LOUISVILLE — Democrat Adam Edelen said Wednesday he chose coaching his sons in Little League baseball over waging a time-consuming campaign for Kentucky governor, opting instead to seek a second term as state auditor next year.
Edelen became the latest prominent politician to rule out a run for Kentucky's top political job in 2015. The wide-open race to succeed Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has already attracted two high-profile candidates and is likely to draw several more in coming months.
The first-term auditor said he had lined up a campaign team — including a running mate — for a gubernatorial bid, but decided on Father's Day evening to step away from the race in favor of running for re-election.
"I really like the work-life balance I have right now," Edelen said in a phone interview. "I'm able to be a vigorous advocate for modernization reform as state auditor and I'm also able to coach Little League baseball.
"The decision I had to make was, at 39 years old, am I willing to make the sacrifices personally and professionally to run what would have been an all-consuming campaign for governor. At this time, I'm not willing to make those sacrifices."
Edelen was seen as a potentially strong contender for governor next year. Beshear is in his second term as governor, his last under term limits.
Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway entered the 2015 governor's race last month, choosing state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris as his running mate.
Edelen pegged Conway as the early front-runner on the Democratic side. Conway has accumulated broad name recognition from his three prior runs for statewide office — twice for attorney general and a losing run against Republican Rand Paul in the 2010 U.S. Senate race. But Edelen said he expects other Democrats to enter the governor's race, and he didn't rule out the possibility of making an endorsement ahead of next year's primary election.
"I think 2015 represents a potential watershed year for the Democratic Party in Kentucky, and I'm going to reserve my right to express my opinion just like every other Democratic voter in Kentucky," he said.
Conway said in a statement Wednesday that Edelen is a "fine and dedicated public servant" who has a bright future.
Other possible Democratic candidates include Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Lexington banker Luther Deaton. Former Democratic state Auditor Crit Luallen recently ruled out a run for governor.
Stumbo said he respected Edelen's decision and was noncommittal about a run for governor. He said his efforts in coming months will focus on helping Democrats retain control of the state House and Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"Since the governor's race is not until next year, my standard answer will remain the same: I am not saying yes, but I'm not saying no," Stumbo said.
Among Republicans, former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner joined the governor's race and has aired his first TV ad of the campaign. His running mate is former Lexington-Fayette County councilwoman KC Crosbie.
Other potential GOP gubernatorial candidates include state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Louisville businesswoman and former ambassador Cathy Bailey.
Edelen said he enjoys his work as auditor and looks forward to asking Kentucky voters for a mandate to continue his efforts.
During his tenure as auditor, Edelen's office says it has found hundreds of thousands of dollars abused and misspent in school district audits.
Edelen also championed cybersecurity legislation this year that passed the General Assembly. The measure will require government agencies to notify people when thieves steal personal data from government computers.
"The work of the taxpayer watchdog is bipartisan, it's substantive, it's serious," Edelen said. "And I get to immerse anywhere in public policy that I want, and that's a great opportunity."