State Treasurer Jonathan Miller dropped out of the gubernatorial race Monday, citing sagging poll numbers, dwindling campaign cash and the prospect of the crowded field producing a nominee that was "unelectable" in the fall.
Miller, who then endorsed former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, said he made the decision after consulting his wife, Lisa, and running mate, Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze.
"The odds are if I stayed in the race that there was a real possibility that the Democratic primary could produce a nominee who was unelectable in the fall - a nominee whose baggage would be picked apart and exploited," Miller said at an afternoon news conference with Beshear.
Seven Democrats are on the ballot for May 22 primary as the party tries to unseat the first Republican governor in three decades. The others are Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith, former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, demolition contractor Otis Hensley Jr., Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford and House Speaker Jody Richards.
Miller's withdrawal comes too late to have his name removed from the ballot. Instead, a notice will be posted at each polling place.
Despite holding a statewide office for two terms, Miller had been struggling to overcome low name recognition among voters. A poll by The Courier-Journal in February found that barely more than a quarter of those polled knew who he was.
On the Republican side, Gov. Ernie Fletcher faces western Kentucky businessman Billy Harper and former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup in the primary.
In his campaign, Miller has said Democratic voters need to choose a nominee who can beat Fletcher in November, and billed himself as "the candidate without the baggage."
Miller acknowledged Monday he was referring to Henry and Lunsford when he said the eventual nominee might have "baggage" that would be exploited by Republicans.
Henry has long denied any wrongdoing but in 2003 agreed to pay the government $162,000 to settle allegations that he defrauded Medicare and Medicaid.
Lunsford founded the Fortune 500 company Vencor, which operated
nursing homes and long-term-care hospitals before falling into bankruptcy in 1999. In 2003, he sought the Democratic nomination for governor before dropping out late in the race and throwing his support to Fletcher, the GOP nominee.
Treasurer for two terms, Miller used the post to be a vocal consumer advocate, and has testified before the Senate banking committee about financial literacy and the threat credit card debt poses to college students. He was prohibited by term limits from running for re-election.
Miller's campaign contributions for his gubernatorial bid were in the ballpark with other candidates. He had raised a little more than $1 million, but had only about $186,000 cash on hand at the end of the last campaign finance reporting period, according to records filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
As a candidate for governor, Miller said he had new ideas that will help the state and bolster citizens' confidence in state government. He called for universal health care, expanded prescription drug coverage for senior citizens.
Like Beshear, Miller supports expanded gambling to help finance
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)