Steve Henry

Former Lt. Governor Steve Henry gestures Wednesday as he speaks at the Kiwanis Club in Ashland. Henry has said he's a candidate for governor in 2007.

Steve Henry wouldn’t provide any new clues on who he’ll choose as his running mate, but he did say at an Ashland appearance Wednesday that if he’s elected governor his wife will have a Cabinet position.

Henry wouldn’t say what position his wife, former Miss America Heather French Henry, would fill. That announcement will come in January when his campaign unveils an initiative she’ll head up “that will bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the state,” he said.

Henry, who confirmed his candidacy Monday, spoke at a meeting of the Ashland Kiwanis Club and emphasized economic and education issues.

Kentucky needs to stop the erosion of its manufacturing sector and stabilize health insurance costs for small businesses, he said.

Rising health care costs make it difficult for small businesses to compete in the marketplace, he said.

Henry called on Kentucky universities to ramp up their academic recruitment efforts to keep talented students in the state. “If you’re the brightest student, we’ve got to get you,” he said. Earlier identification of career paths, akin to the European model of placing students on career tracks at a young age, also could boost competitiveness.

An advocate in 2002 of legislation to mandate more nutritious school food, Henry said Kentucky needs to expand on that to revive physical education in schools.

Henry is likely to face some pretty stiff competition in the primary. Other potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, state Attorney General Greg Stumbo, state Auditor Crit Luallen, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and former Gov. Brereton Jones.

Jones and Luallen both have said they’d support a Chandler candidacy. Henry thinks he’s got a good chance against Chandler.

“If you look at the polls, we stack up pretty well,” he said. “People out in the state have asked us to run. A lot of people are looking for something different in Frankfort.”

Also, Chandler “has developed an affinity to Washington,” said Henry, who suggested Chandler is more likely to set his sights on the U.S. Senate.

Henry declined to provide any new clues to his running mate choice, but said his pick would be a working lieutenant governor. “I expect the lieutenant governor will be assigned a significant role.”

Henry in the governor’s mansion could be good for the region, said Boyd County Democratic Party Chairman Marcus Woodward. “He certainly knows the issues here. He’s always been a friend of eastern Kentucky.”

Henry was lieutenant governor under Paul Patton from 1995 through 2003.

He brings some baggage to the race; in 2003 he settled a federal investigation into allegations he charged for surgeries for which he wasn’t present by paying the government $162,000. He did not admit guilt, however.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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