By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Though former state Auditor Crit Luallen and Attorney General Jack Conway are close friends, his recent comment that he is taking a “very, very serious look” at running for governor in 2015 has not deterred her from considering the race.
Luallen said Monday in an interview in her Franklin County home that she is “actively considering” the race and will make a decision about it by the end of this year. Still, she said she does not expect Conway and her to run against each other in the Democratic primary election for governor in 2015.
“We will work together and talk together as this evolves because friends don’t work against each other, friends work things out,” said Luallen, who is godmother to one of Conway’s daughters, Eva.
Asked if she would skip the race if Conway decides to run, Luallen said “I don’t expect we will ever have to face each other in a showdown. I think we’ll work this out.”
She laughed when she suggested that the two may end up arm wrestling.
Last month, Conway told the Associated Press that Luallen and he “talk regularly. I don’t think Crit and I will get ourselves in a position where we are trying to beat each other to the punch.”
Luallen stressed Monday she is not interested in running for lieutenant governor or for the U.S. Senate next year.
“Because of my level of executive experience in state government, I think the governor’s office is where I could make the greatest contribution,” she said.
Luallen said she is having “casual conversations” with consultants and a pollster. She noted that potential candidates are not allowed to contract for any services until they officially enter the race.
“I also have an enthusiastic corps of supporters who are encouraging me to run and I get a lot of advice from them,” she said.
Luallen, 60, has been in public service since 1974, starting with her work in Gov. Wendell Ford’s campaign for U.S. Senate. She has worked in a variety of state government roles, including cabinet secretary for Gov. Paul Patton. She was elected state auditor in 2003 and again in 2007, and garnered headlines for her watchdog efforts involving the Kentucky League of Cities, the Kentucky Association of Counties and many others.
In the 13 months since leaving state office, Luallen has made nearly 50 public speeches and appearances across the state, supported the campaigns of several Democratic candidates and joined the boards of five organizations: Centre College in Danville, Community Trust Bank in Pikeville, the Kentucky Cancer Foundation, the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Kentucky, and the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation.
She also is helping coordinate the March 6 fundraising reception and dinner with former President Bill Clinton for the Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center in Owensboro.
Luallen said she primarily is weighing three questions in deciding whether to run for governor:
■ Is it the right decision for her and her family?
■ Can she wage a successful campaign?
■ As governor, can she implement a vision for the state with specific goals beyond just addressing the crisis of the moment?
Luallen said she already has answered the campaign question with a “strong yes.”
“I don’t want to be governor just for the title,” she said. “I think I still have a lot to offer in terms of public service but I don’t want to be governor unless I think I could really make a difference and convince enough strong people to join me in this effort to have a successful, aggressive agenda.”
Other Democrats being mentioned as potential candidates for governor include Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state Auditor Adam Edelen.
Possible Republicans candidates include U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Tea Party activist Phil Moffett, Louisville businesswoman Cathy Bailer and Stanford banker Jess Correll.