FRANKFORT — A slew of Republicans are considering challenging Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in next year's race for governor even though he already has more than $2 million in his campaign coffers and the power of incumbency at his disposal.
"Steve Beshear is vulnerable," state Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said Tuesday, noting a GOP poll in early June of 1,020 likely voters that showed 37 percent of the respondents did not think Beshear deserves re-election and 51 percent thought someone else should have a chance to be governor.
That's why you are seeing so many Republicans considering the race, Robertson said.
Beshear's campaign spokesman, Matt Osborne, responded with a statement that said "it is way too early to start talking about next year's campaign."
Beshear and his running mate, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, are "focused on helping Kentuckians through these tough economic times, and creating and maintaining jobs across the state," Osborne said.
The most prominent of the Republicans mulling a challenge to Beshear is Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville. But talk by Williams, a member of the state legislature since 1985, about running for governor has failed to freeze the field of candidates for the political heavyweight.
David Adams, a former campaign director for U.S. Senate Republican nominee Rand Paul, has said he will announce a Republican ticket Thursday that hopes to pick up support from the Tea Party movement. The announcement is to come after 3 p.m. on Leland Conway's radio show on 630 WLAP, followed by a news conference.
Adams has declined to identify the ticket, but several political blogs have mentioned that it might be Phil Moffett, a Louisville businessman and a member of the board of directors of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, and state Rep. Mike Harmon of Boyle County. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Bill Farmer of Lexington, who has pushed for state tax reform, confirmed Tuesday that he is looking at the race with Rep. Adam Koenig of Erlanger as his running mate.
Farmer, who has been in the state House since 2003, said he is disappointed that the state has not tackled changes in its tax code.
"I know a lot of people are surprised that I am talking about the race, but no one has gotten out front to tackle our problems," said Farmer.
Several Republicans say their "dream ticket" would be Williams slated with state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, who still enjoys much popularity in the state as a standout basketball player at the University of Kentucky in the 1990s. He is not related to Bill Farmer.
Richie Farmer, who can't seek re-election as the agriculture chief because of term limits, is being mum about his political future. Associates say he is not inclined to be "No. 2" to anyone and is taking a look at a possible bid for another constitutional office.
Richie Farmer's spokesman Bill Clary said Tuesday that Farmer's decision about his future "will be sooner rather than later."
He said Farmer will not attend the Aug. 7 Fancy Farm political picnic, which traditionally attracts politicians considering future races.
If Farmer does not run with Williams, potential mates for Williams include Cathy Bailey of Louisville, who is a former ambassador to Latvia, and state Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown.
Other Republicans mentioned as possible candidates for governor next year are Stanford banker Jesse T. Correll; Todd County businessman Bill Johnson, who dropped out earlier this year as candidate for the U.S. Senate; Inez banker Mike Duncan; Paducah businessman Billy Harper, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Ernie Fletcher in 2007; and Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger.
No Democrat has emerged yet to take on Beshear, but House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said many people have encouraged him to take a look at the race.
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.