Bluegrass Politics – Let the games begin …

With this week’s decision by U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler (D) not to seek the governorship next year, we should expect to see a flurry of activity from both sides of the political divide in the coming weeks as prospective candidates begin jockeying for position among the seven statewide offices up for election next November.

Nowhere in Kentucky are quality candidates for the various slots more plentiful than right here in Louisville, particularly among Democrats (presently, the only Louisvillian among the constitutional officeholders is estranged Lt. Gov. Steve Pence). So, let’s take a look at some Louisvillians who might be looking at (or recruited for) some of the 2007 races:

Governor/Lt. Governor
Former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry (D) has made it clear that he’s ready to set sail on gubernatorial waters in the coming weeks, but he’s unlikely to be the only local Democrat aiming for the top job as both former congressional candidate Jack Conway and businessman Charlie Owen (Chandler’s 2003 running mate) are taking a hard look at a run. Also, 2003 gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lunsford and businessman Ron Geary are rumored to be interested as well.

Among Republicans, Lt. Gov. Steve Pence remains coy about his level of interest while outgoing U.S. Rep. Anne Northup has not indicated whether she’s even exploring it. Some have floated State Rep. Scott Brinkman as a moderate Republican who could emerge as a consensus candidate if Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) opts out.

Attorney General

If Attorney General Greg Stumbo (D) decides to seek the governorship instead of a second term, keep your eye on several locals as potential candidates for this post.

County Attorney Irv Maze (D) is known to be eying the job, and one potentially strong candidate is Circuit Judge Ann O’Malley Shake, who narrowly lost her bid for Kentucky Supreme Court this month. Shake’s strong credentials and non-partisan reputation, and the fact that a woman has never held the office, would make her an attractive candidate to voters tired of political gamesmanship.

Among Republicans, while Pence and Brinkman have been mentioned, someone like Metro Councilwoman Ellen Call should not be overlooked, given her experience and political connections.

Should incumbent Crit Luallen (D) not seek re-election, former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III (D) is widely believed to be considering a return to statewide office. Attorney Jennifer Moore (D), a rising young star in Democratic Party circles, is regarded as a top-shelf candidate for statewide office if she chooses to run in 2007 (some believe Moore would prefer to wait until 2011), and 2006 Democratic congressional candidates Andrew Horne and James Moore demonstrated that they have the right stuff to thrive in the political arena and would be strong contenders for such a substantive office.

Secretary of State
After flirting with making his own bid for governor next year, Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) settled on seeking re-election instead, but he’s not likely to get by without a challenge, particularly following an election that experienced vote tally delays and in a state that could use some serious electoral reform when it comes to issues like extending polling hours and allowing early voting.

Audrey Haynes (D), a former aide to President Clinton and Vice President Gore, has long been talked about as a formidable challenger, while others have suggested State Rep. Joni Jenkins (D) as a capable candidate.

There are no shortages of potential candidates to succeed Treasurer Jonathan Miller (D), who finds himself term-limited.

Metro Councilman David Tandy (D), another rising star, is known to be taking a close look at the race. State Sen. Denise Harper Angel (D) would make an attractive statewide candidate, given her experience, and Amy Shir (D), who lost a bid to unseat State Rep. Bob DeWeese (R), showed herself to be a quality candidate with an impressive background in finance, making her well suited for this post. Don’t overlook attorneys Craig Greenberg and Dan Borsch; Borsch successfully managed Rep.-elect John Yarmuth’s (D) primary campaign this year.

Republicans might find this office as a perfect stepping-stone for some impressive younger talent in Louisville, such as Northup campaign manager Patrick Neely, Metro Councilwoman Julie Raque Adams, Les Fugate, a top aide to Secretary of State Grayson, or lobbyist Riggs Lewis. Keep an eye on all of them.

As the jockeying begins for the 2007 races, Louisville is teeming with political talent that may find itself scattered throughout next year’s statewide races, the outcomes of which will be crucial to determining the ultimate direction of the state.  

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