Sellus Wilder concedes in U.S. Senate race

05/17/2016 07:39 PM

FRANKFORT — Former Frankfort City Commissioner Sellus Wilder gave his concession speech just before 7:30 p.m. in Frankfort.

He thanked his supporters and said even though they didn’t win, his campaign did succeed in changing the conversation about topics like the decline of the coal industry.

In an interview with Pure Politics, Wilder said he would help Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in his campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, adding that the two will speak in further depth on Wednesday after Wilder congratulated Gray on his victory Tuesday evening.

Wilder, who finished second with 12.9 percent of the vote to Gray’s 58.7 percent, said he felt like his candidacy gave a voice to progressive Democrats and helped nudge the debate in the Democratic primary to the left. He noted that he spent about $50,000 on the race, far behind the $1.9 million that Gray’s campaign collected, including a $1 million personal loan.

“He took up some of our talking points, which I was really glad to see, so some of the stuff that he picked up regarding criminal justice reform and even some of the coal language,” Wilder said. “Yeah, I feel like we had an impact in those ways, and the only thing we were ever really critical of Jim on was taking so long to release a platform, but he did do that.”

“A healthy, competitive primary I think is really good for the eventual nominee,” he added.

Wilder said that Gray has “a hard row to hoe” against Paul, but he hopes he’s shown the benefit of energizing Democratic voters ahead of the Senate primary. Wilder was a fixture at rallies held by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, hoping to appeal to the same voters that would cast ballots for the Vermont independent.

“Mayor Gray probably paid $5 to $6 per vote and we paid $1 or $2 per vote, which I think is just a kind of evidence that there’s a lot more inherent strength in having a strong platform that can carry you further than money alone can, and so I hope that he’ll seize an opportunity to actually engage parts of the Democratic base that tend to not get too fired up about our statewide races,” Wilder said.

“Hopefully, I think he can win if he leans into the Democratic base of the party.”

Wilder was endorsed by an out-of-state environmental political action committee.
Climate Hawks Vote PAC, a group registered in Agoura Hills, Calif., according to Federal Election Commission records, put their support behind Wilder.

In a blog post, the group said it is “delighted to endorse a remarkably honest progressive who sees the irreversible decline of the coal industry — in Kentucky.”

Caroline Imler and Kevin Wheatley contributed to this report.


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