Keeling: Who will suffer Mitch's slings and arrows?

Herald-Leader columnistMay 5, 2013 

FRANKFORT — This and that as natives and our many visitors grope around for ibuprofen and bicarb on the morning after Kentucky's grand soiree:

With Saturday's little horse race behind us, let's move on the big one: Kentucky's 2014 Democratic U.S. Senate Derby.

Oh, wait, I forgot for a moment. That race was cancelled due to lack of intestines, uh, excuse me, lack of interest on the part of the most prominent possible entrants. Despite poll numbers indicating incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is very vulnerable, they all stepped back, held the starting gate open and said to anyone in the vicinity, "Please, be my guest."

It now has come down to a "Do I, or don't I?" choice by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. For the moment, she's the anyone in the vicinity all the Democratic non-starters are encouraging to take on the task they declined.

Grimes by far is the best Democratic option who hasn't already said no. She has no voting record to attack. Bill and Hillary Clinton are family friends whose nationwide fund-raising network can assure her ability to raise all the money she would need. Her youth and her sex would be assets in a race against an aging senator from a party with a poor record on women's issues. (Lest McConnell take too much offense about the "aging" reference, I readily acknowledge I'm aging, too, and not all that gracefully.)

But Grimes' political future is full of options that don't involve enduring the nastiness of one of McConnell's customary "scorched earth" campaigns. She could challenge 6th District U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in 2014. She could run for re-election or for attorney general in 2015. Or she could be No. 2 on some gubernatorial slate. She has to be at or near the top of the list for any Democratic hopeful. And if her dream is the U.S. Senate, there's always 2016, when it looks increasingly likely Sen. Rand Paul's seat might be vacant. All without making herself the target of a full frontal assault from McConnell.

So, it's no sure thing Grimes will step into the starting gate the Democratic non-starters are holding open for her. If she does say no, the party doesn't appear to have any backup plans. Which means McConnell could have the kind of walkover election that allows him to spend time and money helping Republican state House candidates next year.

Then, some of those conservative Democrats talking trash about actress Ashley Judd's liberalism a few weeks ago may regret not having her in the race.

As good friends and co-workers in former Gov. Paul Patton's administration, Attorney General Jack Conway and former state Auditor Crit Luallen may well have had the opportunity to dance with each other, perhaps at one of Patton's inaugural balls. Now, though, they seem to be dancing around each other, as they both mull over the prospect of seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2015.

Whenever one makes a public comment on the subject, you can expect the other to respond rather quickly. Shortly after Conway told The (Louisville) Courier-Journal's editorial board there is a "good chance" he will run in 2015, Luallen told cn|2 Pure Politics the tone in Frankfort this year is "encouraging" enough to make her think more about running. A few days later, Conway told Pure Politics he's had "preliminary discussions" with potential running mates. I suspect Luallen will respond soon by dropping another hint of her own.

Luallen and Conway say they don't want to run against each other and need to settle the issue of which one does run amicably. I expect them to do so, because I would be shocked if both of these genuine friends get in the race.

For now, though, it's amusing to watch their dance. And for now, it may be fun for them, too. But if the dance goes on much longer, the fun might go out of it for one or both.

Five federal felony counts, each carrying the possibility of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Plus, the feds are seeking $450,000 in restitution. Richie Farmer should have stuck with basketball.

However, if driving fast and owning a "Fuzzbuster" justify all the round-trip travel between Pike County and Frankfort claimed by state Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, during the eight-month period last year in which he was paid $22,804 in expenses even though the General Assembly wasn't in session, I'm lowering the odds on Farmer coming up with a creative explanation that salvages his "Unforgettable" reputation.


Hope everyone had at least one winner Saturday.

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