House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says he's been contacted about running for governor, lt. governor in 2015

12/02/2014 10:11 PM

FRANKFORT — As Democrats look to field another gubernatorial candidate in a sparse primary field, House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says some in the party have gauged his interest in joining a slate at either the top or bottom of a ticket.

Adkins, D-Morehead, told Pure Politics in an interview Tuesday he was “flattered” and “humbled” by the consideration, but his focus remains on his role in leading the House Democratic caucus. The only office he’s currently seeking, he said, is re-election as majority floor leader.

“I have not had any conversations with any individuals about that,” he said of forming a slate at 0:33 in the video below. “I have been approached by several different people wanting me to run for governor. I’ve been approached by people from different parts of the state with that interest.”

Watch Adkins’ interview with Pure Politics here:

Adkins, who’s been majority floor leader for 10 years and a lawmaker for 27, said attendees at the Kentucky Association of Counties’ conference in late November asked about his plans in 2015 and encouraged him to keep an eye on running for governor or lieutenant governor.

With others, namely Alison Lundergan Grimes, mum on their plans to enter the Democratic gubernatorial field, Adkins said he’ll consider the playing field before making a decision. After all, their potential campaigns would likely need a solid number two on the ticket.

“I think you always weigh the different avenues that may be open,” he said at 2:25. “You weigh different people who may be looking to get in any race that you’re going to get in. I really don’t know the answer to that question right now. I’ve not had any meetings with any groups of people about running for any other office.”

The fact that some Democrats have reached out to Adkins shows the May 19 gubernatorial primary will be “an open race,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo told Pure Politics. Attorney General Jack Conway is the only prominent Democratic entrant in the race thus far.

“It’s not a slur on Jack Conway,” he said at 3:53 in the interview below, referencing the lone Democrat in the 2015 race. “I like Jack Conway as a person. When I chose not to run for attorney general (in 2007) he was the first person I called and offered to support him if he’d get in the race.

“… Polling indicates that it’s just an open race, so whoever wants to throw their hat in the ring’s got as good a chance as anybody else. At that level, it’s like the Final Four or the Super Bowl. You can’t decide who you’re going to play. You just run against whoever shows up.”

Watch Stumbo’s interview with Pure Politics here:

The informal discussions with potential gubernatorial candidates may also portend concern among Democrats in their only choice so far in 2015. Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said some in the party are probably withholding “some support” until the primary field crystallizes.

“I think if you’re going to answer that question honestly, which I assume you think I will, you have to say yes,” he said at 5:36 in the interview. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We hear a lot of it. We heart a lot of it.

“I heard a lot of it during these campaigns for our candidates from folks as I traveled around the state, and those are mostly the Democratic faithful that come to those rallies, and you hear a lot of folks worried. There’s some concern about his decision not to appeal the same-sex constitutional ruling. There’s some concern about the fact that we’ve never had a governor from Louisville, and we haven’t in Kentucky.”

Stumbo, who supported Conway’s decision against appealing the ruling on Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban and, in 2007, ran on a slate with Louisville Democrat Bruce Lunsford, called the concerns among some Democrats on Conway’s electability statewide “legitimate.”

Conway senior advisor Mark Riddle, in response, said the candidate and his running mate, House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly of Paris, “are working hard to unite the Democratic Party, working hard to unite folks and not divide, and are setting forth a positive vision for Kentucky in this governor’s race.”

The informal overtures to Adkins don’t necessarily point to discomfort with Conway in a general election, but rather the reality that Kentucky Democrats have often waged hard-fought battles for the top executive branch post, Adkins said.

“I think that the makeup of our party is one that is competitive, and we’ve always, I think, had very competitive primaries, which has made us a better party to be very honest,” he said at 8:44 in his interview. “So I think there’s people out there that believe there may be other candidates who may offer other ideas and have different ideas about how to move the state forward.”

If other eastern Kentucky candidates like Stumbo, who reiterated that he’s focused on his re-election as House speaker rather than a potential gubernatorial candidacy at this point, or former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard seriously consider jumping into the race, that could impact the political calculus.

Adkins called both close friends and said there would likely be “a meeting of the minds” to discuss the gubernatorial election “if things progressed in that direction.”

“There would be some kind of discussion before anything like that would move forward and any decisions would be made, but I can’t speak to that because we’re talking about hypothetical things that haven’t happened,” Adkins said at 11:57 in his interview.

Stumbo, too, said there likely will not be more than one eastern Kentuckian in the race.

Should he enter the gubernatorial field as a top-of-the-ticket candidate or on a slate, Adkins said his working relationship with Overly will not be affected. He called her “another good friend” and “a tremendous state legislator.”

“I can tell you, we understand the importance of the majority,” he said at 13:09. “… There’ll be no interference in any shape, form or fashion regardless of what happens.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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