Bush stumps for governor candidate in Paducah visit

Sunday, November 2, 2003

PADUCAH, Ky. -- President Bush campaigned Saturday for Republicans in tight races for governor in Kentucky and Mississippi, where at one event a car evaded police and slammed into the arena hosting a political rally.

Bush was lending support to Republicans ahead of Tuesday's vote, seen as an indication of his popularity a year before his own re-election.

In Kentucky, U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher is considered the GOP's best chance in years to capture a governor's office it has not won since 1967.

"I like fact the that he was a fighter pilot," Bush, a former pilot himself, said in an airplane hangar where supporters waved red-white-and-blue pom-poms.

"I like the fact that he's been an effective United States congressman, I know I worked with him closely. When he becomes governor and calls Washington, the president will answer the phone," Bush said.

In Mississippi, former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

Bush was in his limousine when the car rammed the arena in Southhaven, Miss., but the limo had not left the building and he was not hurt, a senior Bush administration official said. He left the arena less than five minutes later from an exit about 40 yards from the car.

Secret Service and local law enforcement investigators concluded after interviewing her that she had no intention of harming the president, said Ann Roman, a Secret Service spokeswoman.

"Essentially, she was trying to locate her mother-in-law, who was attending the president's speech," said William Jenkins, the FBI's acting special agent in charge in Jackson.

The woman, who was not carrying any weapon, was arrested for trespassing, Roman said in Washington, D.C.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the driver as Betina Mixon, 29.

Friends of the Horn Lake woman said she "snapped" under recent stress but that they did not believe the incident was politically motivated.

Witnesses said a gray Toyota Camry drove through a parking lot on the same side of the DeSoto Civic Center as the president's exit. The car jumped the curb, drove through a gate where press buses had just left and rammed the building near a loading dock.

"We heard sirens and looked and the car was flying around the corner," said Michael Smith, 17, who was on the loading dock with about a dozen workers taking a break from their food service jobs at the center.

Damage to the front of the car indicated it hit the building at 5 to 10 mph. No ambulances were called to the scene.

Police rushed the car, dragged out the woman, handcuffed her and whisked her away.

No shots were fired from or at the car, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. "There was a vehicle that did crash into the side of the building," Duffy said, although it was "not close" to the president's car.

"The president was never in any danger and is keeping with his schedule," Duffy later told reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush flew to Paducah, Ky.

He would not say whether Bush saw what happened or say what the president's reaction was.

DeSoto County sheriff's Capt. Bill Rasco said the woman was taken to the DeSoto County jail, where she was being questioned by the Secret Service. The children were also taken away.

Mixon, a nurse's aide and the mother of three sons, had been under stress recently because of marital problems and a hysterectomy, said friend Amy Graves, of Walls.

"She just snapped," Graves told the DeSoto Times for its online edition Saturday.

Another friend, Lisa Jones, told the paper the incident was "absolutely not" politically motivated. "She is not that type of person," Jones said.

Bush had spoken at a rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour, the first of four campaign speeches Bush had scheduled for Saturday.

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