Conway announces reelection, rues 'Aqua Buddha'


by Joe Arnold

Posted on January 23, 2011 at 7:57 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 20 at 1:39 PM

(WHAS11) -- Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway will run for re-election.

Ending weeks of speculation, the Louisville Democrat filed his candidacy papers with the Secretary of State's office Friday afternoon, and answered questions about controversy in his failed bid for U.S. Senate.

"After much prayerful consideration with my wife and with my family, that I went ahead and as I said I would, filed my papers for reelection as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Conway said to reporters in an afternoon briefing.

After last year's bruising Senate campaign, Conway says he questioned if he had enough "gas in the tank" for another campaign this year.  He and his wife are expected their second child in June and he considered not running.

"I wouldn't say I ever really came that close," Conway said, responding to a reporter's question, "I certainly took a look at the other side of the fence."

The announcement came one week after the capitol was abuzz with word that Conway had told his senior staff that he did not plan on filing for reelection, rumors that Conway's staff quickly and forcefully denied.

Conway disclosed on Friday that he had told some key staff members that he was considering not running, suggesting that the conversation sparked the erroneous rumors.

Conway made his case for re-election, including his work on cyber-crime, Medicaid fraud, Consumer protection and prescription pill abuse.  And though he aimed for the U-S Senate, Conway says he's committed to the Attorney General's office.

"I think I've learned that my skill set, my personality is more suited for an executive position in Kentucky state government than it would be to a legislative position. I learned that about myself," he said.

Yet, Conway is lamenting a key executive decision he made during the Senate campaign, the notorious "Aqua Buddha" attack ad that both questioned rival Rand Paul's actions while a college student with overtones that most observors concluded questioned Paul's Christian faith.

"Never go against your gut," Conway said, "That's one of the few times I've gone against my gut."

The Attorney General rued the night he was presented with the television ad, saying he was asked to approve it after watching it on a laptop computer.

"When I first saw it, I went 'eww.'" Conway admitted, "I mean let's be honest, the ad was strong as mule's breath.  And I just kind of went 'eww.'"

Conway says the ad was "not necessarily the right message" but that outside money supporting Paul hurt his campaign more than Aqua Buddha.  Nevertheless, the campaign team that recommended the ad is being replaced.

"From a management standpoint, I shouldn't have been put in a position of having it happen all that quickly," Conway said, "There wasn't enough time to evaluate it."

Conway says the other Democrats who were considering the attorney general's race will not mount a primary challenge.  Meanwhile, one Republican has filed for the office, Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool.