Politics & Government

Variety spices political pairings

As the adage goes, politics makes strange bedfellows.

For proof, look no further than some of the slates of running mates that have formed in this year's governor's race.

Most, if not all, of the 10 couples have intriguing stories about how they came together.

One ticket first connected on a golf course, another developed through an e-mail exchange, and several pairs of candidates have had to become fast friends in recent weeks after being thrust together in short order.

Here's a peek into how the three Republican slates and seven Democratic tickets in the governor's race formed (in order of when their partnerships became public):

Fletcher-Rudolph (R)

Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher is the most experienced candidate at picking lieutenant governor candidates.

After all, Robbie Rudolph, the administration's secretary of the executive cabinet, is Fletcher's third running mate in four years.

Hunter Bates, former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, was declared ineligible by a judge because of a question over his residency in 2003. Then Lt. Gov. Steve Pence dropped off Fletcher's ticket last May.

"Granted, I've gone through a few lieutenant governors, but I've got the right one now," Fletcher said of Rudolph at the state Lincoln Day Dinner last month.

Rudolph served as No. 2 on former Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson's slate against Fletcher in the 2003 primary. Rudolph said he was impressed that Fletcher called him the day after Fletcher won that primary to ask for his support.

Fletcher named him as his replacement "wingman" the week after Pence split from the ticket last summer.

Harper-Wilson (R)

Republican Billy Harper, a construction company owner from Paducah, was searching for a running mate last August so he could start spending money on the race when he ran into his friend Dick Wilson at the Paducah Country Club golf course.

They got to talking at lunch later, and Wilson signed on -- if only temporarily until Harper could find someone else from a different part of the state. "He said, 'Oh, it would be only about three or four weeks,'" Wilson said. Seven months later, he's still the guy.

Although Harper concedes that it's unconventional to have a running mate from the same county, he said it's most important to team up with someone he can trust, especially in light of the recent political marriages between Fletcher and Pence, and former Gov. Paul Patton and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, that ended in spectacularly bitter fashion.

Hensley-Robbins (D)

Otis Hensley Jr., a demolition contractor from Wallins in Harlan County, has again hooked up with his friend Richard Robbins, with whom he ran a limited campaign in the 2003 governor's race. Robbins, a coal company security guard, said he volunteered four years ago because Hensley was struggling to find a running mate.

Beshear-Mongiardo (D)

Democrat Steve Beshear, a former lieutenant governor and attorney general, began thinking about jumping into the race late last fall -- about the same time state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard was considering running himself.

Finally, horseman Tracy Farmer, a friend of Beshear, played matchmaker for Beshear and Mongiardo, who narrowly lost to Republican Jim Bunning in the 2004 U.S. Senate race. The partnership was formalized after a meeting at former Democratic Gov. Brereton Jones' horse farm in early December.

Miller-Maze (D)

State Treasurer Jonathan Miller nearly signed on to be the lieutenant governor with Louisville businessman Charlie Owen. But after that fell through, he set out on his own.

He had initial discussions with several Democrats, including former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III. Partly at the suggestion of Brown, Miller set up a meeting with Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze. The two met for the first time Dec. 12.

"I believe for me to get involved in this campaign, it was the right person at the right time saying the right things," Maze told a group of Louisville Democrats. Three days after that first meeting, they filed their papers to begin raising campaign funds.

Northup-Hoover (R)

Soon after former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville decided to challenge Fletcher, she called Jeff Hoover, the state House Republican leader, to gauge his interest.

The two knew each other, although admittedly not well. But after meetings on the weekend of Jan. 13-14, they agreed to run together.

Richards-Brown (D)

House Speaker Jody Richards looked to Louisville for a running mate this year, just as he did in 2003 with Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk Tony Miller.

This time, however, he tapped Brown, the former secretary of state. The two met several times in Louisville in early January before officially striking the deal.

Brown had been courted by other gubernatorial candidates, including Miller and Henry. But he said Richards was the only one with whom he wanted to run.

Henry-True (D)

Henry, who was lieutenant governor under Patton for eight years, began talking publicly about running for governor last fall. But he didn't get into the race until he connected with Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator Renee True in mid-January.

Henry claimed that despite rumblings to the contrary, he didn't have problems finding a running mate. However, a former campaign aide, Leslie Holland, has since said that Henry did struggle to find a lieutenant governor candidate.

True said she had been talking with Henry about a possible run for "several months." But both Henry and True have declined to discuss details of how the two got together.

Galbraith-Wireman (D)

Gatewood Galbraith, the Lexington lawyer who has run previously for governor, Congress and attorney general, found his running mate online. Mark Wireman, a longtime state Transportation Cabinet employee, first reached out to him via e-mail just before Christmas.

Wireman, of Breathitt County, said he was looking at a Democrat's Web log in December that listed political problems for many potential gubernatorial candidates. "I said to myself, 'What about Gatewood? He's not what they're complaining about,'" Wireman said.

So he e-mailed Galbraith, and after a month of mostly online discussions, the two formed their slate.

Lunsford-Stumbo (D)

For much of the run-up to the filing deadline, Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford was the wild card. No one knew what Lunsford would do -- including Lunsford, he confessed last week. He said that in January, his attention was split between the governor's race and the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie production company he partly owns had two films playing.

The day before he left for the festival, Lunsford invited Greg Stumbo, who was leaning toward running for re-election as attorney general, to his office.

"I told him, 'I think together, if we ran, we could be a really formidable team,'" Lunsford said.

He said the two traded messages during the week Lunsford was in Utah. Lunsford made his last sales pitch after he returned Jan. 26. "So are you in or out?" Lunsford said he finally asked Stumbo.

"He said, 'I'm in, boss.' That's how he said it," Lunsford recalled. "I'll never forget it."