Democrat Elaine Walker not worried about her Republican past, cites her experience

01/25/2011 07:19 PM

Elaine Walker, the Bowling Green mayor who will be sworn in Saturday as Secretary of State, said she’s confident she’ll win the office in the November election and shrugged off questions about her past ties to Republicans.

Elaine Walker, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State

Walker acknowledged she was a registered Republican as a young adult and worked for two Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania in the 1970s. The late U.S. Rep. John Saylor hired her in 1972 and after his death in 1973, Walker joined the staff of Republican U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, who served in Congress until 2001.

But she said she didn’t expect that to hurt her chances in the May 17 Democratic primary. She faces Lexington lawyer Alison Lundergan Grimes in that contest.

Walker said she also has worked for the Democratic chairman of the Los Angeles City Council and recently has been an officer in a Democratic mayors group.

“I’m a Democrat. I have Democratic ideals,” she said, adding that as a mayor she also received bipartisan support that will be an asset in a general election campaign. (That discussion is in Part 2 of the interview below).

Walker also explained how Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear came to choose her to replace Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Grayson, a Republican, is stepping down Friday to become director of the Harvard University Institute of Politics.

“I had conversations with the governor and (his running mate) Mayor (Jerry) Abramson early on about being involved on the state level,” she said. And she acknowledged she talked with “a couple of key individuals who had worked with me” to gauge the support she would have if she ran for Secretary of State in 2011.

On Jan. 1, Walker said Beshear called her to let her know the possibility that Grayson might be stepping down.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Gee, I wonder who he’s going to recommend or appoint.’ And when he broached the subject with me, I was very honored,” he said.

Walker said she’s eager to take over the Secretary of State’s office and looking forward to a spirited primary with Grimes.

Grimes, daughter of former Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan, filed for the primary on Thursday and brought with her top-ranking Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and former governor and current state Sen. Julian Carroll.

“I knew she brought with her a lot of political clout and quite a bit of funding — personal funding,” she said. “Again, that’s not something that cowered me in the past. Again, I just have a lot of work to do.”

Beshear, meanwhile, has said he won’t officially endorse in the primary.

“I think it’s not an official endorsement but clearly I have the governor’s support or he would not have chosen me for this position,” she said.

Walker said she predicts “big-name Democratic support” but said she couldn’t name names yet.

- Ryan Alessi

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