FRANKFORT — Attorney General Jack Conway presented himself as an anti-drug crusader with a record of "promises made and promises kept" as he and his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly, filed their paperwork Monday to run for governor and lieutenant governor.
After filing to run with a host of Democratic lawmakers and his family looking on, Conway and Overly addressed about 100 supporters in front of the Toyota Hall of Kentucky Governors at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. He boasted of an "unprecedented show of Democratic unity" and of having a record worthy of the job and a plan to improve Kentucky.
"In every decision that we make, it's going to be people over politics," Conway said. "That's what I have done my seven years as attorney general, and Sannie and I have the leadership and the energy and the vision to move our commonwealth forward."
Saying that Kentuckians wanted their governors to act like a "big county judge," Conway said he was "keenly aware of the needs and issues in their respective communities."
"It's a job I know well," Conway said. "It's a job that I'm prepared to do."
At the center of Conway's push for the Governor's Mansion is his work to prevent drug abuse among students, as evidenced by his introduction by Karen Shay, who joined Conway in speaking to middle and high school students after her daughter died of an overdose.
Shay said that in speaking to more than 45,000 students, she and Conway "have cried together in auditoriums all across this commonwealth."
"Jack gets it," Shay said. "He listens to people. But most importantly, his actions speak louder than words."
Overly, the first woman elected to a leadership post in the state House, touted her family's roots as farmers in Bourbon County and hailed Conway as the right choice for governor.
"We have a strong vision for the future of the state, and with your support, we will bring a new generation of leadership to Frankfort," Overly said.
Conway also appeared eager to embrace the economic legacy of term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear, saying in his 20-minute announcement speech that Beshear "has served with integrity and honor during some of the most difficult of economic times."
As the state continues to recover from recession, Conway said, "it's time to put Kentucky on an even greater trajectory. But in order to take off, you have to have a plan."
The first part of that plan, Conway said, was creating a cabinet-level position that would focus on helping small businesses, promising to cut red tape for businesses and asking "why not?" when it comes to businesses that might want to move to Kentucky.
Conway also talked about the need for "higher education reform 2.0," declaring that he wanted to erase the divide in Frankfort between economic development and work-force development.
He also talked about the need to expand broadband Internet access to all corners of the state, calling it "the modern form of infrastructure."
"I am not going to let us get left behind," he said.
Conway also took shots at Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer for saying that the next governor wouldn't come from Louisville, which is the hometown of Conway and GOP gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner.
"That's no way to run for governor," Conway said of Comer, the state's agriculture commissioner. "The next governor ought to bring us all together."
Comer said that his point was that neither Conway nor Heiner, a former Louisville councilman, would beat him, and that "probably the only thing that Jack Conway and I agree on is that I hope he's the Democrat nominee for governor."
About an hour before they took the stage, Conway and Overly signed their candidacy papers in the secretary of state's office, presenting the clerk with a $500 check to cover the filing fee.
With his father as notary, Conway joked to Overly as she prepared to sign the papers that it was her "last chance" to change her mind.
Since May, when he declared his intention to run, the attorney general has moved aggressively to lock up Democratic support and head off a primary challenge.
With the Jan. 27 filing deadline approaching, Conway and liberal Geoff Young of Lexington are the only Democrats to announce their candidacies.