Despite 2009 being an off-year for elections..... there is plenty of drama behind the scenes.
This was supposed to be an off year for elections right? The one year out of four set aside by the Kentucky constitution to give county clerks, office seekers and voters a break from politics. Ah but this is Kentucky! This is where politics never really takes a break. So ... We have an unsettled, but developing situation in the U.S. Senate race. Incumbent Republican Jim Bunning wants to keep his seat. He's hiring staff and organizing after a slew of reports that his fundraising was off to a slow start. Democrat Dan Mongiardo would be more than willing to give up his statewide elected position as Lt. Governor to go to the senate, where he says healthcare would be his main issue. But Mongiardo will have company in the Democratic primary. Veteran and grandmother Darlene Fitzgerald is already campaigning for the nomination. Then there's the very real spector of a possible run by either Attorney General Jack Conway or State Auditor Crit Luallen. There's every indication that it's either/or with Luallan and Conway. They will work something out where one runs or neither does. There's also the hall talk that "the call" could come down from President Obama for Congressman Ben Chandler to make the race. National Democratic strategists seem to identify Chandler as their strongest potentially available candidate. Chandler is on the President's radar screen because of his early support for the then Illinois senator and because he is Kentucky's senior Democratic congressman. But there are also rumblings inside Bunning's own party. "The Hill" reported that Kentucky Senate President David Williams met with the Republican Senatorial Committee "as a courtesy" to Senator Mitch McConnell. Although McConnell and Bunning have been allies for years, there's increasing concern inside the GOP that Bunning is vulnerable next year. McConnell's Republicans really want to hold on to enough votes to still have a filibuster potential after 2010. Williams isn't ruling out running for the senate himself... but also says he hasn't asked for any support for such a bid. (As a side drama, Williams has to make a choice because his Southern Kentucky state senate seat is also up next year and too much Washington talk could cause potential successors in his state district to make moves). Secretary of State Trey Grayson would run at the drop of a hat... but doesn't want to challenge his old family friend, Bunning, in a Republican primary.
In the Lexington Mayor's race... Former Mayor Teresa Isaac wants her old job back and started the fight to regain it. Isaac lost big in 2006... becoming the only incumbment mayor defeated since Lexington and Fayette County's governments were merged in 1974. She is known for being a tough personal campaigner who has already filed papers and started raising money for next year. Incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry won't say whether he'll seek a second term. He does privately talk about the time and energy the job takes.... but also indicates he's getting better at the balancing act as time goes on. Most of those around him seem to be working under the assumption that Newberry will seek and win re-election. Vice Mayor Jim Gray has positioned himself in constrast to Newberry on some issues including calling for more direct city supervision of Blue Grass Airport. He also questioned the Centrepointe skyscraper project from several angles. Gray has identified some issues that he can use whether he ends up seeking re-election to his at-large council seat or tries to step up.
And then... there's 2011... another story... Most Democrats seem to operate under the assumption that Governor Steve Beshear will run for re-election. He says IF he does... he'll get another running mate because he'll have to file before the outcome of the Democratic senate primary is known. Beshear would enjoy several advantages including incumbency and having handled the recent natural disaster ice storm and signing a bi-partisan agreement to band-aid the state budget. Several Republicans are taking a look.... obviously Grayson is mentioned by many (in fact he hinted at a 2007 gubernatorial run and abandoned the idea). Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, of Wildcat fame, is also said to be testing the waters.
Those are just a few of the ongoing side dramas on the 'off year' of 2009.