Former Kentucky Democratic Party chief mulling possible bid for U.S. Senate

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMay 17, 2013 

Bill Garmer, a Lexington attorney and former chairman of the state Democratic Party, spoke to other Barack Obama supporters during a meet-up at the Surf s Up Grill in Lexington. He told the group why he feels Obama is the best candidate. Photo taken on Sunday, March 16, 2008. Ryan Alessi oe Staff

FRANKFORT — Former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer said Friday he is considering running for the U.S. Senate next year if Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes declines to enter the race against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.

"A lot of people have talked to me about the race," said Garmer, a Lexington lawyer, in a telephone interview. "But Alison is the center of discussion. In my mind, if she wants the nomination, she has my support. She is one of the bright stars in the Democratic party and she wants to serve Kentucky. I would be the first in line to support her."

Asked if he would consider running if Grimes decides not to run, Garmer said, "that sounds like a lawyer's question but that would be fair."

Neither Grimes nor McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, returned phone calls Friday seeking comment.

Grimes said April 23 that she is pondering whether to run for the U.S. Senate next year against McConnell. She said she would "take the time to reflect with my family, my supporters on how I can best continue to serve the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

Grimes did not set a timetable for making a decision, saying only that she would "give it the due diligence it deserves." She has not yet announced her decision.

Her father, businessman Jerry Lundergan of Lexington, replaced Garmer in January 2005 as state Democratic Party chairman. Garmer held the post for a year, and resigned after Democrats suffered a series of defeats in November 2003 elections. Lundergan also had been party chairman in 1988 during the administration of the late Gov. Wallace Wilkinson.

Garmer said he thinks Grimes is aware of his political sentiments "but I've not had a direct one-on-one" conversation with her about the race.

"I can't emphasize enough that I hope Alison runs," he said.

The Kentucky Democratic Party "will have a credible candidate" to run against McConnell, Garmer said.

"It's important for the party to get behind a single candidate," he said. "Registration in Kentucky is majority Democratic, and if the party gets behind a single candidate, we win."

Two Democrats without a statewide following have said they will challenge McConnell next year: Owensboro contractor Ed Marksberry and Louisville musician and music promoter Bennie J. Smith.

Environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald of Louisville said last month that he is thinking about running for the Democratic nomination. He said this week that he expects to make a decision by the end of this month.

Actress Ashley Judd had considered entering the race since late 2012 but announced in March that she would not challenge McConnell.

Several well-known Democrats have said they have no plans to run. They include Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, former Auditor Crit Luallen, Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard.

No Republican has emerged to challenge McConnell in a primary, though Tea Party activist David Adams of Jessamine County said earlier this week that a Tea Party candidate will announce soon for the race.

Garmer has a legal career that spans more than 35 years. He was one of five attorneys selected to the trial team to represent the families of the passengers of Comair Flight 5191, which crashed on takeoff from Lexington in August 2006. He recently represented the family of a victim of nursing home abuses resulting in an $8 million jury verdict in Louisville.

Garmer received his law degree from the University of Kentucky in 1975 after obtaining a bachelor of arts degree from UK.

He is a member of several professional organizations and has received numerous awards in the legal community. He also has been an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law in litigation skills since 1981 and in health care law since 2003.

Garmer served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant from 1969 to 1973. He also is a member of the board of governors of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Garmer is scheduled to appear on Kentucky Tonight, a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network, Monday night to discuss the 2014 election with Republicans Steve Robertson and Ellen Williams and Democrat Jonathan Miller.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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