Politics & Government

Potential contenders for Kentucky governor wait to reveal their plans

Kentucky  Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer.
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer. Herald-Leader

PADUCAH — Most Democrats looking at a potential run for governor in 2015 say they will likely hold off making an announcement until next year.

All eyes and media attention should be on Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, they say.

"We don't need a governor's race competing with her right now," said Attorney General Jack Conway on Friday before the Marshall County Democrats' annual bean supper. Friday's dinner was an opener to Saturday's annual Fancy Farm picnic, where McConnell and Grimes were the key attractions.

But Conway said that he is still considering a possible bid for the state's highest office. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is limited to two terms and will not be able to run.

Conway, currently serving his second term as the state's top law enforcement officer, said he has no firm timetable for a final decision.

"There's no drop dead date," Conway said. "She needs an opportunity to have a quarter or two of very, very good fund raising."

State Auditor Adam Edelen said Friday that he is still considering whether he will run for his former boss's job. Edelen said he, too, is focusing on backing and supporting Grimes over the next 15 months and continuing his work as auditor. Edelen, Beshear's former chief of staff, was elected auditor in 2011.

"Anytime that you take your eye off the ball — that is, you put politics beyond the job that you've been elected to do — I think it shows up in your work," Edelen said.

Edelen said he will make a decision by the end of the year.

"There are other things that we need to focus on at this moment," Edelen said. "And I think one of them is beating Mitch McConnell."

Other possible contenders include Edelen's predecessor, Crit Luallen. Luallen did not attend Fancy Farm because of recent knee surgery. Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson has also mentioned that he may want Beshear's job. He has said he will make an announcement by mid-August.

For the Republicans, all eyes are on the sole Republican constitutional officer, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Comer, a former state representative, received more votes than any other candidate in the 2011 general election.

Comer said Saturday morning that there is plenty of time to talk about a possible gubernatorial run. He has said he's interested.

"I think it's still way too early," Comer said. "The governor's race is a year after the U.S. Senate race, and the U.S. Senate race just began. We have some time. Our focus has been on being a good commissioner of agriculture."

Former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner also said he is weighing a run for governor. Heiner narrowly lost to Greg Fischer in the Louisville mayor's race in 2010.

"We have been considering it — basically born out of frustration and concern for what's going on in Frankfort," Heiner said. "In the last few years, we have seen Kentucky's credit rating drop four or five notches, we are down in the bottom five or six states in the country."

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