Who didn't see this coming?
To absolutely no one's surprise, Attorney General Jack Conway -- not so affectionately known around here as Little Jackie Conway -- announced earlier this week that he intends to run for governor next year.
In doing so, he became the first Democrat to violate the party's wishes that no one begin their 2015 campaign until this year's U.S. Senate race is finished, to avoid stepping on Alison Lundergan Grimes' toes, attention and fund-raising.
He also became the first of the two Crit Luallen acolytes currently holding statewide office in Frankfort to make his announcement. Now it's time to wait and see how long the other Crit disciple, Auditor Adam Edelen, will wait. With Luallen's decision not to run now official, it would seem that it's open season on the governor's race, even as the potential candidates try to tread lightly around Jerry Lundergan's daughter.
Yet another rumored candidate who puts the "ass" in the Party of the Ass, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, still claims to want to wait until after the November election before making a decision. His chances of winning the primary are slim anyway, and they'll evaporate if he waits that long before naming a running mate and starting to raise money.
Speaking of running mates, we're not sure what to make of Conway's choice of Rep. Sannie Overly as his partner on the ticket. For the past several years, Democrats have tried to make Overly the next big thing in Kentucky politics, but we can't see why. She doesn't have an outstanding legislative record to stand on despite being the first female ever appointed to a state party legislative leadership post. We don't see a lot of substance to her. Rep. Stan Lee might call her "an empty dress," much as he did Lundergan Grimes, but he'd be raked over the coals for it despite it being a fairly accurate assessment. So we'll go with "empty pantsuit" instead. It's less sexist and still entirely appropriate.
Maybe Conway wanted a pretty face on his ticket in case he wins and has to face Hal Heiner, who also has an attractive female as his running mate (KC Crosbie).
We're already hearing some speculation about what kind of campaign will occur when Conway and Edelen square off. One of Kentucky's leading liberal Democrat bloggers is suggesting that Edelen will use the fact that his office has referred several audits to Conway for prosecution, but Conway has not acted.
Who made Edelen the sole arbiter of what's legal and illegal? There is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion. That's what allowed Stumbo, when was attorney general, to pursue the Ernie Fletcher administration with such zeal over personnel decisions despite no governor ever being prosecuted for things like that in state history despite the Democrats' record for actual patronage abuses that were much worse than any of the fictional allegations that were wrongly made about Fletcher's term. It's up to Conway to decide what to prosecute and what to leave alone.
Honestly, we don't see much of anything in either Conway or Edelen that inspires any confidence that they'd be good governors. Their party affiliation automatically disqualifies them because of the Democrats' history in running the state. They'd appoint the same old people to positions of power, ensuring no progress in making government run more efficiently and effectively. Edelen doesn't have any big-time audits under his belt of the type that made headlines for Luallen. Conway hasn't run any major investigations or prosecutions. Both are unimpressive Democrats who got where they are through Kentucky's good-old-boy network.
It will be interesting to see how Conway's decision to not participate in the defense of Kentucky's same-sex marriage amendment plays out. Will Edelen point out that Conway had a duty to defend the state constitution despite his personal feelings? It's generally felt that Conway's decision might help in a primary but hurt him in the general election. Edelen has an avenue to use Conway's decision in his campaign if he wants.
And what of Stumbo? His "wait until November" stance might be a smokescreen to see what happens with the House of Representatives this fall. Republicans really believe they have a chance to gain the majority in that body. If that happened under Stumbo's leadership as speaker, he could be mortally wounded in the statewide political game.
On the Republican side, Heiner's campaign has been awfully quiet after being first into the race. He's not making as much noise as he needs to if he's going to combat the name recognition that expected opponent Jamie Comer already has. There are rumors of at least one other candidate getting into that race, but so far nothing's come to pass.
As we've said before, if Kentucky Democrats have to choose between governor and U.S. senator, they will choose the former every time. Running state politics is where they exercise their power to dole out jobs and contracts. If they have to sacrifice Lundergan Grimes to hold onto Frankfort, they will. And even a Lundergan Grimes victory over the GOP nominee won't mean much if, as expected, the Republicans take back the Senate. It just means some other Republican besides Mitch McConnell will be majority leader.
We expect Edelen to join Conway in the race within the next couple of months, but both to lie low for awhile to pay lip service to the idea of not competing with Lundergan Grimes for political air. Then the two lightweights will begin sniping at one another.