FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Bruce Hendrickson didn't come close last year to winning a second term as mayor of Pineville, a small southeastern Kentucky town of about 2,000 people. He lost 675 to 361.
Today, Hendrickson is the Democratic nominee for secretary of state and the only thing standing in the way of Republican Trey Grayson's re-election to a second term.
Hendrickson, a Pineville High School science teacher and a former football coach, admits he thought he was a "shoo-in" for a second term as mayor and didn't put in enough work courting voters. He won't make that mistake twice, Hendrickson said.
"I never fell into a trap before that," Hendrickson said. "I didn't work as hard as I should have. I came back and I worked like a rabid dog in the primary."
He registered 103,012 total votes against Democrats Dick Robinson and MaDonna White. That showing was more than 7,800 ballots ahead of Robinson, his closest competitor.
In 2000, Hendrickson lost a race for the Kentucky Senate, tallying 572 votes. State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, now the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, won the three-way race with 4,953 votes.
Now, in his first race for statewide political office, Hendrickson could have a haul ahead of him if he hopes to unseat Grayson.
Considered a rising star in Kentucky's Republican Party, Grayson had briefly considered a run against Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Instead, he settled on running for re-election as the state's top election official.
Heading into the Nov. 6 general election, Hendrickson finds himself behind Grayson in funds. During the latest reporting period, Hendrickson mustered about $8,800 in contributions to go along with the approximately $11,000 he raised in the primary.
By comparison, Grayson spent more than $303,000 during the latest reporting period and still had about $329,000 remaining, according to Kentucky Registry of Election Finance records.
Nevertheless, Hendrickson said he's undaunted.
After last year's mayoral loss, he decided to try for something bigger.
"I felt like I had something to prove: Could a guy come in here without any big money and just get out and meet people after school on Friday?" Hendrickson said. "Heck, we pulled it off and I guess I was surprised, but I felt like maybe I did what I set out to do and still plan to go further."
Among his goals for secretary of state, Hendrickson says he wants to improve voting security and supports giving voters a receipt after casting their ballots. Hendrickson also wants to focus more on civics education in public schools.
Hendrickson says he's always believed that government can help improve citizens' lives. And, he's always been a natural leader, Hendrickson said.
He teaches high school chemistry and anatomy classes and was a varsity football coach for more than 20 years.
During Hendrickson's time as mayor, Pineville residents approved a 2005 referendum that allowed alcohol to be sold by the drink in city restaurants that seated 100 or more patrons. A North Carolina developer had pledged to build a hotel if the measure passed.
"I guess I can say, without too much bragging, I've always had leadership in my genes," Hendrickson said.
Johnny Collins, who was the Pineville chief of police when Hendrickson was mayor, said he's impressed by Hendrickson's honesty. Collins said Hendrickson did what was best for the city.
"His honest stands out. It's just unreal," Collins said. "I've seen a lot of politicians, but I've never seen any as honest
as this guy is."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)