FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A Louisville Republican who helped shift the balance in the state Senate when he left the Democratic Party in 1999 is considering a run for governor next year, he said Wednesday.
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, said a "considerable amount of people" have contacted him about possibly challenging Gov. Ernie Fletcher in next year's governor's race. And, he's in the "very early stages" of consideration, Seum said.
"There are people in the commonwealth that are looking for a true Republican conservative that understands that government should be about helping the working men and women of the commonwealth," Seum said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
A spokeswoman for Fletcher's campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
With his election in 2003, Fletcher became the state's first GOP governor in more than 30 years. However, Fletcher was politically
weakened in the aftermath of a 15-month investigation into allegations his administration steered protected state jobs to political supporters.
Fletcher was charged with three misdemeanors stemming from the probe, but the charges were dismissed after an agreement with prosecutors. A final grand jury report on its investigation has been filed under seal with the court, and its release was pending.
Various Republican leaders throughout the state have questioned Fletcher's chances of winning a second term in office. They include Senate President David Williams, Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Jack Richardson IV, head of the state GOP's Louisville chapter.
Lt. Gov. Steve Pence left Fletcher's re-election ticket this past summer, and rebuffed Fletcher's call for him to resign his election post.
The state Republican Party rebuffed Fletcher on at least two occasions when it ignored his call for the ouster of chairman Darrell Brock. In August, state GOP leaders subsequently rejected Fletcher's choice for the party's top committee, Larry Forgy, and instead installed Stephen Huffman, Pence's chief of staff.
Billy Harper, a western Kentucky businessman and Fletcher's former political ally, has said he also intends to challenge Fletcher. Harper said he believed Fletcher squandered his chance at re-election.
Seum said he did not want to criticize Fletcher, and that his intentions were to "do a reality check" on whether he should challenge Fletcher. Seum acknowledged that Fletcher already had a substantial lead in fundraising, making a gubernatorial run against him more challenging.
"I think there's a whole lot of disappointed Republicans in the state and they're just looking for somebody to be up front and tell it like it is," Seum said.
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