PRESTONSBURG - Democrats Bruce Lunsford and Greg Stumbo launched their gubernatorial campaign with a lavish party as well as promises to deliver for Eastern Kentucky and "get things done."
Speaking to more than 500 people who came out yesterday to Jenny Wiley State Resort Park's convention center -- which bears Stumbo's name as well as that of the late Gov. Wallace Wilkinson -- Lunsford said he hoped voters of the region would accept him.
"For me to get to come here to kick off the campaign, I knew would be special," said Lunsford, a Louisville businessman who grew up in Northern Kentucky.
From start to finish the event had a distinctive Eastern Kentucky theme.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"Eastern Kentucky could very well decide the election," boomed Paul Hunt Thompson, the former Floyd County judge-executive, as he introduced the speakers.
Democrats in some of the region's counties have as much as a 10-1 advantage over registered Republicans. The largely rural area also has a chance to play a pivotal role in the crowded Democratic primary because the seven-candidate field includes multiple residents, including Lunsford, from the urban centers of Louisville and Lexington.
Stumbo even became emotional at the start of his remarks as he talked about the region where he grew up, started a law practice and represented in the state legislature for more than 20 years.
"Thank you for a lifetime here in the mountains," Stumbo said, his voice cracking.
Lunsford, meanwhile, promised his administration would make the roads to Prestonsburg smoother. And he said that as a businessman who invested in eight start-up companies, he considers economic development a top priority.
"If Americans can create an economy in India, surely we can create an economy in Eastern Kentucky," Lunsford said, sparking applause. He then repeatedly pledged "We will get it done."
Lunsford later said the event -- which featured a band, a buffet, and red, white and blue decorations -- was "a big night" for the running mates. They even offered special M&M candies, the red ones printed with Lunsford's name and the blue ones featuring Stumbo.
It comes after a first month that had been rocky, at times, for the campaign.
After an Eastern Kentucky steelworkers union endorsed Lunsford and Stumbo, several other organized-labor group announced they wouldn't consider endorsing Lunsford, especially after he had backed Fletcher in the 2003 governor's race.
Stumbo noted that at least 125,000 Democrats also voted for Fletcher -- and it ended up working out well for Stumbo, whose office led the investigation into the Fletcher administration's hiring practices.
"If you hadn't put him in office, I'd have never gotten the opportunity to prove how corrupt and incompetent he was," Stumbo said.