LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway picked up endorsements Thursday from three well-known Kentucky Democrats, winning early support from former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, ex-state Auditor Crit Luallen and John Yarmuth — the state's only current Democratic congressman.
The three big names in Democratic circles lined up behind Conway at a time when several other Democrats are still weighing whether to enter the 2015 race for governor.
"I am humbled to receive the endorsements of three people who have been so dedicated to standing up for Kentuckians and fighting for the working men and women of our commonwealth," Conway, in his second term as the state's attorney general, said in a statement.
Ford, a former governor and four-term senator, said Conway has the experience to move Kentucky forward. He said Conway is committed to "looking voters in the eye and uniting our party."
"As attorney general, he has a record of protecting our families, being fiscally conservative, fighting the scourge of addiction and standing up for Kentuckians in their time of need," Ford said.
Luallen is a longtime friend and mentor of Conway's. She considered her own run for governor next year but backed away from the race.
Yarmuth's congressional district covers Louisville, the state's largest city and home to the biggest bloc of Democratic voters. Yarmuth said Conway and his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly, want to expand early childhood education and make college accessible to more Kentuckians.
Next year's governor's race is seen as wide open for Democrats and Republicans. Other possible Democratic candidates include Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Lexington banker Luther Deaton.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is in his second term as governor, his last under term limits.
University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss said the early endorsements should help Conway's fundraising and solidify his efforts to be seen as the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
"Three big endorsements is a big boost," he said. "Not with voters but with the Democratic Party insiders who usually are the major players in the early stages of a campaign."