Name confusion popping up in attorney general race, but down-ticket awareness lacking overall

04/12/2015 03:30 PM

Politicians running for down-ticket offices clamor for name identification in low-turnout elections, but sometimes a name can lead to surprise.

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a first-term Hopkinsville Republican who’s seeking the GOP nomination for attorney general, said a few voters at various stops have expected to hear a conservative woman lay out a vision for the state’s top law enforcement office based on his first name.

“Of the thousands of Kentuckians I’ve met so far on the campaign trail, I might have met as many as three or four that were surprised to see that I wasn’t a lovely young woman but instead a large young man,” said Westerfield, who is named after a late uncle, Samuel Whitney.

“But really it’s the smaller portion of them, but also I don’t think it makes a difference. I don’t think gender has anything to do with the qualifications for this job.”

Westerfield is running against Lawrence County Attorney Michael Hogan in the May 19 primary. Republicans are also competing in primaries for state agriculture commissioner and treasurer in down-ballot elections.

Running television ads might help clear up any gender confusion. The spots might also raise some awareness of the down-ticket race, which has been lacking in Westerfield’s experience.

While the four-way Republican gubernatorial primary has attracted the lion’s share of attention thus far, “I think you’ll find a lot of people aren’t even tuned into that just yet,” Westerfield said, noting part of campaigning involves “reminding them what’s going on and that there’s an election that has important consequences to consider.”

“The die-hard Republicans that always vote in the primaries, they’re the ones that are paying attention,” he said. “They know full well that there’s a primary, they know when it is, and they’re probably working a polling location.”

While he hopes to hit the TV airwaves before GOP voters hit the polls in about five weeks, Westerfield said he has focused his advertising efforts digitally.

At this point in the campaign, Westerfield says he likes his prospects of winning his party’s nomination. That would pit him against Democrat Andy Beshear, son of Gov. Steve Beshear and the only member of his party to run for attorney general.

“The response to me, I think, has been incredibly positive,” Westerfield said. “I don’t see that same response from folks for my primary opponent. I’m sure he’ll have some support, I don’t deny that, but I’m not worried about it being more than mine.”

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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