FRANKFORT -- State Treasurer Jonathan Miller of Lexington and Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze have teamed up to run in what continues to evolve into a free-for-all of a Democratic primary for governor.
Miller and Maze will file an official letter of intent to run for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, at the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance in Frankfort this morning, which will allow them to begin raising and spending campaign funds.
"I've been calling my key political supporters across the state all day," Miller said late yesterday afternoon. "I have been so overwhelmingly excited by the reaction."
The Miller-Maze slate, which came together in lightning-quick fashion this week, leaped to the starting line ahead of former Democratic Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear and state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, who are expected to announce their ticket Monday morning in Frankfort.
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Beshear said yesterday that he knows and likes both Miller and Maze but wouldn't comment on how those two slates would match up.
"They're nice people and I look forward to seeing them on the campaign," Beshear said.
Beshear also said his enthusiasm for teaming up with Mongiardo hasn't been dampened by this week's decision by the state Legislative Ethics Commission to continue investigating whether Mongiardo illegally helped establish an outside political committee.
"It changes nothing," he said.
State law prohibits legislators from forming committees beyond re-election campaign funds. Mongiardo claims he was just a "peripheral adviser" to DANPAC, formed in 2006.
With candidates beginning to pair up and form slates, Democrats are predicting that the primary field will get bigger.
"I think we're going to have four to six major candidates," said political consultant Dale Emmons. He said that would be in addition to lesser-known candidates who are expected to run more limited campaigns, such as Otis Hensley, a Harlan County resident who received 3 percent of the vote in the 2003 Democratic primary for governor. Hensley already has filed.
Emmons said he expects that Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, who spent $8 million of his own money in the 2003 primary before dropping out, will get in the race.
Mark Riddle, another Democratic consultant who is advising Louisville attorney Jack Conway, said Conway is "going through a deliberative process" and is considering running for governor or possibly attorney general. Conway had met with Miller last month about potentially teaming up.
"All this rush-rush, pressure-pressure to get into the race is unnecessary," Riddle said. "Most of the folks will start off on an even track."
The Miller and Maze partnership is one that did jell quickly.
"We had only really been talking the last few days. We found a lot of mutual interests and agree on many policies," Miller said, adding that they will discuss a platform at a later date.
Miller said he and Maze struck the deal early yesterday morning, and Miller began notifying people shortly after 8 a.m.
Miller has served the maximum two terms as treasurer. At 39, he's established himself as one of the state's most successful political fund-raisers with national ties he cultivated while serving as an administration aide to President Bill Clinton.
Miller, who is Jewish, recently released a book about faith and politics, The Compassionate Community: Ten Values to Unite America.
In Maze, Miller has teamed up with a key Louisville official who has enjoyed relatively high popularity and didn't draw an election opponent this year. Maze, who considered running for U.S. Senate in 2004, defeated current Republican Lt. Gov. Steve Pence in 1998 to become county attorney.
Maze had been mentioned as a sought-after running mate for several other prospective candidates.
Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who hasn't ruled out running for governor, said he placed Maze on his short list of potential running mates, along with state Rep. Joni Jenkins of Louisville and others.
Stumbo said both Miller and Maze are "proven vote getters" and would have an advantage over a ticket led by Beshear because Beshear hasn't run for office in 10 years.
"Of the two tickets that are out there right now, they're probably the more formidable," Stumbo said of Miller and Maze.
Former Gov. Brereton Jones, like many prominent Democrats, said he doesn't plan to make any endorsement until the field of candidates is set, if then.
"It's good to see people of that quality want to get involved," Jones said of Miller and Maze. "It's a ticket that anybody who thinks through the process could find a lot to like about it."