Thursday, June 19, 2014

Edelen drops a bombshell

To the surprise of most political observers in Kentucky, Adam Edelen announced this week that he would not run for governor next year, instead choosing to run for re-election as auditor.

This came as a shock to many, us included, because not only was Edelen expected to run for governor, he was seen by many as the front-runner.

His decision leaves Attorney General Jack Conway as the only announced Democrat candidate for the governor's race.

It was really no surprise when Crit Luallen announced she wasn't going to run. We believe she loves the attention and speculation and the courtship more than she really wants to lead the state. But all signs pointed toward Edelen running, setting the state for a contest between two Luallen proteges.

We don't expect Conway to have a free pass for his party's nomination. Greg Stumbo continues to be mentioned as a candidate, although he keeps saying he won't have a decision until after this fall's Senate race. Former Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo's name keeps coming up as well.

Of the announced or perspective Democrat candidates, Mongiardo has the least amount of baggage. Conway has issues dealing with his brother's involvement in a Louisville drug case. Plus, he's getting a lot of grief from one liberal Kentucky blogger over his inaction in a controversy involving the school board and superintendent in Montgomery County. And Stumbo's problems are well-documented, and we'll be glad to repeat them again and again should he jump into the race.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Edelen's announcement is Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer, who still hasn't committed to a run on the Republican side. We've previously documented how Comer handed Edelen a campaign issue that would have been very effective against a Comer candidacy. With Edelen out of the picture, that will no longer be the case.

While Comer continues to sit on the sidelines, the only announced Republican in the race, Hal Heiner, is already out running ads and establishing an Internet and social media presence in an attempt to introduce himself to voters outside the Louisville area. While Comer has the weight of his office available to travel the state and appear at public events, Heiner has to resort to paid advertising to build name recognition. He starts out behind Comer in that regard, but he may be able to close the gap, especially if Comer continues to wait to declare his candidacy.

We recently heard the name of former Congressman and 2003 gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler mentioned. This is the same candidate whose district was gerrymandered to help him win re-election two years ago but was still unable to beat back a challenge from Andy Barr. He's also the same person who basically said he was glad he lost the governor's race because of all the headaches it brought Ernie Fletcher when dealing with various budgetary issues. To date, Chandler still holds the record for the dirtiest campaign ad we've ever seen, when he ran a blatantly misleading ad against Bruce Lunsford in the waning days of the 2003 primary.

But for now, it's Conway and Heiner and a whole bunch of speculative candidates. Heiner's hit the ground running while Conway's been very quiet. Mitch McConnell vs. Alison Lundergan Grimes notwithstanding, we expect the campaign for governor to heat up later this year.

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