LOUISVILLE — Former State Auditor Crit Luallen said Saturday night that there's no rush for her to make an announcement about running for governor and that no Democrats should announce right now, so as to keep the focus on Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.
Luallen said that likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes is at a "critical time" in her fundraising efforts, and "it would be inappropriate for any of us to jump in her way at this point."
"There's plenty of time," she told reporters before the start of a dinner to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Emerge Kentucky, a group that trains female Democratic candidates.
In a room packed with Democratic officials, including Attorney General Jack Conway and State Auditor Adam Edelen, Luallen said she hasn't made a decision on whether to run, and there isn't "any line drawn in the sand about a date certain when I have to make a decision."
"There's no magic date there," she said. "I just think there's no need to jump right now."
Whether Luallen runs has been the dominant early story line in the race for the 2015 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, leaving her would-be opponents and friends asking daily what the former state auditor is thinking.
On Saturday night, as she stepped before the television news cameras and newspaper reporters, Luallen seemed to be in on the joke.
"So should I just go ahead and announce since you guys are here?" she asked, smiling.
Luallen said she had a "nice trip" to Washington last week, when she met with media and finance consultants and her former pollster, Celinda Lake, as first reported by CN|2.
"As I've said, I'm taking all the steps necessary that if I decide to run, I will have everything in place to hit the ground running," Luallen said. "So I have not made a final decision yet, but I'm a pretty methodical person. All of my friends know that well. Sometimes too methodical. So I'm taking all the steps to make sure all the pieces would fit together."
Republican Hal Heiner's entrance into the race last week won't have any bearing on whether she announces, Luallen said.
"Hal Heiner has no statewide name recognition, and he's got to start early to begin that process of getting his name awareness built up outside of Louisville and Jefferson County," she said.
Luallen said she isn't yet formally vetting running mates, but she has had some informal conversations.
The Democrats gathered Saturday night to hear from former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Grimes, 6th Congressional District candidate Elisabeth Jensen and state Rep. San Sannie Overly.
Emerge Kentucky has graduated 85 members who were honored at the dinner. There are 31 Emerge "alumnae" on the ballot in Kentucky this year, according to the organization.
Conway and Edelen are both considering runs for the governor's mansion, but their decision whether to run has been complicated by uncertainty over Luallen's intentions.
Luallen said Saturday night that she and Conway are "good friends still," and she praised his handling of a decision to not appeal a federal court ruling that requires Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
"I was very proud of him this week," she said. "He made a courageous decision, and I told him that."
Luallen also said she sympathized with Gov. Steve Beshear, who announced that he would hire outside attorneys to appeal the decision.
"I think Jack made a call based on his heart and what he believed in in a personal level, so from that perspective, it was the right thing for him," Luallen said. "I think the governor made his calculation based on what he believed was the best outcome for the state in terms of the legal analysis and the clarity under the law. So I think both of them had a tough decision to make, and I'm not going to second-guess either decision."
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.