FRANKFORT — Todd County businessman Bill Johnson, who withdrew from this year's Republican primary election for U.S. Senate, and state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, are considering running as a slate in next year's race for governor and lieutenant governor.
Johnson, a Navy veteran who garnered about 8,000 votes in last week's primary election even though he bowed out of the race in March, said Tuesday he hopes to decide by June or July whether to run for governor next year.
Both Johnson and Thayer said Republicans they would consider formidable opponents in a primary bid for governor next year include state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer of Manchester, Senate President David Williams of Burkesville and Jess Correll, president of First Southern National Bank in Stanford.
An aide for Farmer said earlier this month he has not yet made any decision about his political plans. Williams has been frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for governor, but he has not said publicly whether he would run.
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An aide for Correll said he would "get back in touch later."
"The question is can I raise the money," Johnson said. "I believe whoever is the Republican slate, they should get started early."
Johnson said he considers Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear vulnerable because of his handling of the state budget. Beshear is running for re-election next year with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson as his running mate.
Thayer, who has been a member of the Senate since 2003 and is chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, confirmed he has discussed the race for governor and lieutenant governor with Johnson.
"Bill Johnson is the kind of Reagan conservative Kentucky could use in government," Thayer said.
Thayer said he has "been talking to many people about the statewide elections in 2011, and I want to be sure there is a strong Republican ticket from top to bottom."
"I am keeping all my options open," he said.
Besides a possible run for governor next year, Johnson said he is mulling a bid for state Senate in 2012 against Democratic incumbent Joey Pendleton of Hopkinsville.
Thayer said he may also seek re-election to the state Senate in 2012, or he may run for some other statewide office in 2011.
Thayer said Johnson was not hurt politically by withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race this year.
"I think his profile was enhanced by being in the race and running a clear, clean campaign," he said. "Bill just found out that in that race won by Rand Paul that Rand Paul could use his father's name to raise millions and Trey Grayson could use his base as secretary of state to raise money."
Johnson did not endorse in the race after he withdrew from it.
Gatewood Galbraith, a Lexington lawyer who has run unsuccessfully for governor four times, is running as an independent in the 2011 gubernatorial election. His running mate is Dea Riley, a political consultant in Frankfort who has managed several campaigns in the state.