Adam Edelen

The 2019 Democratic primary for Kentucky governor grew by one Thursday when former state auditor Adam Edelen’s campaign filed paperwork with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance declaring his intention to raise money for the race.

Edelen’s running mate for lieutenant governor is Gill Holland, a Louisville-based film producer, according to paperwork the campaign filed at 8:27 a.m. Thursday with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

When asked about the filing, Jared Smith, a spokesman for Edelen, said he had no comment.

Edelen joins two other Democratic candidates, Attorney General Andy Beshear and House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, in the race. Other Democrats are apparently still considering the race, including Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and state Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville.

“We welcome anyone to the race who is committed to a positive primary focused on how to bring Kentuckians together and move this state forward,” said Brad Bowman, a campaign spokesman for Beshear.

Democrats will battle this spring for the chance to run against Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, the Republican incumbent. Bevin, who is unpopular in the state following his effort to overhaul Kentucky’s ailing pension systems, has said he will seek reelection but still has not filed any paperwork.

“I have said that I’m going to do that and it is my intention to do that,” Bevin told Terry Meiners on WHAS 840 AM last month. “They don’t have to wait for me, anyone who wants to get in should get in.”

It has long been rumored that Edelen would enter the 2019 race for governor.

A chief of staff to Gov. Steve Beshear before being elected state auditor in Nov. 2011, Edelen was once considered a rising star in Kentucky’s Democratic Party.

As auditor, his examination of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture uncovered several examples of corruption in the agency and led to a prison sentence for former agriculture commissioner Richie Farmer, a storied UK basketball player.

Edelen’s office also investigated special taxing districts — local entities like library boards and sewer districts — and found a lack of oversight and wastful spending. His investigation led to a new law providing more oversight for the districts.

Many consider Edelen one of the better public speakers in the Democratic Party. He was considered a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul before losing his 2015 reelection bid to Mike Harmon despite outspending the Republican by a 30-1 margin.

Edelen tried to reshape his image in the aftermath of the loss. He teamed up with Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones to tour the state as they attempted to recruit progressive Democratic leaders for the New Kentucky Project. The tour also served as a pseudo-campaign for two men considering statewide office.

Edelen also embarked on a business project to install solar panels on a former Eastern Kentucky strip mine site, though that project has not yet come to fruition.

Both projects attempted to connect with rural parts of the state using a progressive message at a time when the rural and urban divide in Kentucky is widening.

The state’s largest urban areas have trended Democratic, but that has been outpaced by fast Republican growth in rural areas.

“That might be his greatest disadvantage,” said Don Dugi, a political science professor at Transylvania University. “That he could be painted as a liberal.”

Edelen’s announcement comes late compared to his Democratic opponents, putting him at a financial disadvantage from the outset. Beshear, who is considered the frontrunner in the race based on limited polling, has been raising money since July while Adkins has been raising money since early December.

Holland might be a solution to any money problems the campaign faces. He’s married to Augusta Brown, of Brown-Forman fame, which could give the Edelen-Holland ticket an inside edge with big money donors in Louisville.

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Written by Daniel Desrochers. Cross-posted from the
Herald-Leader via the Kentucky Press News Service.