Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 3, 2013

Trio gets early start on 2015 governor's race

CNHI News Service

FANCY FARM — There were three statewide constitutional officers speaking here Saturday who aren’t on next year’s ballot – but many believe they all want to be on the ballot in 2015.

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, Democratic Auditor Adam Edelen and Republican Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer spent most of their Fancy Farm speeches touting their preferred 2014 U.S. Senate candidate – Alison Lundergan Grimes for the two Democrats and incumbent Mitch McConnell for Comer.

But all three are interested in the open seat 2015 governor’s race and Saturday was a chance for them to show off and polish their political wares.

Conway has had trouble here in the past – he misquoted a line from former Democratic U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, substituting a profanity, something that haunted him in his own unsuccessful race for the Senate seat now held by Republican Rand Paul.

This year Conway touted his record as attorney general, something he was expected to do because that’s the record on which he will run for governor if he decides to make that race. But he also turned his attention toward McConnell as well.

He asked what McConnell has done for Kentucky and said McConnell’s chief priority “is keeping his job rather than worry about your job.”

He said if Kentucky voters are tired “of all the bickering, if you’re sick of all the partisanship, then you must vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

Edelen is comfortable on the stump and he fired off his own lines about McConnell, using most of his time to promote Grimes’ candidacy.

He said the 2014 race is “about whether you’re going to support a candidate of the people, for the people and by the people or a party for the few and by the few and not about you.”

Edelen noted one of McConnell’s arguments is his position as Minority Leader and the power and influence wielded in Washington by a Kentucky Senator.

But, Edelen asked, how did that power benefit the 1,100 employees whose jobs are in danger from the shutdown of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, or the soldiers who will be moved from Kentucky military bases or the coal miners who have lost jobs?

Comer is widely viewed as the favorite to lead the Republican ticket in 2015 after garnering more votes than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, in the 2011 statewide election and representing the only Republican to win one of those races.

He dutifully urged the crowd to support McConnell’s re-election telling them the 2014 will be decided by whether voters support or oppose the Affordable Care Act which Republicans call Obamacare and which is widely unpopular in Kentucky.

(Grimes says changes need to be made in the law but hasn’t identified them. She also has said it’s a waste of time for House Republicans to continually try to repeal the law when the measure has no chance in the Senate. McConnell has promised to repeal it “root and branch,” while Bevin supports efforts to require defunding of ACA in any budget.)

But Comer didn’t tamp down the gubernatorial speculation Saturday.

After promising to do all he can to help McConnell’s re-election, Comer said Republicans shouldn’t stop at that.

“We’re going to be all hands on deck in 2014 and were going to win that senate race,” said Comer who drew as loud a welcoming ovation as anybody Saturday.

“But we’re not going to stop there,” he continued. “In 2015 we’ve got to elect a new governor in this state,” as the large Republican contingent roared its approval.

But Comer wasn’t the only Republican at Fancy Farm who may be eyeing a 2015 gubernatorial bid.

Working the crowd was Republican Hal Heiner, a member of the Louisville Metro Council who lost a mayoral race to current Louisville mayor Greg Fischer. Heiner has indicated he’s looking at the 2015 race.

Another potential 2015 Republican entrant Phil Moffett was also on hand Saturday. Moffett lost the 2011 Republican primary to nominee David Williams who subsequently lost soundly to Gov. Steve Beshear.

Other Democrats who’ve publicly said they are looking at the race include former Democratic Auditor Crit Luallen who is close to Conway and Democratic Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.