Grimes beats incumbent in Democratic race for Secretary of State

Tea partier appears to be winner in tight GOP race

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comMay 18, 2011 

FRANKFORT — Lexington lawyer Alison Lundergan Grimes beat incumbent Secretary of State Elaine Walker in the Democratic race for the position that oversees business filings, elections and land records.

Grimes, 32, will probably face Republican Bill Johnson, a Todd County businessman with ties to the Tea Party. In Tuesday's closest race, it appeared that Johnson edged out Hilda Legg of Somerset, who had raised six times as much money as Johnson. Johnson had about 1,000 more votes than Legg with 99 percent of the precincts reporting.

With about 99 percent of the polls reporting, Grimes had 55 percent, while Walker had 45 percent of the vote.

"We are very excited and humbled by the strong showing of support statewide," Grimes said late Tuesday. Grimes said she felt that her message came through that the position was about more than just "lines on a résumé," and that people wanted a candidate with a "vision and, most importantly, a plan."

The race between Walker and Grimes highlighted a split in the Democratic Party leadership.

Walker was appointed to the position by Gov. Steve Beshear in January when Republican Trey Grayson left the post to take a job at Harvard University. Beshear pushed Walker in automated calls on the eve of Tuesday's election and appeared with Walker in mailed advertisements.

But Beshear's support may not have been enough to counter Grimes' substantial campaign war chest. Grimes outraised Walker nearly 3 to 1. The latest report shows Grimes raised $378,660 compared with Walker's $123,945.

Grimes, whose father, Jerry Lundergan, is a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, was also backed by a "who's who" of the Democratic Party, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, U.S. Rep Ben Chandler and Attorney General Jack Conway. And former Gov. Martha Layne Collins spoke in automated calls for Grimes on Monday night.

Walker, 59, was in her second term as Bowling Green mayor when she was appointed by Beshear.

Walker said late Tuesday that she was honored to be Beshear's choice and that more than 66,000 people across the state voted for her. Walker still has about six months remaining in her term and wants to finish a series of initiatives, including the implementation of the "One Stop" portal, a Web site for business transactions with the state. She said she will sign a Democratic unity pledge and will support Grimes in the fall.

Grimes is a lawyer with Stoll Keenon Ogden. This is her first run for elected office.

Beshear said Tuesday night of the race: "We had two good candidates. I appointed Elaine Walker to the post in January because of her experience.

"Alison ran a good, strong race, and we Democrats all will be united for the general election."

In the Republican race, Legg outraised Johnson by nearly 6 to 1. According to the latest campaign finance report, Johnson raised $24,000 while Legg raised $143,910.

The primary was Johnson's second run for elected office. Johnson also ran for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primary in 2010, but bowed out.

"She had more money, but I had a better organization," Johnson said. "I don't think there is any question that the Tea Party and all the patriot groups were a big factor."

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