Politics & Government

Lunsford, Stumbo to pair up for run

In a shake-up of an already unpredictable governor's race, Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford and Attorney General Greg Stumbo will announce Monday that they're running on a ticket together in the Democratic primary, Stumbo's lawyer confirmed last night.

"Greg is going to run as lieutenant governor with Lunsford," said Mike Bowling, a former state representative who had been Stumbo's law partner and now serves as his personal attorney.

"It's been polled, and they come out quite a bit ahead of everyone else right now. They're going to make a good team, and they're running together," Bowling said.

Stumbo declined to comment, saying only that he would "have an announcement on Monday."

The sudden move, which developed over the last several days, creates the seventh Democratic ticket in the governor's race and the only ticket that can completely bankroll the cost of a multi-million-dollar campaign.

Lunsford spent more than $8 million of his own money in the 2003 Democratic primary before dropping out just days before the election.

But he drew criticism from some Democrats for later endorsing Republican Ernie Fletcher against Democrat Ben Chandler in the general election.

Lunsford didn't return calls last night. He and business partner Ed Hart, who run a movie production company, have been in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival, where they sold two movies for $7.7 million.

Although Lunsford has made several contributions to the campaigns of Republicans, Stumbo brings solid Democratic Party credentials to the ticket, having served as majority floor leader in the state House for 19 years and attorney general since 2003.

But the move caught many Democrats off guard yesterday, including those who know Stumbo well.

"Certainly from managing Greg's attorney general race, it surprises me," said Jonathan Hurst, House Democratic caucus director who worked with Stumbo's campaign in 2003. "Greg is a good friend and a good guy."

Hurst -- a close adviser to gubernatorial candidate Jody Richards -- said he doesn't think the Lunsford-Stumbo ticket will have a big effect on Richards' candidacy or the rest of the field.

Other Democratic candidates include former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith and Harlan demolition contractor Otis Hensley.

"It's going to divide Louisville even more," Hurst said. In addition to Lunsford, Henry hails from Louisville, as does Richards' running mate John Y. Brown III and Miller's running mate, Irv Maze, who is the Jefferson County attorney.

Stumbo's decision to join Lunsford's ticket also leaves the attorney general's race wide open.

Louisville lawyer and former congressional candidate Jack Conway is expected to file papers to run for the Democratic nomination.

"If Stumbo were to vacate his position as attorney general, it's highly likely that I would file for the office," said Conway, who added that he still needs to talk with family members about a potential run.

Mark Riddle, Conway's political adviser, said last night that Stumbo's decision makes Conway a "consensus candidate."

Robert Bullock, a former attorney general's office employee, already has filed for the post, as have two Republicans: Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Coleman of Butler County and Lexington lawyer Jon Larson.

Even though the race for governor already was crowded, the Lunsford-Stumbo ticket might not be the last one to file before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline.

Former state Auditor Ed Hatchett said last night that he has been talking with Louisville businessman Charlie Owen about possibly being his running mate in the governor's race.

"No decisions have been made," Hatchett said. "Charlie is doing his homework very methodically."

Owen ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1998 and was Chandler's running mate in 2003. Hatchett said he's not sure how Lunsford and Stumbo's entrance would affect Owen's decision.

Former Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong also is considering the race.

Before last night's developments, Stumbo said early yesterday during a Louisville radio interview that he would not run for governor, but left open the possibility that he might run for lieutenant governor.

Stumbo said on 84 WHAS' Francene Show that he thought Henry, lieutenant governor under Paul Patton from 1995 to 2003, was the front-runner among the six Democrats who have filed to run for governor.

But Bowling said last night that polling numbers show a ticket with Stumbo would trump Henry.

Henry, an orthopedic surgeon in Louisville, officially filed to run for governor yesterday. While filing his papers, Henry said he thought "Kentucky needs Greg Stumbo as attorney general."

On the Republican side, Gov. Ernie Fletcher is running for re-election. He has drawn challenges from U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville and Paducah businessman Billy Harper.

Six of the gubernatorial candidates met yesterday in Louisville for their first debate, which was sponsored by the Kentucky Press Association. Fletcher, Harper, Beshear, Henry, Miller and Galbraith all summarized their positions on a variety of topics, largely steering clear of any personal attacks.

Fletcher, as he has in recent speeches, listed his administration's accomplishments, including attracting 101 new companies and building a budget surplus.

Harper, a construction executive, pledged to focus on economic development and education -- the two hallmarks of his campaign so far. "We need change," he said.

Beshear said the "status quo is unacceptable."

"Steve Beshear is going to be the candidate and governor of ideas," he said in the third person. "Steve Beshear is going to be the candidate and governor of action."

Henry said he has been disappointed that one of the higher education programs that started while he was in office -- "Bucks for Brains" -- wasn't funded in the budget. He also said he will hire a surgeon general to work on health insurance issues.

Miller repeated his theme of change, saying that he likes his old-school country music with Johnny Cash and his old-school football with "smash-mouth defenses," but "we can't afford old-school politics."

Galbraith, who has run for governor before as an independent, said of his Democratic opponents: "You can put them all in a bag and shake them up and they'll all come out looking like Pringles potato chips. They've all been part of the problem."