State Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott likes to go into the woods and cut his own Christmas tree, an American red cedar.
"I will have made my decision before I cut that tree," Scott said Monday.
The decision Scott, and an unknown number of other Republicans, is considering is whether to join Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer and former Louisville Metro councilman Hal Heiner in the race to be the GOP nominee for governor.
With Kentucky's collective hangover from this year's ugly U.S. Senate race receding slowly, it's a safe bet that the race for governor, which has been well underway for months, is set to move into warp speed not long after Scott has put his tree on the curb.
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"It will happen very quickly," GOP consultant Scott Jennings said. "This race will be fast and furious."
With the May primary less than six months away and the filing deadline in late January, the race to represent Republicans in next year's gubernatorial contest is shaping up to be a short sprint.
Comer legitimately could be called the frontrunner at this point, but polling indicates that the race is wide open.
A survey of 900 likely Republican primary voters conducted in early December by Revily, an Atlanta-based political consulting firm, shows that almost half are still undecided.
None of the candidates, announced or otherwise, claimed ownership of the poll, which apparently was not intended to be seen by the public.
The survey, conducted by calling land-line phones with pre-recorded questions, found Comer leading with 27 percent of the vote. Heiner got 18 percent, and Scott was favored by about 10 percent. Forty-four percent said they were undecided.
The poll also showed that all three candidates have low favorable and unfavorable numbers. Twenty-seven percent had never heard of Comer, 28 percent had never heard of Heiner and 40 percent had never heard of Scott.
In other words, it's anybody's race.
Comer told the Herald-Leader he doesn't expect most of the Republican electorate to start paying attention to the race until March or so, but even by May, he expects voter turnout to be only about 16 percent.
So of the 1.22 million Republicans in Kentucky, Jennings estimates that the nominee probably will be selected by 150,000 to 200,000 voters. Only 142,108 votes were cast in the GOP's three-way primary for governor in 2011.
Because of that dynamic, Comer said, he has emphasized building a grass-roots network of local officials, farmers and business people, whose endorsements could sway voters as they tune into the race late. It's a network that Comer essentially has been building since he was a child in Future Farmers of America.
Without specifying the town, Comer said he recently attended a reception with attended by 200 people in a county with 12,000.
"I think that's a good infrastructure for us to come out of that county with a huge margin," Comer said. "But if you polled it today, there wouldn't be many people outside of that 200 people who were at our event that even know there's a governor's race."
The commissioner said his plan was to continue traveling the state, raising money and building a network he can "activate" between March and the primary in May.
Doug Alexander, Heiner's communications director, said Monday that he felt good about the state of Heiner's campaign.
"We're well-funded, we're well-organized. I like where we are," Alexander said.
Having injected $5 million of his own money into the campaign last year, Heiner has a significant financial advantage, and Alexander said the candidate had devoted considerable time and energy to traveling the state and building a network of supporters.
"Hal has traveled almost 20,000 miles already," Alexander said. "That's 47 times from one end of the state to the other."
The good news (maybe the best news) is that the airwaves won't be saturated by campaign ads the second the calendar flips to 2015.
Though Heiner ran campaign ads on television this year, Alexander couldn't say when voters would start to see them again. And Comer, who reported having raised more than $500,000 after just three weeks in the race this fall, will need to build more of a war chest before he can buy television and radio ads.
"The last 60 days, I think, I'll be able to match anyone dollar for dollar," Comer said.
While the race certainly will heat up fast in the new year, Alexander cautioned that "there's not a starting date and a call to the post and everybody goes."
"As far as we're concerned, we're (already) going," Alexander said. "There's no question the nature of the Senate race was such that there was going to be fatigue at the end of that. But it won't take long."
At the top of the long list of unanswered questions about what the new year and new race will bring is who else might join Heiner and Comer in the race.
As for Scott, a decision is imminent, but it might not be announced until a few days after the ball has dropped in New York's Times Square.
"I'm in the 90 percent range to run, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet," he said.