Politics & Government

2 from GOP file for state offices

FRANKFORT - Two Republicans filed to run for statewide office yesterday, including one state representative who could be part of a crowded GOP primary for state treasurer against several of his neighbors.

Yesterday morning, Tim Coleman, a commonwealth's attorney from Butler County, became the first candidate of either party to file to run for attorney general. The incumbent, Democrat Greg Stumbo, hasn't decided whether to seek re-election or run for governor.

In the race for the open post of state treasurer, Rep. Brandon Smith of Hazard turned in his official paperwork before any other potential GOP candidates. Three other Republicans who have publicly expressed interest in that position also are from southeastern Kentucky.

Rep. Ken Upchurch of Monticello said yesterday he's taking a hard look at that race, as is state Revenue Department Commissioner Marian Davis, a former Laurel County GOP chairwoman. A fourth potential Republican candidate, Melinda Wheeler, just stepped down as director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. She was born and raised in Johnson County.

"I think in a race like that, it's the person who can raise the most money who has the advantage," said Smith, minutes after turning in his election papers to the secretary of state's office.

Smith, 39, said he believes it could take raising as much as $200,000 to win the primary. He said he plans to jump-start his campaign with "a substantial amount of money" -- up to $100,000.

Smith also unveiled the guts of his campaign platform, outlining two key initiatives if elected treasurer:

 Pushing for a check-off box on tax returns, in which Kentuckians can elect to contribute money to a fund for families of soldiers whose income was disrupted by a deployment.

 Establishing a program to educate Kentuckians about the bankruptcy process and "financial literacy," as well as giving classes to help counsel people who are having money problems.

Smith, who won re-election to his House seat this fall by 40 votes, said he regrets the possibility of running against his fellow state House Republican, Upchurch, but said he really wants the treasurer job.

Upchurch said he still needs to talk to his supporters and test out how much money he can raise.

"I hate that if I get in, a member of my caucus would also be running for that same office, but that's just politics," he said.

On the Democratic side, former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac, Henderson lawyer Steve Gold and Matt Wyatt, an Elizabethtown financial consultant, are considering the race.

Democrat Patrick Dunmire of Frankfort already has filed.

Meanwhile, Coleman said he's eager to start his campaign for attorney general and is looking to hire a campaign manager.

Coleman, 48, said his background as a prosecutor gives him a leg up.

He also worked in a Lexington law firm with Stan Cave, Gov. Ernie Fletcher's chief of staff. While Coleman said he wouldn't turn down help from Fletcher on the campaign trail, he said he doesn't expect any formal alliances with Fletcher or anyone else running for office this year.

Other Republicans considering running for attorney general include Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, state Rep. Stan Lee of Lexington and Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl.

Should Stumbo not run again on the Democratic side, Louisville lawyer Jack Conway is eyeing the race.