died at his home in Lexington at age 64, the Fayette County Coroner’s office said Wednesday.

The cause of death was listed as complications from chronic emphysema.

According to the coroner’s office, Galbraith was found unresponsive in his bed Wednesday morning by family members.

“He had been sick for several days with congestion in his lungs (and) … had been suffering from cold-like symptoms which had been complicated by chronic asthma and emphysema,” the office said in a statement.

Galbraith ran as an independent candidate for governor last November with businesswoman Dea Riley as his lieutenant governor running mate. He finished third in the three-candidate race, which was won by incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear.

“Dear friends I have just been notified that Gatewood passed away last night,” Riley said in a Facebook posting Wednesday. “I am heading to Lexington to be with his family. Please say a prayer for his family and friends and all those who loved him.”

Galbraith attracted attention as a young candidate for being a proponent of legalized marijuana, wearing a hemp suit and campaigning in his “hempmobile,” a used Mercedez-Benz station wagon that ran on hemp oil. In later years, he toned down such activities and took a more conservative stance in repeated, though unsuccessful, runs for office.

But he remained colorful and controversial, unleashing a fiery speech at last year’s annual Fancy Farm political picnic in August.

Over several decades, Galbraith ran five times for governor — three times as a Democrat, once on the Reform ticket and last year as an independent. He also ran unsuccessfully for state agriculture commissioner, attorney general and Congress.

Beshear issued a statement Wednesday saying that he and his wife, Jane, are saddened by Galbraith’s death.

“Jane and I were shocked and saddened to learn of Gatewood’s passing,” Beshear said. “He was a gutsy, articulate and passionate advocate who never shied away from a challenge or potential controversy.

“His runs for office prove he was willing to do more than just argue about the best direction for the state — he was willing to serve, and was keenly interested in discussing issues directly with our citizens. He will be missed.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Galbraith “had a commonsense way of looking at problems and government. Even though some of his ideas may have been far-fetched, others were worth certainly considering.”

In his most recent bid for governor, Galbraith said his views were straighforward and simple.

“I’m a Barry Goldwater conservative,” he told The Courier-Journal in October. “I want the government to stay out of my life unless I represent a threat to somebody else or their property.”

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