Luther Deaton lines up W.Ky. running mate, will decide gubernatorial run close to deadline

01/05/2015 08:14 PM

Central Bank & Trust Co. President and CEO Luther Deaton has a running mate and the financial backers for a gubernatorial run this year.

All Deaton has to decide between now and the Jan. 27 filing deadline is whether he’s the Democrat who can help resolve Kentucky’s weightiest issues, such as lagging tax revenues and struggling public pension systems, and gain enough political support to win the May 19 Democratic primary and Nov. 3 general elections.

Mounting a gubernatorial bid is a tough call, he said, but Kentucky “is in serious trouble.”

“You’ve got people that all they’ve ever done is run for public office,” Deaton said in a phone interview with Pure Politics Monday, giving himself a “pretty good” shot at capturing the Democratic nomination in the primary. “Everybody says the same thing — they’re going to create jobs. How are they going to create jobs? How are they going to solve the pension plan? Nobody gives an answer.

“If I decide to go, I’ll tell ‘em how I’m going to do it. It might not be what people want to hear, but I’m going to be truthful about it. I think it’s something that has to be done and people need to be told the truth.”

The Lexington banker, head of Central Bank since 1995, said he will settle his gubernatorial plans “pretty close” to Jan. 27.

“People all over this state are pushing me to run, but they can push all they want to,” he said. “… I don’t just want to be governor just to be governor. If I don’t think I can make a difference in peoples’ lives and move this state forward, then I won’t run, pure and simple.”

Deaton has kept an eye on the race for some time, going as far as picking a candidate for lieutenant governor. He declined to identify the individual, saying only he or she hails from western Kentucky.

Rumors have linked Deaton with state Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. When asked about Tilley, Deaton simply said, “People speculate all the time. Let ‘em speculate. I’m not going to say who it is.”

Tilley did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Some political observers have suggested Deaton may depend on his person wealth to fund a campaign if he enters the race, a la former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. and Democrat Bruce Lunsford, but Deaton said he’s already locked down financial supporters for a potential run.

“I don’t worry about that part of it,” he said.

Deaton believes his experience as a banking executive positions him well for a gubernatorial run, and his role on Gov. Steve Beshear’s tax reform commission gives him one economic topic for stump speeches along the trail if he launches a campaign.

Deaton said he is “disappointed” that lawmakers haven’t retooled the state’s tax system, which has been repeatedly called outdated. Proposals approved by the panel in December 2012 would have generated an estimated $690 million in tax revenue, but many of the recommendations have been ignored.

“The legislature chose not to do it, and my biggest decision’s going to be can I get the legislature, if I did get elected governor, can I get them to work with me?” Deaton said. “I don’t care if I’m a one termer if I go for it, but this state is in serious trouble but people don’t want to face it.”

He met with Attorney General Jack Conway months ago, in part to discuss Deaton’s interest in running for governor this year. The pair, however, “didn’t get into too much politics,” Deaton said.

Conway has thus far avoided a major opponent in the Democratic primary.

Deaton called the attorney general “a good guy” and said if he enters the race, he would run a clean campaign so voters can select the better candidate.

The rough and tumble world of political mudslinging is another factor for Deaton’s consideration, although the potential candidate said he’s unconcerned with the material opposition researchers will find in his background.

“That’s what a lot of people think about before they get in these races because they don’t want to put up with that stuff,” Deaton said.

“… I can tell you, I don’t have anything in my closet. I’m a divorced guy. My ex-wife and I get along, we’re fine, we’re very nice to each other so there’s nothing there, but I don’t know what else people say about me. Who knows. I’ve run a clean bank for 36 years, and nope, never had no regulatory problems, never had any problems, so I don’t know. They can say anything they want to about you.”

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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