FRANKFORT — Attorney General Jack Conway cruised to a second term on Tuesday, beating Republican challenger and Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool.
With family members flanking him during his victory speech at the Frankfort Civic Center, Conway, a Democrat who lost a bid for U.S. Senate last year against Republican Rand Paul, joked, "the reports of my demise are awfully premature."
He did not mention P'Pool by name but said some people wanted to make the race for attorney general about the federal government.
Conway, 42, campaigned on his past record of busting child pornographers, rooting out possible improprieties in for-profit colleges and working with law enforcement to combat prescription drug abuse. The Louisville native out-raised P'Pool, amassing $817,035 while P'Pool raised $521,838. In addition, an independent group called the Bluegrass Democratic Attorney General Association — which supported Conway — reported $582,816, money it spent on advertisements against P'Pool.
P'Pool had the backing of several nationally known Republicans, such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sarah Palin.
In ads and on the stump, P'Pool tried to tie Conway to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky, and pledged to protect Kentucky's coal industry.
But the message seemed to fall flat with voters, said Ted Jackson, a Republican political consultant.
During his concession speech Tuesday night, P'Pool thanked all of his supporters and asked those who attended the Republican Party rally in Lexington to join him for what he called the "count down" to Obama's defeat next November.
"It's been an incredible year for the P'Pool family," P'Pool said.
P'Pool also burned through his cash early and had little money at the end of the race to run television advertisements. In his 15-day pre-election report, P'Pool's cash on hand was only a little more than $17,000.
"I think Jack Conway is a lot stronger candidate than people originally thought coming off the Senate race," Jackson said.
As a centerpiece of his campaign, P'Pool pledged to join a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a federal overhaul of health insurance. But Conway said that spending the state's resources on a case that was going to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court soon was a waste of the state's resources.
Conway also questioned why P'Pool took campaign contributions from employees of for-profit colleges. In December, Conway launched an investigation of the industry, taking legal action against three institutions alleging that they defrauded students and manipulated federal government tuition-assistance programs. P'Pool shot back that Conway's investigation was political and that he had tarnished an entire industry by announcing the civil investigation. P'Pool said he did not think it was inappropriate to take contributions from the target of a civil investigation.
P'Pool's previous four years as county attorney in Hopkins County were also questioned. The county attorney's office contracts with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to collect child support. He was admonished twice by state authorities for failing to properly document the number of hours he billed for child support collection. But P'Pool's office has also received several awards for outstanding child support collection.
Conway, meanwhile, touted his record of managing his own office wisely: cutting his staff by 30 percent, slashing his own pay by 10 percent while at the same time increasing Medicaid fraud collections. Conway also had been involved in several high-profile consumer protection cases during his previous three years.
The attorney general is charged with protecting consumers from all manners of fraud, interpreting the state's open meetings and open records laws, regulating charitable organizations and helping to investigate public corruption.