Politics & Government

House speaker deciding on run

FRANKFORT - House Speaker Jody Richards said he will announce whether he'll run for the Democratic nomination for governor next week and has confirmed that he's talking with former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III about forming a slate.

"I do feel that the discussions with him have been positive," Richards told the Herald-Leader. "I have talked with him recently and seriously, and we will make some sort of an announcement next week."

Richards, who barely lost to Ben Chandler in the 2003 Democratic primary, said he has been in talks with "some other" prospective running mates. He declined to say whether Brown is his first choice.

Next week is shaping up to be a busy one in the ever-expanding and increasingly competitive governor's race.

On the Republican side, former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup is expected to officially announce her candidacy.

And the Democratic primary -- which already includes former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, state Treasurer Jonathan Miller and Harlan County demolition contractor Otis Hensley -- could get more crowded.

Brown confirmed in a statement that he expects "a final decision mid- to late next week" about the possibility of a Richards-Brown slate.

Attorney General Greg Stumbo said Thursday he hopes to decide between running for re-election and seeking the governorship within the next 10 days.

And former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry also has said he hopes to announce his slate Wednesday or Thursday.

Henry sounded surprised when told of the news of a possible Richards-Brown ticket.

"Really?" Henry asked.

Henry wouldn't confirm whether he had been in talks with Brown. "You'll have to ask John," Henry said.

And Brown declined to comment beyond his statement that "Speaker Richards and I have had several very encouraging conversations over the past several weeks about a possible Richards-Brown ticket."

Henry said he won't discuss his running mate until he unveils the slate. Kentucky law requires a candidate for governor to announce his lieutenant governor candidate before raising or spending funds.

"We have a firm commitment for a running mate," Henry said, but added that he had not yet formally extended the position to that person.

Others who are still mulling the race include two wealthy Louisville businessmen Charlie Owen and Bruce Lunsford.

Owen declined to comment on his intentions yesterday.

Lunsford, who ran in 2003 before dropping out days before the Democratic primary, "is still very interested in running," said Sen. Ed Worley, a Richmond Democrat who has been in talks with Lunsford about potentially running together.

Worley, however, said Lunsford wants to see how many candidates from Jefferson County enter the race because that is his largest base of support.

Richards, meanwhile, said he will make his decision about running independent of what other potential candidates decide and is confident he can raise enough money to compete.

Richards, 68, is the longest-serving House speaker in Kentucky history, having served as the top Democrat in the House since 1995.

"Many of the members of the House have come up to me and asked me to run," Richards said. "It's been encouraging."

Brown, who served as secretary of state from 1995 to 2003, is the son of former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., who was in office from 1979 to 1983.