By RONNIE ELLIS
Attorney General Jack Conway will run for governor in 2015 with state House Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Sannie Overly of Paris as his running mate.
Conway is the first Democratic candidate to formally enter the race, but he’s been widely assumed to want to run especially after former state Auditor Crit Luallen announced two weeks ago she won’t run. Luallen is godmother to one of Conway’s daughters and the two have been close since they worked together in the administration of Gov. Paul Patton.
Republican Hal Heiner, a businessman from Louisville, is the only other publicly announced candidate for governor but several others are contemplating the race including Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen, Republican Cathy Bailey of Louisville and perhaps Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo.
Conway, 44, is from Louisville and in his second term as Kentucky Attorney General. In 2010, he lost a U.S. Senate race to Republican Rand Paul. He also previously lost a Third Congressional District race to then incumbent Republican Anne Northup in 2002. He served as legal counsel during Patton’s administration before becoming Patton’s Deputy Cabinet Secretary under Luallen.
As Attorney General, Conway has engaged in a high-profile battle against drug crimes and addiction and targeted cyber crimes. He’s also gone after for-profit colleges, suing some for unfair advertising claims and taking advantage of students who relied on federal loans and financial aid but delivered few job placements.
Conway declined to challenge a federal court ruling this spring which said Kentucky must recognize validly performed, same-sex marriages from other states. Gov. Steve Beshear is appealing the ruling as are some private parties. At the time, Conway said an appeal was unlikely to succeed.
In a six-minute video featuring scenes with his wife and two young daughters, Conway says he has a plan for Kentucky which focuses on more funding for education, investing in infrastructure and doing it “in a fiscally responsible way.”
“It’s a job I’m prepared to do. I offer you a plan for the future,” Conway says addressing the camera in the video. “It starts with improving education from top to bottom.”
Conway, like other Democrats interested in the race, had held off announcing a run while fellow Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes raised money and organized her campaign to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Conway also waited for Luallen’s decision.
But by entering now, Conway and Overly can get a head start on fundraising and organizing their campaign. His entry is also likely to spur other Democrats to move up their timetable for getting in the race.
That might siphon off money from the Grimes campaign and perhaps just as importantly from Democrats’ efforts to hold onto control of the state House of Representatives where they enjoy a 54-46 edge. But Republicans believe this year represents their best chance in decades to take control of the House.
That could be impacted by Overly’s inclusion on the ticket – as House Democratic Caucus Chairwoman, Overly is in charge of raising money and supporting House Democratic candidates in this fall’s elections.
Overly, 48, of Paris, is an attorney and a former engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. She is the first woman elected to the House Democratic leadership and sponsored bills on human trafficking.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.