Walker says she's up against opponent who is 'calling in some chits'

03/23/2011 07:59 PM

Secretary of State Elaine Walker said she’s getting a handle on her new post and is focusing now on trying to raise enough money for her campaign to keep the job.

But she said she knows she faces a well-funded and well-connected opponent in Lexington lawyer Alison Lundergan Grimes.

While Grimes has contributed to high-profile Democrats, such as Congressman Ben Chandler and House Speaker Greg Stumbo in the past, Walker’s campaign contributions — other than to her mayoral bids in Bowling Green — consists of a $30 check to a state representative candidate in 2008.

“I’m a working girl. My husband and I have a small business, which was strongly impacted by my $16,000 a year mayor’s salary,” Walker said.

“My opponent and her dad have a lot of money. And they have been able to spread that money and are clearly calling in some chits,” she said of Grimes, whose father is Lexington businessman and former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan.

Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Walker, the former Bowling Green mayor, in January to replace Trey Grayson, who resigned as Secretary of State to take the directorship of the Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

Walker said she’ll have enough money for television ads and added that Beshear has been helpful in the campaign raising money.

“We are starting that fundraiser season,” Walker said. “I’m not going to have a huge pot of money, but I’m going to have enough money to run a very effective campaign, and we’re going to be successful.”

Walker had her first fundraising event Tuesday in Louisville. It was hosted by former Democratic state Senate candidate Virginia Woodward, who currently serves as executive director for the Kentucky Crime Victims Compensation Board.

Walker said her experience as an elected official and her leadership will carry her through to victory in the May 17 Democratic primary.

Kentucky’s Secretary of State oversees the voting process, as well as paperwork filings from Kentucky businesses.

On some of the issues, Walker said it would be costly for independents to be allowed to vote in Republican and Democratic primaries. Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, has filed legislation for the last two sessions to allow independents to vote in primaries.

“What we’ve heard from the county clerks is that it would be very burdensome,” Walker said.

Walker said on Pure Politics that enough ballots for every independent that could potentially vote would have to be printed, driving up costs and preparation time.

She also worries that independent primary voters might possibly be able to influence an election to the point that they could take out a potentially strong candidate.

On the campaign finance reforms, Walker said she hasn’t had enough time to delve into the issue. Grayson, her predecessor, advocated for additional reporting deadlines for candidates to turn in their fundraising reports and called for candidates to have to file those reports electronically so the public could view them online quicker.

“Being sworn in on Jan. 29 and having a primary on May 17, has given me a very small window to focus on the legislative issues,” Walker said. “We’re still dealing with the legislative agenda right now, so I haven’t had the opportunity to look forward.”

(Programming note: Grimes had to reschedule a planned appearance on Pure Politics earlier in the month and is scheduled to be on the program in early April.)

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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