IT'S ON! Eye Gouging, Ear Biting, Name Calling, Mud Slinging Toward 2011

Even before the first poll opened on November 2nd, at least two Kentuckians declared themselves candidates for Kentucky Governor next year.  Now the battle for other seats, in both parties, as well as the war for Governor is fully on.  Here is a rundown of the whispers, shouts and cries of pain echoing today.

GOVERNOR: While it looks like Steve Beshear will avoid a primary, the GOP will likely have a bloody one.  Phil Moffett (whose interview I will bring you Monday) is running as the TEA party candidate against David Williams, currently the most powerful republican in state government.

But even before the primary election Williams, I am hearing, could be facing opposition in his bid to return as Senate President.

Williams has said that he has the votes to win back that seat, but apparently he has summoned his caucus, including the newly elected members, to a “behind closed doors” meeting in advance of this weekend’s post election RPK central committee meeting.

Some are complaining that Williams plans to use his power and influence to get a committment from republican senators, a move which the most vocal complainers say could indicate that he is worried the votes aren’t there.  Others are not happy being forced to commit before the session begins where they might have “cover” should they decide to go with one of the other contenders.  And some have even questioned the legality of a “closed door” meeting, although Williams is far too smart to violate the law with so much of his political career at stake.

There is also a vibrant anti-David Williams faction within the party, being spurred on by Phil Moffett, trying to paint Williams as out of step with the TEA party mood of less spending and lower taxes.

However, among many others in the party Williams appears to be by far the stronger candidate in a race which in Kentucky is far more often won by the kind of political skill Williams brings to the table than upon fiscal ideologies.  Williams is a tough campaigner, an excellent public speaker and isn’t afraid of a bare knuckled fight.  While the scramble behind the scenes to minimize his influence in the Senate may be part of the larger plan to pick him off in the primary, don’t look to closely at Moffett as the only force behind that effort.  Rumors still abound that at least one, and maybe more happy republicans are seriously considering a run.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: Though RPK Finance Chair and general counsel Holly Harris told Ryan Alessi that Andy Barr should follow the lead of Geoff Davis and start his next run for Congress against Ben Chandler now (assuming his recanvass doesn’t close the 600 vote gap) word is that Andy may be considering a run against Trey Grayson in the primary for Attorney General.

Many republicans think that Jack Conway is mortally wounded and that the GOP could pick up that position in 2011.  Trey Grayson, who is term limited as Secretary of State, has not announced formally for the AG slot, but considering his options, it seems to be the best fit for him at this time.  Otherwise he would have to drop out of politics or seek one of the other offices and thus risk being pegged as the republican’s Francis Jones Mills best player at political musical chairs.

But Andy Barr was recently overheard telling folks, I’m told, that he thinks he could beat Grayson, saying “Hell, that ****** couldn’t even win a primary!”

Looks like the battle of the country club boys may be brewing over that paycheck.

STATE AUDITOR: In a category all to himself Damon Thayer has been testing the political winds to decide whether he will run for state auditor.  Of course the thought of Damon fretting over what higher office he is best suited for causes more eye rolling behind his back than a room full of LSD crazed  hippies speaking in tongues.

But never underestimate Damon’s ability to overestimate himself.

SECRETARY OF STATE: This one is a bit befuddling.  What I’m hearing is that a very powerful battle is being planned, on the democratic side over this one.  So far the only credible republicans are kinda timid state representatives, whereas the democrats might find this to be the “battle royale” for them come next May.  I’m sworn to secrecy on this one until next week, but if my sources can be confirmed, watch out. Fireworks in November could be on tap.

RAND PAUL STAFFING DECISIONS: There’s more to being a senator than introducing bills to cut federal spending.  In fact, the first order of business is to spend some federal money and hire a staff.  Rand Paul’s first announcement was Doug Stafford for Chief of Staff.  In my book, an excellent choice.

Yes, hiring campaign confidant’s has proven to be not such a good idea in the past, but Doug is the exception.  He comes to this position with a good deal of DC experience, something Rand admittedly does not possess.  He is a true believer in the Paul cause but more importantly he is a far cry from the un-approachable, snobbish down the nose looking kind of COS choices some other republicans have picked in the past.

Doug is one of the truly nice guys in politics and his reputation for promptly returning calls, emails and becoming genuinely engaged with Rand’s supporters makes him a great choice.  Now let’s see how the two of them fill out the rest of the lineup.

There will certainly be those whose support of Rand had as a secondary motivation the hope that it would land them a job, and some of the possible choices would be a good fit.  But putting together a brand new team with no experience could be trouble, particularly where there are no experienced hands on deck to remind the employees of exactly what their job is: to make the boss look good and do what they are told.

For this reason it would serve Rand well to keep some Bunning people on board for a while.  It would not only provide some continuity, and a comfort level for those who routinely deal with their US Senator, but would allow the newer staff the chance for a little education in the ways of being a federal employee working for a senator whose prominence is destined to make him a lightning rod for controversy.

STEVE BESHEAR’S BIGGEST FEAR: Two names, spoken together make Steve Beshear’s blood run cold: Mike Duncan and Cathy Bailey.  I don’t care how much money him and “Jer” have raised to date, it wouldn’t make a down payment on what these two republican powerhouses would be able to raise.  In addition, both are so well positioned to bring in the kind of star quality that could dazzle the daylights out of Kentucky voters that their very serious, solid, steady, ethical character and governing abilities would be propelled into the highest orbit of any duo in our 220 year history as a Commonwealth.

Are they thinking about it?  If they weren’t before, they will be now.