Constitutional officers can't quite shake campaign mode in swearing-in ceremony

01/02/2012 05:41 PM

FRANKFORT — After taking their oaths on Monday, the five newly-minted statewide officials each offered some campaign-style remarks — either because they’re still easing out of election mode or already looking ahead to 2015.

Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Treasurer Todd Hollenbach and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer took turns laying out their aspirations as public officials in the late morning ceremony.

Conway, who was re-elected last fall to a second and final term as Kentucky’s top law enforcement official, pledged that he was “older, wiser and better prepared to be your attorney general.”

He went on to promise to make decisions about investigations and prosecutors “without regard to party.” But he alluded to his frustration with some Republicans who held press availabilities outside his office to urge him to take certain actions, such as join in a federal lawsuit against the national health care bill.

He also offered another shot across the bow to certain for-profit colleges that he called “a greedy few.” Watch the clip:

Conway, like the other officials, hasn’t announced whether he’s interested in running for governor in 2015, when the seat will be open because Gov. Steve Beshear is term-limited.

All the of the officials said they look forward to starting work in 2012 in their current jobs.

*Edelen says his job will be to address twin obstacles *

While Conway’s speech was the most forceful of the bunch, Edelen’s was perhaps the most focused.

He said as auditor of public accounts he has the chance to tackle two chronic problems that have held Kentucky back: corruption and scarcity of resources.

This is Edelen’s first time serving in an elected post, although he worked for nearly three years as Beshear’s chief of staff.

Comer stresses bipartisan support that elected him

The lone Republican to be elected in November got the biggest applause from the crowd, which was nearly split between Republicans and Democrats. But the GOP crowd had just one official to cheer on: Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

In turn, Comer, a five-term state representative from Tompkinsville, spent much of his remarks stressing the bipartisan support he received from farm organizations and civics groups who saw him as the more capable candidate.

Grimes seeks to channel Alben Barkley as secretary of state

Alison Grimes, who like Edelen is a newbie to public office, drew much of her post-swearing-in speech from two sources just as she did in many of her campaign speeches. She made references to historical Kentuckians and her family.

Specifically, she mentioned her late grandfather, whom Grimes described as a man of few words. And she gave a shout out to the legendary Kentuckians whose likenesses now grace the Rotunda, such as Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.

But Grimes singled out the late Democratic U.S. Senator and former Vice President Alben Barkley for helping to shape the New Deal and provide leadership during a time of economic hardship.

*Hollenbach urges Kentuckians to get past their frustrations *

Todd Hollenbach returns to the state treasurer’s office for a second four-year term. And he said he wants to see his fellow public officials work across party lines and cut through the gridlock before it paralyzes Frankfort the way it has Washington.

That also was a major theme of many of his campaign speeches last year.

- Reporting by Ryan Alessi and Nick Storm. Video by Nick Storm.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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