Sam Youngman

Political Paddock: Former ambassador Cathy Bailey leans toward run for governor

Sam Youngman
Sam Youngman

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Louisville businessman Hal Heiner might be eyeing each other and the governor's mansion as though next month starts 2015 instead of 2014, but the Republican field doesn't appear to be set.

Cathy Bailey of Louisville, who was former President George W. Bush's ambassador to Latvia, told the Herald-Leader on Monday in a text message that she is "seriously considering" a run for governor in 2015.

"First, we have to stay focused on 2014," Bailey said, noting efforts to put Republicans in control of the state House for the first time since 1921 and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign.

Bailey agreed with the estimate that she is "95 percent" sure she will run, adding that her husband is completely on-board with the idea.

Speculation that Bailey might jump in the race is nothing new. She acknowledged considering a run in 2011, and a number of state Republicans were disappointed when she didn't.

Bailey is a former member of the Republican National Committee and a longtime heavyweight Republican fundraiser in Kentucky, bringing in the green for Bush, among others. Her entrance in the 2015 race for governor would be mixed news for Heiner and Comer.

Bailey is an ally of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, and people close to Paul hope she will bring her fundraising skills to Paul's potential 2016 presidential run or Senate re-election campaign. (Bailey said Monday that she plans to be involved with whatever race Paul decides to run, regardless of her own political future.)

Comer also is a Paul ally. He was the first state House member to publicly support the junior senator in his 2010 primary.

Paul said earlier this month that he had no plans to get involved in the Republican primary for governor, which is good news for Heiner.

The obvious bad news for Heiner is that Bailey is from the Louisville area, which already sports a nearly non-existent record for putting Republicans in the governor's mansion.

If it's tough for one Republican to win statewide coming from Louisville, it could well be impossible if they're splitting the city's vote.

Grimes, Luallen & women

On Dec. 15, likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes blasted out a fundraising email authored by former state auditor Crit Luallen, a possible candidate for governor on the Democratic side.

In the email, Luallen said she has seen the need "for more women in leadership," and assailed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's votes against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act and re-upping the Violence Against Women Act.

"I have also seen the barriers that prevent women from achieving their dreams," Luallen wrote. "While serving with six Kentucky governors, and then holding elective office as State Auditor, I hoped to inspire strong and dedicated women to surpass some of those obstacles."

That email went out three days after the state House committee investigating allegations of sexual harassment by former Democratic Rep. John Arnold disbanded, and five days after Republican Suzanne Miles won a special election for Arnold's seat.

Grimes has made winning women voters central to her Senate campaign, but given her day job in the Capitol as secretary of state, she has been remarkably quiet about the Arnold case. Grimes was not among those calling for Arnold's resignation earlier this year.

In a brief interview Monday, Luallen said she thinks Grimes' criticisms of McConnell on women's issues and the House scandal are "completely separate."

Luallen said she believes Grimes is committed to standing up for women's issues. She noted that Arnold's alleged misdeeds fall under the General Assembly's purview, not the secretary of state's office.

Luallen said she "would like to think that any woman in leadership speaks out on an issue like this."

McConnell, Paul host fundraiser

The state's two Republican senators have teamed up to host a fundraising dinner on Tuesday night.

Although the dinner will take place in the National Republican Senatorial Committee's Majority Room in Washington, DC, the fundraiser will benefit the Republican Party of Kentucky.