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Country ham, redeye gravy and political speculation

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James ComerBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

LOUISVILLE – Political talk spiced up the 51st annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast early Thursday morning at the Kentucky State Fair.

Dozens of politicians gave as many media interviews as possible and circulated among the 1,600 early risers to feast on country ham, redeye gravy, scrambled eggs, grits, hot biscuits and political speculation.

Republican candidates for governor

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he has chosen his running mate in next May’s Republican primary election for governor, but would not announce his choice until he officially declares his candidacy at a Sept. 9 news conference in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

Widespread speculation has focused on state Sen. Christian McDaniel of Kenton County.

Comer repeated his belief that a millionaire Republican from Jefferson County – a reference to Louisville businessman Hal Heiner – will not be the next governor of Kentucky.

He said he is “strong” in the state’s largest city, noting that state Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, is supporting him.

“After Sept. 9, you are going to see a steady stream of key endorsements from Republicans leaders in Jefferson County,” Comer said.

Heiner, who announced his candidacy in March, dismissed Comer’s prediction.

“What I am hearing is that the Democratic candidate (Attorney General Jack Conway) is from Jefferson County and that the Republican nominee had better be able to hold it close in Jefferson County,” said Heiner, a former Louisville mayoral candidate. “I know from my past involvement in Jefferson County, I’m the candidate who could do that.”

Heiner said he is traveling “full-time” across the state, visiting 60 counties in the last five months.

Heiner said he will be a governor who will create jobs, protect the state’s “best natural resource – coal,” and be as transparent as possible.

Conway, the only other announced candidate for governor, did not attend the breakfast. He was in Washington for a news conference with five other state attorneys general and U.S. Department of Justice officials to announce a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America Corp. to resolve federal and state claims about mortgage-backed securities.

2016 race for U.S. Senate

Two prominent Democrats have been mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

That’s when the seat now held by Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green is up for election. Paul is considering a possible run for the U.S. presidency in that year that could take him out of the U.S. Senate race.

State Auditor Adam Edelen of Lexington said before Thursday’s breakfast that “Rand Paul is in the business of running for two jobs at once. I’m not. I’m looking forward to being a candidate for state auditor (in 2015).”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, “I’m hearing a lot of people tell me that’s a good idea for me to do. But what I’m telling them is that I am awfully happy being mayor of Louisville and we have a lot of work left to do.”

For the health of it

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who arrived early at the breakfast, said he was prepared for all the political talk that accompanies one of the state’s premier political events.

“I had to take two Pepto-Bismol this morning so I wouldn’t get sick over breakfast hearing (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell and Jamie Comer brag about themselves about all the things they have done,” Stumbo said.

Jack Conway raises $750,000 in seven weeks for gubernatorial campaign

Attorney General Jack Conway, who is seeking re-election, touted his record at the Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. Photo by Pablo AlcalaBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Attorney General Jack Conway continued his effort to lock up the Democratic nomination in next year’s governor’s race with an overwhelming show of force, announcing Tuesday that his campaign has raised more than $750,000 since entering the race in early May.

Conway and his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly, reported having more than $700,000 in cash on hand.

While a number of other Democrats are considering a run for governor after this year’s elections are over, Conway has moved quickly to consolidate Democratic support, announcing his large fundraising haul after rolling out a series of major endorsements.

“Sannie and I are honored by the bipartisan support we’ve received from friends across Kentucky who believe in our vision of creating better jobs, building infrastructure and investing in early childhood and higher education,” Conway said in a statement. “We have a proven record of experience and following through on the commitments we’ve made to the people of this state. We are uniting Democrats and hard-working Kentuckians who believe that together we can build a better commonwealth to live, work and raise our families.”

When Conway first entered the race, a number of Democrats worried that his early entry might distract from the attention and resources Alison Lundergan Grimes will need to defeat U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this November.

In Tuesday’s news release, the campaign said it had held two fundraising events, “keeping the commitment to avoid fundraising conflicts with Alison Lundergan Grimes and the Kentucky House Democratic Caucus.”

Republican Hal Heiner gave $4 million to his campaign for governor

Hal Heiner, a former Louisville Metro councilman, announced Tuesday that he has entered the race for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor. Heiner announced his candidacy at Star Manufacturing in Lexington. PHOTO BY PABLO ALCALA | STAFF By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republican Hal Heiner gave $4 million of his own money to his campaign for governor during the second fundraising quarter of the year, Heiner’s campaign said Monday.

Heiner, a wealthy businessman and former Louisville Metro councilman, reported to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance that he had more than $3.9 million in cash on hand at the end of June after having amassed a total of more than $4.3 million since getting in the race in early March.

“It is going to take a political outsider to bring much needed changes to Frankfort, and Hal’s success in job attraction and growing a business makes him ideal for the job of governor,” campaign manager Joe Burgan said. “It is obvious that Hal is deeply committed to public service, and believes that the future of Kentucky is worth investing in.”

Heiner gave his campaign $200,000 during the first three months of the year and raised about $86,000.

While Heiner is the only announced Republican candidate for governor, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told the Herald-Leader last week that he will announce his intentions in late July or early August, with an official announcement likely in mid-September.

Comer said Monday he was not surprised by the massive cash injection Heiner made to his campaign.

“I believe with all my heart that you cannot buy a race for governor,” Comer told the Herald-Leader. “You need grassroots support, and I do not see that support for Hal Heiner as I travel around the state.”

Tourism has $12.5 billion impact in Kentucky

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Tourism had an economic impact of $12.5 billion in Kentucky last year — the highest amount ever.

That was a 2.6 percent increase from 2012, Gov. Steve Beshear and Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Bob Stewart said Monday.

“Our tourism industry continues to grow because Kentucky has stunning natural beauty, interesting and exciting attractions, and world class hospitality that make our visitors want to come back over and over again,” Beshear said in a release.

“Its growth is also evidence of the hard work of tourism businesses and the professionals who work hard each and every day to make Kentucky the great destination it is.”

The release of the figures coincides with National Travel and Tourism Week, celebrated May 3-11 this year.

Beshears invite public to Derby Celebration, once known as Derby Breakfast

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear, who has transformed the long-running Governor’s Derby Breakfast to the Governor’s Derby Celebration, is inviting the public to attend the free festive event in downtown Frankfort Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The free Derby breakfast that Gov. A.B. “Happy” Chandler started as a private get-together for a few friends in the 1930s eventually turned into a public spectacle that for years attracted about 15,000 guests for a free country ham breakfast near the Capitol. Under Beshear, the event has become more of a street fair in downtown Frankfort. It has attracted a smaller crowd of several hundred but it is said that the state with it saves tens of thousands of dollars.

“We are delighted to host visitors once again to our historic capital city for the 78th Governor’s Derby Celebration,” Beshear said Friday in a release. “Downtown Frankfort has a fantastic mix of prominent landmarks, unique shops and charming restaurants that makes it the perfect backdrop for this family-friendly and time-honored event.”

Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear said visitors can expect the traditional fare of past Derby Celebrations such as a farmers’ market, a variety of arts and crafts, specialty vendors, children’s activities, Kentucky Horse Park trolley rides, live music on the Jim Beam Entertainment Stage and the annual stick horse race.

Several downtown Frankfort restaurants and stores will be open with unique Derby offerings during the celebration. Visitors will also be able to tour the Capital City Museum, the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Old State Capitol and the Old Governor’s Mansion, which are all located downtown.

For the first time, the First Christian Church on the corner of Ann Street and Broadway will have breakfast items for sale, including sausage biscuits, pastries, coffee and juice.

Parking for the event will be available off-street and in several open lots located in downtown Frankfort.

More information on the event, including a complete entertainment schedule, is available at http://governor.ky.gov/derbycelebration/.

 

Crit Luallen says she won’t run for governor of Kentucky in 2015

Auditor of Public Accounts Crit LuallenBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former State Auditor Crit Luallen, long thought to be one of the strongest Democratic candidates for governor in 2015, said Thursday she is not running.

Luallen said in a statement to the media that “after careful deliberation, I have decided not to enter the 2015 governor’s race.”

“I remain passionate about Kentucky and its potential for the future,” Luallen said. “But in the end, I had to make the decision based on what I thought was best for me personally and my family. I am blessed with a wonderful marriage, a large extended family and a circle of good friends. My husband, Lynn, and I both have our health and a lot we want to do and enjoy together. This simply wasn’t the right time in our lives for us to make the decision to enter the race.”

Luallen said she wanted to “express my profound gratitude to the many wonderful supporters who have given me so much encouragement to consider the race.”

“It was that encouragement which made this a very difficult decision and one that required careful consideration,” she said. “I am optimistic that others will step forward with the leadership and vision to move our state forward.”

Luallen’s announcement brings to a close Frankfort’s hottest parlor game, will-she-or-won’t-she, as other potential Democratic candidates, including Attorney General Jack Conway and State Auditor Adam Edelen, waited to see whether Luallen would enter the race.

Both men have told the Herald-Leader that Luallen’s decision would not prevent them from running, but her decision not to run opens up more paths to victory for them.

In a statement Thursday, Conway called Luallen “the gold standard for public service and for friendship.”

Edelen issued a statement calling Luallen “Kentucky’s greatest civil servant,” and said her decision to not run would affect his own decision whether to run.

“As excited as I am about ensuring that the 2015 governor’s race contrasts the future with the familiar, I’m committed to maintaining a laser focus on my work as the taxpayer watchdog,” Edelen said. “In that spirit, I’ll have no announcements of a political nature until the conclusion of the examination of the Jefferson County Public Schools.”

In early March, cn|2’s Pure Politics reported that Luallen had taken a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with consultants and her pollster, Celinda Lake.

Luallen said shortly after that visit that she was putting the pieces in place should she decide to run, but she didn’t see a “magic date” for announcing a candidacy.

“As I’ve said, I’m taking all the steps necessary that if I decide to run, I will have everything in place to hit the ground running,” Luallen said at a Democratic women’s dinner in Louisville in early March. “So I have not made a final decision yet, but I’m a pretty methodical person. All of my friends know that well. Sometimes too methodical. So I’m taking all the steps to make sure all the pieces would fit together.”

Luallen holds the respect of most Democrats in Frankfort, but some of them expressed concern that she isn’t known well enough around the state to win a Democratic primary.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo told the Herald-Leader in March that Luallen is a “professional bureaucrat” who “can’t win that race.”

On Thursday, he called Luallen a “fine public servant” and a “dedicated worker for the commonwealth.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner gives his campaign $200,000

Hal Heiner, a former Louisville Metro councilman, announced Tuesday that he has entered the race for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor. Heiner announced his candidacy at Star Manufacturing in Lexington. PHOTO BY PABLO ALCALA | STAFF

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former Louisville Metro councilman Hal Heiner, the only announced candidate in the 2015 governor’s race, gave his campaign $200,000 of his own money in the first fundraising quarter of 2014.

After officially announcing his run at the beginning of March with Lexingtonian KC Crosbie as his running mate, Heiner raised just more than $86,000 in the first fundraising quarter.

After giving his campaign $200,000, Heiner started the second quarter with a little more than $191,000 in cash on hand.

“Hal and KC are thrilled with the level of support the campaign has received in the first few weeks since announcing their intentions,” campaign manager Joe Burgan said in a statement. “In that time, the candidates have traveled all across Kentucky beginning the process of building a statewide network of support.”

Burgan said the campaign is in a “strong financial position” and will have the funds needed “to communicate their positive message for Kentucky’s future.”

A Republican poll released just before Heiner got in the race suggested Heiner, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Louisville in 2010, has his work cut out for him.

The poll, conducted Feb. 26 and 27 by Robert Blizzard at Public Opinion Strategies, found Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is considering a bid for governor, leading Heiner 42 percent to 14 percent among 400 Republican primary voters. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Beshear sidesteps picking UK-U of L winner in NCAA tourney

Gov. Steve Beshear

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear gave a politically safe answer Monday when asked who will win Friday night’s much-anticipated NCAA tournament game in Indianapolis between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.

“I’m confident that a Kentucky team will win,” said Beshear, who holds a bachelor’s degree and law degree from UK.

Beshear said he has watched the teams’ earlier games on TV and is excited that “Kentucky is once again at the epicenter of men’s college basketball.”

He noted that U of L won the national championship last year and UK the previous year.

“I think the team that wins Friday night will have a heck of a shot in winning the whole thing. In having a three-peat of Kentucky teams will be historic. And I’m glad that I will be the governor who will be serving.”

The Democratic governor said he does not yet know if he will be able to attend the game.

He said he may have to stay in Frankfort if the state House and Senate are negotiating compromises on weighty bills, such as the state budget and road plan.

If Beshear goes to Indianapolis, will he wear U of L red or UK blue?

“When you put red and blue together, what do you get?” he asked. “I think I’ve got a purple shirt.”

Senate approves bill giving top lawmakers power to defend state laws in court

Attorney General Jack ConwayBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – With no discussion, the Senate approved a bill Monday that would allow the Senate president or House speaker to intervene in a court case when the attorney general fails to defend a state law or part of the Kentucky Constitution.

The vote on Senate Bill 221, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, was 31-6, with one Democrat passing. Six other Democrats cast the “no” votes.

Gregory said the bill was filed in part due to Attorney General Jack Conway’s recent decision not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. Gov. Steve Beshear is appealing the ruling using outside attorneys. He and Conway are Democrats.

SB 221 also would allow the top two legislative leaders to intervene in court cases in which attorneys general submit an order to the court giving them sole discretion to spend funding from a legal settlement.

That provision stems from Conway’s decision earlier this year to use more than $32 million collected from lawsuit settlements with two drug companies to expand substance abuse treatment in Kentucky and not put the money in the state’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs.

Conway, who is frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, has dismissed SB 221 as unconstitutional.

Senate panel approves cyber-security bill pushed by Edelen

State Auditor Adam EdelenBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A Senate committee Monday night unanimously approved a cyber-security bill that Auditor Adam Edelen had complained was being blocked in the Senate because of political reasons.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee changed House Bill 5 before approving it and sending it to the full Senate. Chairman Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, told reporters that the amended bill had the support of Edelen.

Edelen, frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2015, said in an email that he appreciated Bowen “clearing the logjam on House Bill 5 and moving this important cyber-security bill forward.”

House Bill 5 would require most state and local government agencies to notify citizens of any electronic breaches of personal information. Almost 30 groups have endorsed the bill, including AARP of Kentucky, the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Bowen said the biggest change the Senate committee made in its 21-page substitute to the House bill was giving agencies 72 hours to notify the state police commissioner, auditor and attorney general of a security breach. The original bill gave agencies 24 hours.

The measure would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Earlier this month, Edelen held a news conference to say he was “deeply frustrated” that the Republican-controlled Senate was not acting on his legislation, which garnered nearly unanimous support in the Democratic-led House.

He particularly was upset with Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, who had dubbed the measure “the Adam Edelen for governor bill.”

Thayer at the time said the bill would rise or fall on its own merits. He also said politics had nothing to do with the Senate’s handling of the bill.

Thayer, who is on the committee that unanimously approved it Monday, was eager to put the measure on the “consent calendar” when it is considered in the full Senate. A bill on the consent calendar means it can be acted upon at the same time with other measures without debate.