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Republican with Tea Party ties announces run for governor

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A Louisville businessman with tea party
ties announced Thursday he will run for governor in Kentucky.
Phil Moffett, president of the information technology firm CCS
Partners, is the first of a potentially crowded field of
Republicans to enter the 2011 race.
Running as a political outsider, Moffett said his political
philosophy is closely aligned with Republican Rand Paul, the
firebrand running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. Moffett also has
hired Paul's former campaign manager, David Adams, to lead his
effort.
Paul, a little-known Bowling Green eye surgeon when he entered
the Senate race, easily won the Republican nomination and is
leading in most early polls over Democrat Jack Conway.
"My personal beliefs are very much in line with Rand Paul's
political beliefs in terms of smaller government, lower government
debt and fiscal responsibility," Moffett said.
For Moffett to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination, the
political newcomer may have to overcome some big names in Kentucky
politics, including Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer and
Senate President David Williams, both of whom have expressed an
interest in running, either individually or together as a ticket.
Though they can't officially file until Nov. 3, other Republicans
also have been eying the race, seeing Democratic Gov. Steve
Beshear, who is seeking re-election, as vulnerable.
Soon after Beshear took office in 2007, the economy tanked,
forcing widespread private sector layoffs across the state. The
economic problems also triggered a series of shortfalls that forced
the Beshear administration to cut government services, whittling
some $1.5 billion from the state budget.
"I think the electorate is paying closer attention now to what
candidates bring to the table than they ever have before," Moffett
said. "Frankly, people who are in office or have been around
politics for a long time might be at a strategic disadvantage for a
change."
Adams, a former conservative blogger and tea party activist who
left the Paul campaign earlier this month to work on the
then-developing gubernatorial race, said he expects an outpouring
of early financial support for Moffett and his running mate,
Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon of Danville, similar to what
kick-started Paul's Senate bid.
"Phil will build a strong campaign based on promoting
constitutional principles and spreading a message of freedom and
prosperity to demonstrate he is more than ready to serve as
governor," Adams said. "This race will be noticed as one with
national implications, and I think grass-roots support and funding
will follow."
Kentucky is one of only three states to elect governors in 2011.
Moffett, 47, said he intends to lend his campaign $50,000 to get
started. He said he's hoping the tea party, which in Kentucky is
divided among numerous groups and regions, will get behind him
financially. Both Moffett and Harmon have been frequent speakers at
tea party events across the state.
"The tea party is not a monolithic organization," Moffett
said. "I know that I need to get out there and meet with each of
the tea party groups, put my case on the table, and let them
scrutinize it. ... The only way I get the support of the tea party
is to go out there and convince them I'm the right guy."
Western Kentucky University political scientist Scott Lasley
said being first to announce his campaign could give Moffett a head
start on the Republican side, and claiming kinship with the tea
party could give him momentum, too. But, Lasley said, that claim
provides no guarantee that Moffett will get broad tea party
support.
"He has to go out and earn it," Lasley said. "I would think
that gives him an audience. He has the advantage of making his case
first, and perhaps strongest, but it doesn't preclude others from
making their case."
Lexington businesswoman and tea party activist Kathy Gornik said
she is a Moffett supporter, but that she couldn't speak for others
in the movement.
"Phil will have to work very hard to convey that he has the
principled view and the strength of courage to withstand political
pressures that otherwise seem to consume politicians," Gornik
said.
Moffett's positions are closely aligned with the movement. He
espouses a tax overhaul that includes elimination of the state
income tax on individuals and businesses by funding state
government solely with a sales tax on goods and services. He said
that will make Kentucky more business friendly and create jobs. He
wants to cut government spending by eliminating waste and
outsourcing some services to private businesses.
Moffett said he wants to create a commission, similar to one
used by the military some years ago in deciding base closures, to
"look in every corner of state government for inefficiencies."
"I'm under no illusion," he said. "It's going to be a very
competitive race. I wouldn't get in if I didn't think it is
winnable."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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