Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes ended weeks of rumor and speculation Monday, telling a group of supporters and media that she will run for re-election in 2015.
Grimes, who lost to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by almost 16 percentage points in November, grew emotional as she thanked supporters who backed her U.S. Senate bid and encouraged her to run again.
What Grimes might do had been a source of intense interest in Democratic circles as rumors circulated that she might enter the race for governor or attorney general, which would have pitted her against Attorney General Jack Conway in the Democratic primary for governor and Andy Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, in the primary for attorney general.
"Over the course of the past 10 weeks, it was about making sure that we listened to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers and supporters," Grimes said during her announcement at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington.
Grimes ticked off a familiar list of things she wants to accomplish in a second term — raising the minimum wage, making college affordable and making sure women earn equal pay for equal work — although it's unclear how she could affect those issues given the office's limited purview.
The secretary of state oversees Kentucky's elections and handles the filing of business records.
Another issue — restoring the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences — will be a priority, Grimes said, telling the crowd that she has led on the issue.
"It's just sound policy," Grimes said. "When you have paid your debt to society, you should be re-enfranchised."
However, Grimes was absent from last year's debate on that issue in the legislature, issuing no statements, and she did not routinely mention it until the very end of the campaign, when she ran radio ads mentioning the subject on urban stations in Lexington and Louisville.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., testified about the issue last year in front of a state legislative committee. Doug Stafford, Paul's top adviser, said Monday that if Grimes has led on the issue, it's "the first I've heard of it."
"It sure would be nice if she would 'lead' on this issue, since so many people in Kentucky are already out there fighting for it, especially Sen. Paul," Stafford said in an email message.
There were several familiar faces in the crowd as Grimes made her announcement, including Jonathan Hurst, who managed her failed U.S. Senate bid, and her father, Jerry Lundergan.
Grimes said she waited until the day before the filing deadline to make her announcement because she needed the time to "reflect" on what was best for her family and the state.
But when asked why she thinks she lost so badly to McConnell and what she will do differently in her upcoming campaign, Grimes demurred.
"I think that there's time for reflection on that Senate race," Grimes said. "Today is about announcing the step forward that we're taking in filing for re-election."
Conway, who campaigned hard for Grimes last year, said in a statement that Grimes and her family "are longtime friends, and I am glad she will continue to serve the people of Kentucky."
"We look forward to working with Secretary of State Alison Grimes to move Kentucky forward," Conway said. "Her energy and talents will be an asset to our efforts this fall."
When asked by reporters after her announcement whether she was endorsing Conway for governor, Grimes again demurred, saying there will be another day for that.