DYCHE | Edelen is Out? Now What? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | Edelen is Out? Now What?

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By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

Republicans are relieved. Democrats are desperate.

Those are the reactions to state auditor Adam Edelen's announcement that he will not run for governor next year. Edelen's predecessor, Crit Luallen, had already taken herself out of that race.

The two Democrats that Republicans feared most are out. Jack Conway, state attorney general and the Democrat against whom many Republicans would prefer to run, is now a clear favorite for his party's gubernatorial nomination.

That prospect rightfully worries a lot of Democrats. Odds are that one or more other Democrats will jump into the fray to fill the vacuum and stop Conway from having a free ride.

The main reason Edelen gave for seeking reelection as auditor instead of going for the governorship was the toll a statehouse campaign would take on his family. He has 8 year-old twin sons and a beautiful new wife, so who can really blame him?

Indeed, by making such a decision that reflects properly ordered priorities, Edelen has once again demonstrated why he could make a good governor someday. But that day may now be a long way off.

Although he did not say so, relatively low name recognition despite having won a statewide race and the difficulty of raising enough money to compete with the well-heeled Conway were undoubtedly other factors discouraging Edelen from running. Neither thing should matter as much as it does, of course, but the clear-eyed and practical Edelen is not one to deny unpleasant political realities.

There are many more things that worry Democrats about Conway carrying their 2015 banner. That is why the phones of potential alternative candidates have been ringing regularly since Edelen's announcement.

Conway is from Louisville, which history strongly suggests is a liability for a gubernatorial candidate. Rand Paul trounced Conway by 155,654 votes and an 11.5% margin in the 2010 U. S. Senate race, and the Democrat's campaign was a disaster.

Unanswered questions remain from Conway's ill-considered, if not improper, involvement in a drug investigation of his brother. Conway consistently comes off as a phony, whether he is calling himself a "tough SOB" at a church picnic or crying while declining to defend Kentucky's traditional marriage amendment on appeal.

It has been said that, "In marriage, sincerity is everything. Once you can fake that you've got it made." Conway's career seems an application of that maxim to politics. He does not appear to much like people or campaigning, and few believe he has any passion to boldly transform Kentucky for the better.

But people know his name by virtue of the fact that he has been on the ballot so often. And he has both plenty of money and wealthy backers, especially among the plaintiffs' bar, of which his father is a prominent member.

Chandler probably has as much or more name recognition, but in 2012 he lost the congressional seat that he won after losing for governor in 2003. He is vulnerable on the critical coal issue after having voted for a so-called "cap and trade" proposal in Congress.

Mongiardo has also lost a statewide race, narrowly to Jim Bunning for U. S. Senate in 2004, and he likely retains precious little name recognition from that race and his relatively short stint as Steve Beshear's lieutenant governor. His fund-raising prowess is probably pretty limited, too.

Current secretary of state and U. S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is also a potential alternative to Conway. If she runs a strong race against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell this year, but still loses, as most experts and polls predict, she could conceivably mount an immediate gubernatorial bid.

Two straight years of campaigning and attendant fund-raising would be hard, however. And Conway is already busy gathering commitments of support for a governor's race that Grimes cannot even acknowledge as a possibility until at least November.

It is obligatory to mention Greg Stumbo, speaker of the state House, in discussions of the governor's race. If nobody else gets in, Stumbo would be a formidable foe for Conway by presenting himself as the anti-Louisville alternative for the rest of the state and claiming considerable support of his own among trial attorneys.

Stumbo carries more baggage than a bellhop, but watching him campaign against Conway would be great fun, especially for Republicans. The stiff, colorless Conway would be cannon fodder for the folksy, colorful Stumbo's famous mountain wit.

Stumbo and other potential Democratic contenders will probably and prudently wait and see if Republicans capture the state House this November before deciding. A Democratic governor would have an awfully difficult life if the GOP controlled both chambers of the General Assembly.

Either of the two most talked about potential Republican nominees – former Louisville metro councilman Hal Heiner and agriculture commissioner James Comer – would relish running against Conway. Both reasonably believe theirs could be the Rand Paul campaign redux.

As for Edelen, he is almost certainly to win another term as auditor. Good Republicans who were contemplating a campaign for that office will reconsider now.

And he can coach or attend his sons' baseball or soccer games, which, after all, are in many respects more important than any politics or power could ever be.

John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is jddyche@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.
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