After Luallen opts out, 2015 governors race takes shape

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on April 24, 2014 at 6:37 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 24 at 6:50 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Despite her confidence that she has what it takes to win the 2015 Kentucky governor's race, former state auditor Crit Luallen removed her name from consideration on Thursday, calling it a "tough decision" that was best for her and her family.

"I had spent a great deal of time doing the political analysis," Luallen told WHAS11 News.  "I was convinced that I could raise the money successfully and I could win the race and I could be effective in the governor's office because of my background and experience. But in the end I had to decide whether it was the right thing to do right now at this time in our lives for my husband, Lynn, and myself and the other people that we care about."

The political calculus instantly changes for other potential Democratic candidates. Both Attorney General Jack Conway and Auditor Adam Edelen had already targeted Spring for their respective announcements. Conway's announcement is expected soon.

"Crit Luallen is the gold standard for public service and for friendship," Conway said in a statement. Luallen is the godmother of one of Conway's daughters. 

"In so many ways, I am grateful for her guidance and wisdom," Conway continued.  "My family would not be where we are today without Crit Luallen."

"There's going to be a lot of disappointed people because she's not running," Edelen said.  "and it puts a lot of pressure on the rest of us to try to, I think in many ways fulfill her example in trying to provide leadership for Kentucky that's forward looking and full of integrity."

Edelen acknowledged that Luallen's decision loomed large over the rest of the field.

"A measure of deference has been at the center of my strategy as we have made decisions to her," Edelen said.  "And certainly her decision impacts mine."

Edelen said the expected May release of an audit by his office of Jefferson County Public Schools will come before his anticipated announcement.

"What I don't want (the audit) to be viewed as anything approaching political," Edelen said.  "This is about providing a report that will be catalytic in nature."
 
Former Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo, a potential candidate, has said Democrats should not distract from Alison Lundergan Grimes Senate campaign.

"I greatly admire and appreciate Auditor Luallen's decades of service to the Commonwealth," Grimes said in a statement.  "I look up to Crit as a mentor and will continue to count on her valuable advice throughout the race as there is much left to do to move Kentucky forward."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is also considered a potential candidate and expressed a similar concern.

“My first two commitments are to focus on the fall campaigns of our Democratic caucus members so we retain the Kentucky House and to elect Alison Lundergan Grimes," Stumbo said in a statement to WHAS11 News.  "I will be seeking re-election as Speaker in January.  After that, we’ll see.”

Stumbo called Luallen a "fine public servant" and "an inspiration."

Republican Hal Heiner is the only candidate to have officially entered the 2015 race, with running mate KC Crosbie.  Philanthropist Cathy Bailey, the former U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, is considering the race and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told WHAS11 the earliest he would announce is September, the latest in November.

Comer sees Luallen's exit as an opportunity.

"A lot of her supporters were very open to supporting the person and not the party," Comer said, "So I think that a lot of her supporters will be on the table for a good Republican that's proven that he or she can work across the aisle."

Luallen's announcement not only changes the 2015 picture, but her own long-term future.  She doesn't think she will ever run for office, again.

"I can't imagine another political race in my future at this stage," Luallen said.

Luallen, however, expects to remain "very involved," campaigning for Democratic House candidates and Grimes, and serving on five boards.

"I am blessed with a wonderful marriage, a large extended family and a circle of good friends," Luallen said in a statement announcing her decision.  "My husband Lynn and I both have our health and a lot we want to do and enjoy together.  This simply wasn't the right time in our lives for us to make the decision to enter the race."

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