FRANKFORT — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway's unusual decision to donate $1,000 to a candidate for state treasurer could become more costly for him — financially and politically.
Conway campaign spokesman Daniel Kemp said Monday afternoon that Conway plans to make contributions to each of the other four Democratic candidates for treasurer, though he didn't know if each donation would be as much as $1,000, the maximum allowed, that state records show Conway gave Dec. 9 to Neville Blakemore.
Kemp described Blakemore as "a personal friend" of Conway, the state attorney general from Louisville who is heavily favored in his May 19 primary election race for governor against retired engineer Geoff Young of Lexington.
Blakemore is executive chairman of Great Northern Building Products, a construction materials company in Louisville. He lost a bid for Louisville Metro Council in 2006.
The $1,000 contribution to Blakemore in December was "not an endorsement," said Kemp.
Kemp said he could not provide an exact date when Conway decided to give to all five Democratic candidates for treasurer, but treasurer candidate Jim Glenn, a state representative from Owensboro, said he talked to Conway last week about the Blakemore contribution, "and he said he was going to give me a contribution, too."
Asked if Conway will be campaigning for Blakemore, Kemp said Conway "will be supporting" all the Democratic candidates. Blakemore's campaign manager, Melanie McCormick, said she could not comment on whether Conway would do anything else for the Blakemore campaign.
Conway and Blakemore "share a mutual respect for each other," she said, adding that Blakemore appreciated Conway's contribution.
Former state Rep. Richard Henderson, a Mount Sterling Democrat who is one of five Democrats running for state treasurer, said Monday morning that he holds "no ill will" toward Conway for contributing to Blakemore.
"But I believe it would be in Conway's best interest to step back from this primary race," said Henderson.
He said he has had conversations with Conway about his contribution to Blakemore but did not know until the Herald-Leader told him Monday afternoon that Conway planned to contribute to all five Democratic treasurer candidates.
"Mr. Blakemore is the millionaire in the treasurer's race, but this race won't come down to money. It will come down to name recognition," said Henderson. "This will be a hotly contested regional race. I'm a grass-roots guy who is known in Central and Eastern Kentucky.
"I believe Mr. Conway put up his money prematurely."
Of Conway's campaign plans to contribute to all the Democratic candidates, Henderson said, "that's what rich people do."
He added that donating to each candidate would be "a smart political move by Conway. He's struggling in his race for governor in Eastern Kentucky and he doesn't need to antagonize me or Rick Nelson and get hurt politically."
Democratic state Rep. Rick Nelson of Middlesboro also is running for treasurer.
Nelson said he had never heard of a gubernatorial candidate donating money to candidates in down-ticket races.
"But if Jack Conway wants to give my campaign $1,000 now, we would appreciate it," said Nelson.
The other Democratic candidate for treasurer is Daniel Grossberg, a Jefferson County commissioner, president of Louisville Young Democrats and a Realtor.
Grossberg's campaign spokesman, Jacob Conway, said, "We have never talked to Jack Conway about any of his contributions.
"We just assume that once Daniel Grossberg is the Democratic nominee for treasurer, Mr. Conway will be very generous to us as he has been to Mr. Blakemore."
The current state treasurer, Democrat Todd Hollenbach of Louisville, cannot seek re-election this year because of term limits.
Three Republicans also are seeking the office: Prestonsburg attorney Allison Ball, state Rep. Kenny Imes of Murray and former Fayette County Judge-Executive Jon Larson.
The office of state treasurer pays $115,594 a year. Its duties include managing the state's depository, making records of all monies due and payable to the state, processing warrants from the Finance and Administration Cabinet, making payments on behalf of the state, and filing an annual report on all state money.
Kentucky has had a treasurer since it became a state in 1792, but there's been talk in recent years of abolishing the office and giving its duties to the Finance Cabinet.