With Luallen's success as auditor, Republicans see her as toughest challenger to McConnell

11/13/2011 05:31 PM

The bipartisan admiration Crit Luallen has garnered over her eight years as state auditor makes her the toughest challenger — on paper — to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014, some Republicans are saying.

Conservative columnist John David Dyche, who wrote McConnell’s biography titled “Republican Leader,” said last week that Luallen “is obviously the person Republicans would fear running against McConnell.”

Three factors might make McConnell most vulnerable: if Luallen runs and can prove she can fundraise; if McConnell draws a Republican challenger who forces him to spend some of his warchest in the primary; and Dyche said a third factor would be if McConnell ascends to majority leader with a Republican president after the 2012 elections.

“That first off-year election is the optimal time to run against someone who would be in Senate leadership — (who) presumably be majority leader at that time. That’s the best time for a Democrat,” Dyche said.

(Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survived a close election in 2010 against challenger Sharron Angle at a time when the Democrats held the Senate and White House. Republican John Thune unseated then-Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in 2004, although Republicans held the White House and it was a presidential election year.)

Luallen hasn’t ruled out another run for office.

She said at Fancy Farm that her speech might be a farewell speech as auditor — but not from public service. She pledged to stay involved.

On Wednesday, the day after the election, she told Pure Politics she “will look at future elected offices down the road.”

Watch what she said:

If Luallen has a political weakness, it has been fundraising. She raised $480,000 in 2007 for her re-election bid and a total of $700,000 in 2003 for her initial run for auditor.

McConnell raised roughly $20 million in 2008 against Democrat Bruce Lunsford, and is already gearing up his 2014 efforts with a major fundraiser planned for next month.

Over the last eight years, Luallen has developed a strong reputation while serving as auditor. Her office followed up on reports by the Lexington Herald-Leader to investigate quasi-governmental organizations that had improperly spent money, such as the Kentucky Association of Counties, Kentucky League of Cities and Blue Grass Airport in 2009. In addition, Luallen’s office revealed improper spending in the Passport Health Services program and in the Louisville Metro government.

Her office also discovered and forwarded to law enforcement evidence of criminal activity in other local offices.

- With video by Kenny Colston and Don Weber


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