Elections

Republican Mike Harmon defeats incumbent Edelen in race for auditor

Mike Harmon gave his speech after being elected State Auditor  of Kentucky at the Galt House in  Louisville ,Ky. on Tuesday November 3, 2015. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Mike Harmon gave his speech after being elected State Auditor of Kentucky at the Galt House in Louisville ,Ky. on Tuesday November 3, 2015. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon defeated state Auditor Adam Edelen, denying a second term to a politician many have seen as a rising star among Kentucky Democrats.

Harmon outpolled Edelen by a comfortable margin despite Edelen's massive fundraising edge.

As of mid-October, Edelen reported contributions totaling more than $800,000 in the general election and had more than $500,000 for the crucial last weeks of the campaign, allowing him to advertise on television while Harmon couldn't.

Harmon, an insurance agent from Danville who has been in the state House since 2003, reported total contributions of less than $37,000 for the election.

Edelen's campaign took in almost as much in the first three weeks of October as Harmon received the entire general election, according to their campaign reports.

But in his victory speech, Harmon referred to the Biblical story of David defeating the giant Goliath.

"With hard work, money wasn't as important as people," Harmon said.

Harmon, 49, said one of his priorities as auditor would be a performance audit of the state's public pension systems, which faces an unfunded liability estimated at $30 billion.

It was Harmon's second statewide race. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2011 with Phil Moffett.

Edelen, 40, said in an interview that his fundraising edge wasn't enough to overcome the difficult political climate for Democrats rooted in President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the state.

"I was like a sparrow in a hurricane," Edelen said.

He said he was proud of how he has run his office and how he ran the campaign.

Harmon said earlier that in addition to trying to become auditor, he hoped the race would sully Edelen as a possible candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Rand Paul in 2016.

But Edelen, who was Gov, Steve Beshear's chief of staff before winning election in 2011, has steadfastly dismissed speculation about him running for Senate next year.

That continued Tuesday.

Asked about his plans after the vote, Edelen said his future is working in the private sector and coaching Little League.

Edelen had gotten kudos for his work as auditor, which included an effort to reform special taxing districts, reports on wasteful spending and other abuses in public school districts, and examinations on problems with Medicaid managed care.

The duties of the auditor's office include oversight of accounts and financial transactions of state government agencies and many county offices.

The job pays $117,329 a year.

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