Bill Johnson says he'll run once more -- for secretary of state or state Senate

08/31/2010 07:45 AM

Bill Johnson, the Todd County businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate, said he will make a choice in the next month between running for the Republican nomination for secretary of state in 2011 or mounting a campaign in 2012 against Democratic state Sen. Joey Pendleton.

“If I don’t run for secretary of state, I will run for the state Senate against Joey Pendleton. He needs to come home,” Johnson said in a phone interview Monday. “If I run for secretary of state and fail, I am done with politics. I have one race in me. So I’m making a careful decision.”

Bill Johnson, Todd County businessman and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate

Johnson said he won’t decide until after a formal announcement of a gubernatorial ticket of David Williams, the Republican Senate president, and Richie Farmer, the commissioner of agriculture. Farmer has said he was considering running for secretary of state if he didn’t run for governor or lieutenant governor with Williams. Williams and Farmer, last week, pledged to have an announcement soon — perhaps in the next “few days,” as Williams put it.

“I’m really looking to see what the landscape is looking like and then make a decision,” Johnson said. “I first want to know that Richie Farmer is not going to run” for secretary of state.

He said he expects he would need to raise at least $100,000 by the end of 2010 to make a strong run for statewide office. Johnson said if he failed to reach six-figures by the end of the year, he would drop out of the race and give donors their money back.

“If you can’t get the financial support, you’ve got to be realistic and know when to fold ‘em,” Johnson said, adding that he expects a secretary of state’s race to cost at least $500,000.

Unlike his run for the U.S. Senate nomination, Johnson said he wouldn’t tap into his personal funds to run for office again.

He also said he hadn’t decided whether he would want to team up with other Republican candidates running for the other statewide offices next year to form a slate.

“I would have to cross that bridge if they ask me. I don’t know if it’s beneficial to be associated with a ticket or be considered more independent,” Johnson said.

The trajectory of Johnson’s political career has been anything but a straight line. A year ago he was a virtual unknown in Kentucky politics. Then he made an upstart run for U.S. Senate, and he was gaining momentum when he dropped out in March citing poll numbers that showed he was unlikely to win the May 18 Republican primary.

He briefly flirted with running for governor. But he said in the past couple months, he’s taken a look at secretary of state, which is being vacated by two-term incumbent Trey Grayson, a Republican who is term-limited. Johnson and Grayson ran against each other in the spring U.S. Senate primary.

Kentucky’s secretary of state collects business filings and oversees the state election and voting processes. As a U.S. Navy veteran, Johnson said he would like to examine ways to make voting more convenient for Kentuckians serving in the military, particularly those serving abroad.

- Ryan Alessi


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