What You See And What You Don't

As the 2010 election takes shape before our very eyes, we're all reminded that most decisions are being made in quiet places and on cell phone conversations well away from the prying eyes of the media... we get whiffs and often they're correct.

As the 2010 election takes shape before our very eyes, we're all reminded that most decisions are being made in quiet places and on cell phone conversations well away from the prying eyes of the media... we get whiffs and often they're correct.

The U.S. Senate race is full on intrigue on both sides. Senator Jim Bunning continues his campaign for re-nomination by the Republicans and re-election from Kentucky voters. He's clearly counting on and zeroing in on "bailout backlash." Bunning has long opposed significant government assistance for business and he has only gotten louder as the bailout amounts have smashed through the roof. From his early speeches, it's clear that Bunning will try to use resentment of the bailouts to his advantage.

In the backrooms, the talk continues from many activist Republicans who fear Bunning will doom their chances of holding the seat, if he is renominated. Therefore, we're told that Senate President David Williams' interest in the nomination is real. He is taking an honest look at the race. (Remember Williams made a 1992 run for the same seat). As he does that, speculation heats up in his state senate district about who might get into that race. And, since he can't run for both senate seats, if he chooses the federal route, it could set off a scramble for Republican leadership in Frankfort.

Remember that polling shows Bunning slightly leading among all candidates from both parties and it would be monumental for another candidate to take him out in the primary. But it may not stop someone from trying... and if the chips fall... well that's why we have elections.

Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Bunning family friend, as taken an "only if Jim doesn't run" stance... eventhough he is interested in the seat and many Democrats quietly say he would be the Republicans most formidable candidate.

On the Democratic side... it's also very interesting. The renewed look at the race by Congressman Ben Chandler has changed the the chemistry completely. Chandler could get in the race late with his strong name recognition and has a keen sense of history and the fact that his grandfather "Happy" Chandler served in the upper chamber of Congress. Senators also only have to run every six years and it would save Chandler from the almost constant approach of the next filing deadline. He would have to travel more in-state, since his constituents would be from Paducah to Pikeville instead of the much tighter 6th district that circles Lexington. Chandler is seen as a centrist who endorsed Barack Obama before the Kentucky primary.

Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo is in the race and has launched a website talking about his credentials and considerable interest in healthcare issues which he says is a very important part of the economic puzzle. Mongiardo got more votes in 2004 than any previous statewide Democratic candidate and lost to Bunning by just over a percentage point.

It's more complicated for Attorney General Jack Conway. Telegenic and smart, Conway is also ambitious. He and his wife are expecting their first child this summer. But he says his family would fully support his decision if he jumps into the senate race. He continues to give signals that he's very interested.
Observers assume that means only if Chandler isn't in the race. Conway would benefit in a primary from the large Louisville voting base... But it's unclear if the state, as a whole, would elect both of its Senators from Kentucky's most populous city.

State Auditor Crit Luallen has been elected statewide twice. She has also held numerous top level positions in state government. She has a reputation for being very competant and cool under fire. Luallen could make a compelling case for her candidacy... IF she decides to get in. The unknown factor with Luallen is how much fire she has for a senate bid. Many people with her level of knowledge of state government, including former governors, were more interested in what happens along the Kentucky River that the goings on near the Potomac. Still, we're assured that Luallen is taking a close look at the race.

The Lexington mayor's race continues to develop.
Mayor Jim Newberry says he's running for re-election and says there will times for balloons and fanfare later. Newberry has already adopted an interesting strategy. When he's asked about why he's running... he immediately says he "inherited a mess" when he took office.

It's lost on very few that he replaced Teresa Isaac as mayor and she is challenging his re-election bid next year. I've always said that Isaac's strength is her own personal tenacity as a candidate. This time, she is also starting to try to raise money early.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray's visibility is high. He's been active on the Centerpointe issue and was quick to call for a major investigation of the airport spending scandal. There are websites pushing for a Gray candidacy. But so far... no word from the top vote getter in the 2006 council at large race.

Just a few thoughts... more to come!
Bill Bryant
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