Tracking 2011 -- Potential candidates for next year's elections

08/17/2010 07:58 PM

The races for U.S. Senate, congress and state legislative seats might be dominating attention now. But behind the scenes, the jockeying has begun among prospective candidates for next year’s statewide elections for constitutional office.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is seeking his second term and is drawing a swarm of interest from Republicans who want to challenge him.

Three positions will be vacated by incumbents who are term-limited (state auditor, secretary of state and agriculture commissioner).

Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, is running for U.S. Senate, so he won’t talk about 2011 until his political future is determined by this November’s election.

And state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach is running for his re-election but already has drawn a challenger in the Democratic primary.

cn|2 Politics has compiled the names of those who expressed interest in running for statewide office or have been mentioned as prospective candidates so far. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting roster of potential statewide candidate next year:

Governor/Lieutenant Governor


  • Gov. Steve Beshear and Jerry Abramson (filed to raise money). Beshear is running for his second term with Abramson, the Lousiville mayor, who replaces Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo on the ticket. The two will start with about $2 million in the bank, which appears to be enough to scare off potential Democratic challengers.


  • Senate President David Williams and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer (openly considering). Farmer, the former University of Kentucky basketball player, is clearly Williams’ top choice to be his running mate. Both have confirmed having meeting with each other about teaming up. And Williams told cn|2 Politics last month that he shared polling with Farmer that showed the two would be competitive against Beshear and Abramson. If Farmer declines Williams’ invitation, other potential running mates include state Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, former U.S. ambassador to Latvia Cathy Bailey of Louisville, and state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington of Fort Wright.
  • Phil Moffett and Rep. Mike Harmon (announced). Moffett, a Louisville businessman and board member on the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Research, formed the ticket with state Rep. Mike Harmon of Junction City last month. The two are hoping to harness momentum from the tea party movement.
  • Rep. Bill Farmer and Rep. Adam Koenig (openly considering). Farmer and Koenig began discussing a ticket the week of the National Conference on State Legislature in Louisville last month and confirmed their intent to explore a run to cn|2 Politics. The two are still trying to work out the logistics of a run but without the benefit of an exploratory committee, which the General Assembly killed earlier this decade.
  • Jess Correll, a Stanford banker, and ?????. Correll has long been talked about as a potential Republican candidate, although he hasn’t officially confirmed his interest. Correll was involved behind the scenes in several Republican legislative races this spring backing GOP candidates who share his opposition to expanded gambling. That included supporting the challengers to incumbents, such as Republican state Sen. Tom Buford of Nicholasville and Rep. Lonnie Napier of Lancaster.
  • Secretary of State Trey Grayson and ?????. Unable to seek another term as secretary of state, Grayson’s name is frequently mentioned for other offices. He said at Fancy Farm this month that many of his supporters are urging him to run for governor. But, after coming off a tough statewide loss in the Republican primary for U.S. Senator, Grayson seems more inclined to go for another office … perhaps attorney general.


  • Gatewood Galbraith and Dea Riley (filed to raise money). Galbraith, a Lexington lawyer and author, is one of Kentucky’s most colorful political figures and is no stranger to election ballots. He ran for governor in 2007 as a Democrat — as well as in 1991 and 1995 — and in 1999 on a Reform Party ticket. He also ran a competitive race for attorney general as an independent in 2003 and has run unsuccessfully for congress and state agriculture commissioner. Riley is a former Republican campaign consultant who managed two successful Supreme Court races for Mary Noble in 2006 and Will T. Scott in 2004.

Attorney General

The prospective Democrats candidates are waiting to see if Attorney General Jack Conway vacates the seat by winning the U.S. Senate race or opting not to seek a second term before deciding whether or not to run. But here is a list of those considering or mentioned as contenders if attorney general is an open seat next year.


  • Jonathan Miller, Finance and Administration Cabinet secretary: Miller, a former state treasurer, ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2007 before dropping out and throwing his support to Beshear, which helped Beshear and Mongiardo get more than 40% of the party’s vote and avoid a run-off election.
  • Jennifer Moore, Louisville attorney and former Democratic Party chairwoman: Moore has remained active in Democratic politics even after stepping down from the Democratic Party’s top post after Beshear’s first year as governor.
  • Sara Combs, court of appeals judge: Combs stepped down as chief appeals court judge this spring. The widow of former Gov. Bert T. Combs, she told cn|2 Politics this summer that she might be interested in running for attorney general or possibly state auditor.
  • Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville: The two-term state representative first confirmed to Tim Havrilek on the Underground Rooster blog that he was interested in running for the office if Conway isn’t on the 2011 ballot. Here’s what Tilley told cn|2 Politics earlier this month:


  • Trey Grayson, Secretary of State. Grayson said after speaking at the Fancy Farm political picnic that he’s receiving a lot of encouragement to run for statewide office. He even included a hint at the end of his speech — which he didn’t read because he was cut off by the bluegrass band for going over his time limit — that he might be back at the event next year as a candidate.

State Auditor

Incumbent Crit Luallen spent the last eight years aggressively pursuing local officials whose public books didn’t add up and combing through expense documents at quasi-public agencies. Her work earned her accolades and raised the profile of the auditor’s office. That has a host of prospective candidates from both parties taking a hard look at running for it in 2011.


  • Adam Edelen, Beshear’s former chief of staff. Edelen stepped down from Beshear’s office last week to pave the way for a potential statewide race. cn|2 Politics asked him about his political future last month and he didn’t rule out a run for auditor.
  • Jennifer Moore. Moore wouldn’t say whether she’s looking at getting in the auditor’s race even after cn|2 Politics spotted her having a long conversation with current Auditor Crit Luallen before the Marshall County Democratic bean supper earlier this month.
  • Chris Harris, Pike County magistrate: Harris, a Pikeville attorney, joined the board of the Kentucky Association of Counties in November 2008 just before that organization underwent intense scrutiny and a state audit regarding spending problems and poor financial oversight in previous years. Harris was among the board members who called for reforms in the organization. And most recently, he requested a state audit of the Mountain Water District. But Harris hasn’t confirmed or denied his intentions to run for office, such as auditor or attorney general.
  • Sara Combs: Combs also mentioned auditor as an office she would consider.


  • State Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown. Thayer serves as chairman of the Senate’s state and local government committee. He has sponsored legislation calling for government transparency as well as a package of reforms aimed at tightening oversight of KACo and the Kentucky League of Cities. He is also a potential candidate for secretary of state after authoring numerous bills related to campaign finance law reforms and election changes.
  • Bill Johnson,  Todd County businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate: Johnson flirted with running for governor on a ticket with Thayer but has since backed off. He is unlikely to run against Thayer so the two will have to figure out who will run for what.
  • Trey Grayson, Secretary of State: While it’s more likely that Grayson will run for attorney general, he hasn’t ruled out auditor either.

Secretary of State

To some degree, the candidates who want to replace Trey Grayson next year might make their decision once they know which candidates have filed for other offices, such as auditor and attorney general.


  • State Sen. Ed Worley of Richmond. Worley is retiring this year from the state Senate, where he served as Democratic floor leader. Worley told the Herald-Leader he might consider running for secretary of state.
  • Either Jennifer Moore or Adam Edelen could run for this office depending on what the other one does.


  • Richie Farmer, Agriculture Commissioner. This is the other likely target for Farmer if he opts not to run on a gubernatorial ticket.
  • State Sen. Damon Thayer or Bill Johnson. Again, both of these Republicans could run for this office but it depends on Farmer’s move.

Agriculture Commissioner

Several prospective candidates from both parties are lining up for the chance to replace Richie Farmer, who is term limited.


  • Roger Thomas, the governor’s director of the office of agriculture policy and former state representative.
  • Stewart Gritton: Larry Dale Keeling of the Herald-Leader first reported that Gritton, a department of agriculture employee from Anderson County filed paperwork with the Registry of Election Finance to raise money.
  • Bob Farmer: Havrilek’s Underground Rooster blog reported that Farmer of Louisville was interested in replacing another Farmer to lead the agency that works with Kentucky farmers.


  • John Wilson, Garrard County judge-executive.
  • Keith Rogers, former director of the office of agriculture policy under Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
  • Craig Maffett, deputy agriculture commissioner and chief of staff to Commissioner Richie Farmer.


While incumbent Todd Hollenbach says he plans to seek a second term, that hasn’t kept him out of a Democratic primary so far.


  • Todd Hollenbach, state Treasurer. Hollenbach is seeking re-election but has raised little money so far.
  • Steve Hamrick, Hopkins County education consultant. He is a former Republican congressional candidate who switched to become a Democrat and has announced his intent to challenge Hollenbach.


  • No one yet.

OTHERS: Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger, a Republican, expressed interest to cn|2 Politics about running for something in 2011 but wouldn’t say what. Democratic State Sen. Ray Jones of Pikeville has been in the Senate for nearly a decade and has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for attorney general. And several state representatives have been mentioned as prospective statewide candidates. Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington — a Fort Wright Republican — is running unopposed in the November election and sidestepped questions about her intentions for next year saying she was focused on helping her Republican colleagues win this fall. Rep. Rick Nelson, a Middlesboro Democrat, flirted with running for state treasurer or secretary of state in 2007 and is being talked about for those offices again. But  he didn’t return a call to cn|2 Politics. Rep. Jamie Comer of Tompkinsville is another possible Republican for state agriculture commissioner.

- Ryan Alessi


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