The list: Adam Edelen leads Democratic chatter for 2016 U.S. Senate candidates

04/11/2015 04:33 PM

With U.S. Sen. Rand Paul officially running for president and planning on running for re-election in 2016, state Democrats are looking at their roster ahead of another U.S. Senate race in the state.

As political observers look to the governor’s race as the premiere battle in Kentucky in 2015, behind the scenes state Democrats are laying plans for what could amount to their best chance to recapture the seat since Wendell Ford retired in January of 1999.

Nearly everyone Pure Politics spoke with agreed that the 2016 race for U.S. Senate will amount to uncharted waters for both Democrats and Republicans. The GOP is still figuring out all of their options and moving forward with a presidential primary as Paul campaigns for president and U.S. Senate.

Here is a look at the pros and cons at the potential Democratic candidates:


Adam Edelen

Political experience: Auditor of Public Accounts, 2012 to present. Chief of staff, Gov. Steve Beshear July 2008 to September 2010. Executive director, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security December 2007 to 2010. Aide to former Gov. Paul Patton at the age of 21.

Interest: Edelen’s name is at the top of nearly every Democrat’s list as a contender for the post if he chooses to enter the race, and if he does enter Edelen could essentially clear the field.

Advantages: Edelen has the right connections and will be coming out of another statewide race if he chooses to run. In 2012, Edelen didn’t take the stage at the Democratic National Convention, but he did find the limelight being honored among more than a dozen “rising stars of the Democratic Party” on the eve of the convention.

Disadvantages: Running for re-election as state Auditor in 2015 will keep him busy during a time where other could begin a campaign — though the governor’s race will be gathering up most donors’ time in the state.

Edelen has publicly criticized Paul for seeking two offices at the same time. If he is going to run he likely won’t enter a race until January of 2016.

“People begged Adam to run in 2014 for Senate and 2015 for governor,” Democratic analyst Sherman Brown said. “He has focused on accomplishing big things in the auditor’s office and he loves his work. But I know Adam well enough, that I know he is ambitious.”


Greg Fischer

Political experience: Louisville mayor, Jan. 2011 to present. Candidate for Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2008.

Interest: Fischer hasn’t said one way or the other but did seek the Democratic nomination to run against McConnell in 2008 receiving 34 percent of the vote among seven candidates.

Advantages: As a well-to-do former business owner, Fischer can invest some of his personal fortune in a race. He also has a built in theme as a businessman for the office.

Disadvantages: As Pure Politics has pointed out before when Fischer has considered a run, being the mayor of Louisville isn’t much of an advantage in a statewide race. Fischer was also unable to get LIFT — a key priority of his — out of the General Assembly for a third consecutive year. If he runs now it may not happen.

Ben Chandler

Political experience: Former congressman representing the Sixth Congressional District, February 2004 to January 2013. Kentucky attorney general, 1996 to December 2003. State auditor 1992 to 1996.

Advantages: Chandler could walk into a race with name ID, and he has a long history of getting elected — including to federal office. His grandfather “Happy” Chandler served as U.S. senator, governor and commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Disadvantages: After losing his last election in 2012, a U.S. Senate race during another presidential election year would be a tough task for the former congressman, let alone any Kentucky Democrat.

Alison Lundergan Grimes

Political experience: Secretary of state, January 2012 to present

Advantages/Disadvantages: Grimes now knows the ropes of running for U.S. Senate after spending two years running for the post against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. She has a working infrastructure, but also possibly damaged her brand with a 15-point defeat from McConnnell.

Her relationship with the national party and national donors is likely in peril after a poor performance in the 2014, which includes a major blunder dealing with her support of the president.

Jennifer Moore

Political experience: Chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, 2007 to 2009. Emerge Kentucky board chair.

Advantages: Moore is well-connected in Democratic circles, which would help bring in campaign cash and help to form a statewide infrastructure.

Disadvantages: She has never run for elected office which could lead to some first-time candidate mistakes, though she does help other women learn the ropes running for office.

Colmon Elridge

Political experience: Vice president of Young Democrats of America, 2011 to present. Executive assistant to Gov. Steve Beshear, 2007 to present

Advantages: As he showed in a recent episode of Pure Politics, Elridge has a campaign theme and could tap into a younger, fresh sect of the Democratic Party — and their national fundraising.

Disadvantages: Elridge was outspoken of his support for President Obama in 2008 and as a national surrogate for the Obama campaign in 2012, which would not play well in a Kentucky as campaigns that have little to do with federal offices are run against the incumbent president.

Crit Luallen

Political experience: Lieutenant governor, November 2014 to present. State auditor, 2004 to 2012.

Interest: Luallen opted out of running for U.S. Senate in 2014 against McConnell, and chose not to run against Jack Conway for governor in 2015 — though she said she would have been one of the most qualified candidates in the race. Those close to Luallen say a run is unlikely, but not to rule it out as the political engine seems be revving again with her time in the governor’s office.

David Tandy

Political experience: Louisville Metro Council, April 2005 to present.

Interest: Observers say the Louisville Metro Council president has federal aspirations.

Advantages: He unanimously replaced the late Jim King, the well-known and respected president of the Louisville Metro Council.

Disadvantages: Tandy is unknown outside of Louisville, and as previously noted Louisville is not a political advantage for statewide elected office.

Ashley Judd

Political experience: None.

Interest: In a recent interview she told Larry King she still has political aspirations, but she went on to mention a run for governor. She filled out paperwork to challenge McConnell in 2014, and then wisely reconsidered the race.

Advantages: She would bring nearly national name ID and tremendous amounts of free press, though that could bring disadvantages.

Disadvantages: Judd has railed against mountaintop removal and sides with national Democrats on more liberal tenets of the party’s platform. The actress is an outspoken Kentucky basketball fan, though not all of the fans feel the same way about her. Judd hasn’t been a full-time resident in years, though she purchased a home in Ashland in 2013.


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