Republicans picked state Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, 34, on Tuesday as their nominee for Kentucky attorney general.
Westerfield, a Hopkinsville lawyer, defeated Lawrence County Attorney Michael T. Hogan, 47, of Louisa. During his three years in the Kentucky Senate, Westerfield has helped write legislation to extend domestic violence protection to dating partners, strengthen the state's response to the heroin epidemic and reform the state's juvenile justice system.
Westerfield did not immediately return a call seeking comment. In a statement, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi congratulated him on behalf of the Republican Attorneys General Association, of which she is chairwoman.
"I look forward to joining Whitney on the campaign trail to help him become the next attorney general," Bondi said. "Whitney has the right experience to serve as the state's top law enforcement officer. He will defend the rule of law, push back against overreaching federal regulations that kill jobs, and he will be a strong partner in the ongoing fight against Obama initiatives, such as the president's executive order on immigration, which is a blatant abuse of power and undermines the U.S. Constitution."
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Westerfield now has a tougher electoral challenge. On Nov. 3, he will face Democratic nominee Andrew Beshear, 37, a Louisville lawyer and a son of outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear. Andrew Beshear was unopposed Tuesday.
Drawing on his father's political connections, Andrew Beshear has raised $1.96 million so far, more than current Attorney General Jack Conway needed to win election to that office twice. His donors include many with a financial stake in his father's Democratic administration — executive branch political appointees, Frankfort lobbyists, state contractors and state-regulated industries, including coal, health care and banking.
Westerfield raised $60,087 in advance of Tuesday's primary, with $49,216 on hand as of May 4.
However, Andrew Beshear's massive war chest could prove a liability as well as an asset in the fall campaign. Kentucky Republicans have made it clear that they will attack the governor's son for trying to "buy the office" with special-interest money that could influence him as attorney general — a criticism that he says is unfounded.
Republicans also are attacking the younger Beshear for refusing to identify corporate clients he has represented before the attorney general's office. The Herald-Leader has confirmed one such client, Home Service USA of Miami, Fla., which agreed to pay $7,500 in fines and costs in 2010 after scores of homeowners complained about official-looking letters the company sent, urging homeowners to provide their bank account numbers and insure their water lines for $59.88 a year.