Williams, Farmer announce slate without releasing platform, won't fundraise until after 2010 elections

09/01/2010 04:00 PM

(WITH VIDEO) FRANKFORT — After weeks of playing coy, Senate President David Williams and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer made official their political partnership Wednesday, announcing their intentions to run as a gubernatorial slate in 2011 but avoided telling reporters about their specific platform.

In a news conference at Williams’ Frankfort home, the pair took only a few questions from reporters, saying it would be a long campaign and there was plenty of time for questions later. But Williams did say that the slate would avoid scheduling fundraisers or soliciting money until after the 2010 elections.

Current Gov. Steve Beshear, who is running for re-election in 2011, has already raised nearly $3 million for an attempt at a second term, but Williams said he was confident that waiting until after November to raise money wouldn’t hurt his and Farmer’s bid.

The forming of the slate had been rumored for more than a month, when Williams confirmed the idea he was thinking of challenging Beshear in 2011 with Farmer as his running mate. While the two were working out the details to run as a slate, Farmer maintained publicly that he had many options to choose from, including running for secretary of state or governor himself, even as recently as last week.

Farmer said Wednesday that choosing to form a slate with Williams was a “family decision.”

Williams and Farmer are the second Republican slate to form. Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and state Rep. Mike Harmon of Junction City were the first slate to form earlier in August. A Williams-Farmer ticket starts the primary with a much higher profile, combining the top legislative Republican with an agriculture commissioner who has large name recognition across the state for being a former University of Kentucky basketball player.

When asked about Farmer’s lack of political experience compared to Williams, from nearly seven years to more than two decades, Williams defended the commissioner, saying that Farmer is a “hard-worker” and “dedicated.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in an interview before the announcement Tuesday that he “sees potential” for the Williams-Farmer ticket.

Some Republicans are now considering endorsing one ticket over the other during the primary, but one Republican with an eye toward a different office in 2011 isn’t in a hurry to pick a slate.

“I want to hear David Williams and his message and what his issues are going to be,” said Bill Johnson, a Todd County businessman who ran for U.S. Senate this spring before dropping out of the GOP primary. Johnson is considering running for secretary of state next year.

Johnson said Moffett has made it clear that a push for charter schools will be the centerpiece of his campaign. But on most issues, the two slates will likely have similar positions, Johnson said.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of daylight in between the two tickets,” he said. “So there has to be a compelling reason for me to endorse.”

Moffett’s campaign has quickly sought to capitalize on the perceived notion that Williams’ long stay in Frankfort could hurt him in either a primary or general election contest for governor, sending out a statement while the Williams-Farmer slate was still being rumored.

“David Williams? What would his campaign slogan be, that he knows how Frankfort works? Kentucky taxes too much, spends too much and owes too much,” David Adams, campaign manger for Moffett said in a release. “David Williams’ hands are stained with all of that red ink. He has pushed through spending increases, tax increases and I’ve never heard him complain once about all the money we have borrowed on his watch and with his approval.”

The Kentucky Democratic Party issued a similar stance toward Williams’ announcement, saying Williams turned the state Senate into a place “where good ideas go to die.”

“I believe that Kentuckians, both Democrats and many Republicans, are as happy as I am that we finally get a chance to cast a ballot against the man who has turned the State Senate into a place where good ideas go to die,” Dan Logsdon, the chairman of the KDP said in a statement. “The people of Kentucky are going to find that Senator Williams’ record is one of working against Kentucky’s families, shady connections and intemperate policies. Senator Williams’ first test will be to convince Republican voters next May that he is a fiscal conservative. I find it hard to believe that the GOP’s Tea Party primary faithful will nominate a man whose main legislative accomplishment has been to build record state debt to enrich his road contractor cronies.”

Despite the difference in experience, Williams told reporters he isn’t brushing the Moffett campaign off, saying he doesn’t take any campaign or opponent lightly.

This is the second time Williams is seeking the chance to knock off a Democratic incumbent official, but he said it’s a much different situation than when he lost to U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford in 1992.

- Videos production and reporting by Kenny Colston, with additional reporting by Ryan Alessi and production by Holly Thompson and Greg Pursifull

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