Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 26, 2010

Farmer weighing options on future

Ag commish looking at potential run for governor

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI

LOUISVILLE — Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer said Thursday he hasn’t made up his mine about whether to run as state Senate President David Williams’ lieutenant governor candidate on a Republican gubernatorial ticket next year.

In fact, Farmer said, he is at least still pondering the possibility of running for the top spot himself — but both he and Williams said an announcement about their plans should come soon.

“Commissioner Farmer and I are in constant communication with each other, and I’m very confident we’ll reach the right decision and announce it very soon,” Williams said when told of Farmer’s comments.

Williams has openly talked of running next year against Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear and just as openly about his desire to have Farmer join him as the number two name on the ticket. Williams, Farmer and Beshear were all at Thursday morning’s Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast — a must-attend for Kentucky officeholders and potential candidates.

They were joined by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate candidates, Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway.

Farmer, an iconic basketball figure in Kentucky who played on the 1992 “Unforgettables” team at the University of Kentucky, has a starring role at the annual event as Ag Commissioner. But this time, reporters’ questions were about the possibility of a Williams-Farmer gubernatorial ticket.

“I’m still in the process of trying to decide what to do for me,” Farmer said. “I think David is someone I respect a great deal. I think he understands state government as well as anyone in Frankfort. And I think he has the ability to make the tough decisions that probably need to be made at this time.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s ruled out a race for governor — or even another constitutional office, such as Secretary of State, said Farmer, who is term limited and can’t run for re-election for his current post.

“If I make that choice (to run for governor) and decide to do that, I think I’d be a great governor,” Farmer said. “There’s a lot of potential things that could happen. But the conversations that we’ve had basically talked about him wanting to run and talking about forming a ticket.”

Williams has said he isn’t interested at this point in his political career in running for lieutenant governor, and he’s gone out of his way recently to criticize Beshear on a number of issues, including Kentucky’s failure to win education funding from the federal Race to the Top initiative.

On Thursday, after the breakfast in the South Wing of the Kentucky Fairgrounds and Exposition Center, Williams brushed off Farmer’s mention of running for governor.

He and Farmer “share a common view of what’s good for the future of Kentucky and I have great confidence we’ll be making an announcement about both of our futures very shortly.”

Farmer said he might consider running for Secretary of State as well and conceded he’d talked to UK officials about a job in the athletic department there — but he said UK athletic director’s job isn’t open, calling that his “dream job.” After saying he’s thought about running for Secretary of State, Farmer said, “I would still be leaning more to running for one of the top two spots.”

Asked when he will announce his final decision, Farmer said: “Within the next two weeks, you know, get over with the fair, get through that.”

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