The list: Rep. Overly, Sen. Palmer, Colmon Elridge mulling 6th Congressional Dist. race in '14

11/26/2012 06:33 PM

Three weeks after Democrats lost Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, several prominent Democrats in Central Kentucky have been fielding phone calls about running against Republican Andy Barr in two years.

Two central Kentucky lawmakers — Sen. R.J. Palmer of Winchester and Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris — confirmed to Pure Politics that they have received encouragement to think about challenging Barr. Both said they’re keeping their options open for now.

And Colmon Elridge, a player on the national scene as the Young Democrats of America’s executive vice president, said he also is being urged to look at the race. Elridge helped lead the YDA’s political arm that helped two young Democrats win congressional races this fall.

Former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac previously expressed interest in the race to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Here is an early scouting report on the potential Democratic congressional candidates for 2014:

Sannie Overly

Hometown: Paris
Political experience: State House, 72nd District, January 2008 – present
Interest in running: She’s considering it. “You know, all of this is so unexpected. I didn’t expect Congressman Chandler to lose. All of this is really new and unexpected. But I am getting some encouragement,” she told Pure Politics.
Strengths: Overly has secured a reputation as smart, tough and no-nonsense during her brief tenure in the House. An engineer and lawyer by training, House leaders turned over the helm of the transportation budget panel to Overly after she served just a year in the legislature. She has taken mostly moderate stances during her time in Frankfort and is not prone to grandstand. She also comes from the new geographic center of a district that shifted northeast — and more rural — during redistricting. Her district includes Bourbon and Bath counties and part of Lexington.
Weaknesses: Overly’s retail political skills haven’t been tested on a wide scale. She also hasn’t had to raise anywhere near the type of money to compete in a congressional race before. But both of those can be learned.

R.J. Palmer

Hometown: Winchester
Political experience: Senate Democratic Leader, 2011 – present; Senator from 28th District, 2001 – present; State Representative, 1999-2001.
Interest in running: Has received calls from Democrats asking him to think about it. “I’m interested in keeping my options open,” he told Pure Politics on Monday. “Whether it’s the right time, that’s something my family and I need to decide.”
Strengths and Weaknesses: The attributes that make Palmer an attractive candidate on paper cut both ways. He has ties to key industries that can help with fundraising: Ross Sinclaire, the brokerage firm where he works; Central Bank where he used to work; and Palmer Engineering, the construction firm his father founded. But opponents could use that to paint him as influenced by those companies. Palmer represents six counties, all of which are in the 6th Congressional District. However, he lost two counties — Harrison and his home county of Clark — during his last re-election bid in 2010. And as a longtime legislator, Palmer brings a record that he tout or fodder for Republicans. For instances, he voted in favor of a 2005 bill that increased pension perks for state legislators who switched to state jobs in other branches of government and then voted against repealing the bill, as the Kentucky Club for Growth pointed out.

Colmon Elridge

Hometown: Georgetown
Political experience: Vice President of Young Democrats of America, 2011 – present; Executive assistant to Gov. Steve Beshear, 2007-present
Interest in running: Two days after the election, Elridge told Pure Politics he was interested in getting into electoral politics and was considering the congressional seat.
Strengths: Elridge can be a dynamic speaker and would represent a younger, fresh voice for Democrats in the district. He has a national support network (read: fundraising) from his work with the Young Democrats of America and volunteer work for President Obama’s campaign.
Weaknesses: His outspoken support of President Obama in 2008 and as a national surrogate for the Obama campaign in 2012 would cement his fortunes to those of the president who will be facing a mid-term report card in 2014. Elridge also is an aide to Beshear, tying his fate to the governor to a certain degree.
Question Mark: If he runs, he would be the first African American candidate for Congress in Kentucky. He would likely to attract extra attention, for better and possibly for worse, as a result.

Teresa Isaac

Hometown: Lexington
Political experience: Mayor of Lexington, 2003-2007
Interest in running: Told the Herald-Leader she is “looking at it.”
Strengths: Isaac has run for this before, finishing third in the 1998 Democratic primary for Congress. She’s a fierce retail campaigner who will work.
Weaknesses: Isaac may have been permanently bruised by tough campaigns in 2002 and 2006 for Lexington mayor. Her clashes with urban county council members, for instance, were a major undercurrent during her re-election race that she lost six years ago. She also has been away from politics for several years, working as professor at Midway College.

Others:

  • Ben Chandler — the former incumbent could run for the seat again, although that becomes more difficult now that Barr seems to have been successful in making the “anti-coal” label stick.

  • State Auditor Adam Edelen, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and former state Auditor Crit Luallen all live in the district but seem to have their eyes on other races in 2014 or 2015. Luallen and Edelen are being mentioned as potential candidate for governor in 2015 or Edelen can seek a second term as auditor. Democrats are courting Grimes to run for U.S. Senate in 2014 or she could run for attorney general or re-election as secretary of state in 2015. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray is out after announcing last week he is running for re-election as mayor.
    _
    - CLARIFICATION: The post was updated to reflect Palmer’s current employment at Ross Sinclaire. _
About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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