Farmer mulls run for governor

Associated PressOctober 28, 2009 

FRANKFORT — University of Kentucky basketball icon Richie Farmer said Tuesday he is considering a run for governor on the Republican ticket.

The shooting guard on the legendary 1992 UK team dubbed "The Unforgettables" said Tuesday he has been "in discussions" about a possible run.

"I'm looking at options and seeing what people are saying," said Farmer, who is now serving his second term as state agriculture commissioner. "We may look at doing a poll a little later on."

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is the only major candidate who has entered the race so far. Beshear and his running mate, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, have already begun fund-raising.

Beshear chose Abramson as his running mate when Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo bowed out to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Jim Bunning, who is retiring.

Beshear and Abramson share a pro-gambling stance. The governor has been pushing a proposal to legalize slots at the state's horse tracks to generate more money for Kentucky's struggling horse industry and to create new revenue for the state budget.

Gambling was a central issue in the last governor's race and is likely to be in the next one.

Farmer said he considers gambling an issue that should be decided by Kentuckians through a ballot referendum.

"I've always said we should let the people decide," he said.

The Clay County native, who easily won two terms as state agriculture commissioner, has widespread name recognition across Kentucky. That "would play in his favor" if he were to enter the governor's race, said University of Louisville political scientist Laura Rhodebeck.

Rhodebeck said others have used their popularity in athletics to catapult into politics, including Bunning, a former big-league pitcher now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I think there are plenty of fans who would see it as a real plus," Rhodebeck said.

Republican stalwart and former gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy said Farmer would be a strong candidate for the GOP.

"Richie Farmer would beat any Democrat in Kentucky by double digits," Forgy said. "Beshear could just pack his bags."

Beshear campaign spokesman Chad Aull declined to comment about Farmer.

Farmer, who is limited to two terms as agriculture commissioner, gave no time line for deciding on the governor's race.

"I'm still concentrating on being the best commissioner I can possibly be," he said. "I guess it's flattering that people would consider you, and look at you that way. But, by the same token, I'm not getting blown away by it."

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