Way-too-early look at 2019: Democratic and Republican benches for Secretary of State

06/22/2017 02:16 PM

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is reaching the end of her second term in office and will soon be term-limited. While the Democratic politician considers her next move there are many on both sides of the aisle potentially waiting to fill the open position.

Here’s a way-too-early look at the Republican and Democratic benches and some of the names which have been floated, but not confirmed for the position.


Michael Adams — The election lawyer and Republican insider Michael Adams considered a run for the office in 2015, even making an appearance on Pure Politics.

Adams never ran against Grimes, who was coming off of the 2014 U.S. Senate race which raised her name id in the state to nearly 100 percent. An open race could draw out the lawyer who served as counsel for the Republican Governors Association as well as representing PACs, politicians, issue groups and political consultants with Dinsmore out of Washington D.C. and Louisville, Kentucky.

Sen. Damon Thayer — Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer’s name has been mentioned the last several cycles as individuals have encouraged the Georgetown Republican to seek the statewide office. Thayer is among the most active in the General Assembly on issues that deal with campaign finance and other election related issues. He also focuses on pro-business legislation.

In a phone interview with Thayer, he said that he loves his current job as floor leader, and at this time he has little intent to run for Secretary of State, however he did not close the door on a run. Thayer said if he did enter a race, he would be the most qualified.

With money in his campaign bank account and current name id, he could likely wait until late in the process to decide if a run was right for him.

Sen. Max Wise — The Republican state Senator is seen by many in the Senate as an up and coming star in the GOP. The Campbellsville Republican is a former FBI analyst and Campbellsville University and University of Kentucky professor. Wise is also a professor with the Patterson School of Diplomacy.

Wise won election to the Senate in 2015. He serves as the chair of the Senate Budget review Subcommittee on Transportation and co-chairs the Government Contract Review Committee.

Steve Knipper — The former Erlanger city council member challenged Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes for the position in the 2015 election cycle losing by 22,310 votes. Knipper, a business analyst and IT project manager, leaned hard on his tech background in positioning himself to voters.

Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton appointed Knipper as chief of staff following the election.

Scott Jennings — Kentucky political operative and PR guru Scott Jennings is connected to virtually everyone needed to run a statewide race in GOP politics. Jennings is a founding partner for RunSwitch PR and served as an aide to former President George W. Bush and as a top advisor on multiple campaigns.

Jennings is quickly becoming more visible making regular appearances during the 2016 presidential campaign on Fox News, and regular appearances during President Trump’s first year in office on CNN.

Trey Grayson — Likely the longest shot to actually jump in the race is former two-term Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who recently stepped down as CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Grayson previously served as the Director of the Harvard Institute on Politics.

Grayson has leaned away from a run, but has not closed the door completely. Even though he has already served two successive terms in the role he would still be eligible to run again — Grayson left elected office after being defeated in the 2010 U.S. Senate race by Kentucky’s junior U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.


Jacqueline Coleman — College professor, high school history teacher and basketball coach Jacqueline Coleman has stayed active in political circles after her run for state representative in 2014. Coleman formed LEAD Kentucky as an avenue to train college women for leadership roles.

Coleman grew up in Mercer County and is the daughter of former state Rep. Jack Coleman. The Emerge Kentucky graduate was successful in fundraising for the race in the conservative district.

David O’Neill — The longtime Democratic activist in Central Kentucky and three-term Fayette County PVA has been mentioned in some circles as eyeing a race. While he has never run statewide, O’Neill has the right connections within the Democratic Party structure.

Colmon Elridge — The former executive vice president of the Young Democrats of America and executive assistant to Gov. Steve Beshear, has mulled his options before, and this year is making numerous lists once again. The 35-year old currently serves as vice president of Global Development and Membership for the International Coach Federation.

Elridge has been named as a potential challenger in the 6th District Congressional race in 2018, and is said to have his eye on several Constitutional offices in 2019. Elridge previously considered running for Secretary of State and Treasurer in 2015, but opted not to run in either race.

Angela Evans — The Lexington native and attorney at McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC, Angela Evans could be an interesting contender if she opts to run for the open seat.

Evans is familiar with the office of Secretary of State, serving as General Counsel in the office prior to her election as a Lexington council member in 2015. Evans also served as an Assistant Attorney General of Kentucky for six years, providing legal services to various state agencies.

Rep. Chris Harris — Forest Hills Democratic Rep. Chris Harris’ name comes up on a lot of Democratic lists. The up and coming eastern Kentucky lawmaker has been named by some as a potential running-mate on Democratic gubernatorial slates as well as striking out on his own for constitutional office.

After retaining his seat in the legislature during the GOP wave in 2016 many in the Democratic Party see a bevy of options for Harris.

David Tandy — The former Louisville Metro Council President who now serves as Counsel in the Louisville office of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP where he practices with the firm’s Diversified Business Solutions Team and is a member of the Economic Development practice group has been mentioned as having an interest in returning to public service.

Like many on the Democratic and Republican sides, Tandy would have to build his profile across the state in order to win in counties across the commonwealth.


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