FRANKFORT – Republican Bill Johnson, who enjoyed support from the Tea Party movement in his aborted run for the U.S. Senate this year, has officially entered next year’s race for secretary of state.
Johnson, 44, of Todd County, plopped down his $500 filing fee Monday morning in the secretary of state’s office in the Capitol to enter the race.
He is the first candidate to file in next year’s races for state constitutional offices, which will include the race for governor.
Johnson told reporters that he is running for secretary of state because it fits with his desire to defend the Constitution.
“When I looked at the various offices in Kentucky to run for, I thought secretary of state was applicable to that because it’s about voting,” he said.
The secretary of state oversees elections, corporate filings and official state records. The office is now held by Republican Trey Grayson, who cannot seek another four-year term.
Johnson, a Navy veteran and former procurement manager of BP who is a substitute teacher, said he does not assume he will be supported by the Tea Party movement but hopes he “can earn its support for this race.”
He said he was not aware of any slate of candidates being put together by the movement that seeks limited government and he will not be endorsing any candidate for governor in next spring’s Republican primary election.
The Western Kentucky businessman, who self-financed his U.S. Senate primary campaign last spring, dropped out of that race because he was trailing Bowling Green physician Rand Paul and Grayson in the polls. He had lent his Senate campaign $250,000 after building a relatively small but ardent group of Tea Party supporters across the state.
Signing Johnson’s filing papers Monday were Ellen Reitmeyer of Louisville, who worked on this year’s unsuccessful Louisville mayoral campaign of Republican Hal Heiner, and James Young of Louisville, who has worked for the secretary of state’s office.
Johnson said the two would be on his staff if he wins the secretary of state’s race.
Others mentioned as possible Republican candidates for the office include Hilda Legg of Somerset, who formerly headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, and Garrard County Judge-Executive John Wilson. Democrats mentioned as possible candidates for secretary of state include state Sen. Ed Worley of Richmond, Louisville attorney Jennifer Moore and former Miss America Heather French Henry, wife of former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry.
State Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, had been mentioned as a possible candidate for secretary of state, but he said Monday he was not interested in pursuing that office.
Also, former Montgomery County Judge-Executive B.D. Wilson said he will file Tuesday as a Democratic candidate for state agriculture commissioner.
That position is now held by Republican Richie Farmer, who is running next year for lieutenant governor on a ticket with gubernatorial hopeful David Williams, president of the state Senate.
Wilson, who raised cattle for 40 years, retired Sept. 30 as state commissioner of rural and municipal aid in the Transportation Cabinet.
The race for agriculture commissioner is expected to attract several candidates.