One-on-one with Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, NO on Senate, Maybe on Governor's race


by Joe Arnold

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 7:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 28 at 9:47 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson (D) will not run for U.S. Senate in 2014 yet is "not ruling out" a run for governor in 2015.

"I think I'm a CEO type in terms of management and leadership skills," Abramson told WHAS11, "and so the Senate really doesn't fit at this point in time."

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is up for re-election to a sixth six-year term in 2014.  Kentucky's longest serving U.S. Senator, McConnell exhausted his formidable campaign cash in 2008 to fend off a strong challenge from businessman Bruce Lunsford.

Abramson and other political insiders say anyone planning to challenge McConnell in 2014 needs to begin a campaign soon, principally because of the need to raise considerable campaign funds.

Actress Ashley Judd has acknowledged her interest in the race.  Smiling, Abramson suggested other potential candidates with star power include actor George Clooney and ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, both Kentucky natives.

As for Abramson, he is considering a run -- for governor in 2015.

"It's certainly something that I'm not at this point ready to say no to," Abramson said.  "It's something I continue to look at."

About to complete his first year as Kentucky's lieutenant governor, Abramson says the job has included one surprise.

"I don't think I realized how often I would be on an airplane," Abramson said.  On Wednesday, for example, Abramson flies from Louisville to Corbin in the morning, back to Louisville for a Kentucky Association of Counties meeting, then drives to Woodford County for an evening event.

Yet, as he eyes his political future, Abramson is not complaining about his statewide travels.   As the so called "mayor for life," he is synonymous with Louisville.  As Lt. Governor, he is enjoying a new identity - and a four year re-introduction to the rest of the Bluegrass.

"I mean, the truth be known I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and lived here all my life," Abramson told WHAS11, "but I haven't spent as much time in Paducah and Ashland or in Prestonsburg and Hopkinsville as a lot of other folks.  And it's giving me a chance to learn, to listen, to better appreciate."

Abramson's answer sounds very much like a candidate for governor.

"25 years in local government and then four years traveling the state learning and listening and understanding the issues certainly gives me a basis to be able to - if I decide to run for governor - to frame up the future of Kentucky as I see it," Abramson said.  "and the kind of things I would try to lead if I were fortunate enough to be elected governor."

Granted a one month extension, Abramson's Tax Reform Commission is now staring at a December 15th deadline to recommend changes to a tax structure consultants say cannot meet the state's demands.  In addition to extending the sales tax to some services and increasing the cigarette tax, Abramson says the taxation of pension recipients needs to make sure they are paying their fair share.

"The kinds of services the people of Kentucky want, over time are going to need additional dollars," Abramson said, explaining that state agencies have already been "cut to the bone."

"You can't cut your way out of this," he said.  "We have cut $1.6 billion dollars."

Yet, Abramson say rank-and-file Kentuckians should not see tax hikes.

"I think at the beginning it will be pretty much neutral," Abramson said, "although the the trend will be over time as the economy gets better, there will be an opportunity for more tax funds to come into the state."

Abramson expressed hope that the departure of David Williams as Senate President -- Robert Stivers was selected by Republicans as his successor on Tuesday afternoon -- offers an opportunity for more cooperation at the Capitol.

"The personal relationship of you and I liking each other ultimately can probably can go a long way toward resolving somewhere in between," Abramson said.  "That personal relationship simply wasn't there with David Williams, and so the hope is that they will be better working relationship in the future.

Though Governor Steve Beshear's expanded gambling initiative is often regarded as an issue that may benefit from a leadership shake-up, Abramson said Beshear's priority to raise Kentucky's dropout age is the most likely to immediately benefit from the leadership changes.

"The dropout bill has a much better chance now," Abramson said.  "It would not get a Senate vote under David Williams."