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January 25, 2006

Lining up for the guv’s manse

Who’s running for governor and who’s running from the governor? These questions top this week’s news from Frankfort. Sources close to former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry say he’s taking the temperature of fundraising prospects and, amid an apparent vacuum of Democrat aspirants, is behaving increasingly like a candidate. Henry supporters believe the residual resentment and collateral damage of former Gov. Paul Patton’s extramarital affair have sufficiently settled to give Patton’s second-in-command a chance. Others fear Dr. Henry’s Medicaid over-billings (later reimbursed) tainted him enough to be perceived as damaged goods by a scandal-weary electorate. Both House Speaker Jody Richards and Attorney General Greg Stumbo have said they won’t seek the Democratic nomination in next year’s gubernatorial race. There’s speculation that Sen. Julian Carroll may seek to return to the governor’s mansion, and the prospective candidacy of State Auditor Crit Luallen, formerly Patton’s chief of staff, inspires enthusiasm among Democrats as she continues her recovery from colon cancer.

House Democrats say the governor’s double-barreled assault on labor (prevailing wage, right to work) is dead on arrival. On KET’s “Kentucky Tonight” Monday, House Budget Committee Chairman Harry Moberly said, “Neither of those things will be in the final House budget and they won’t be in the Senate budget. I think that was just the governor appealing to his base, maybe attempting to raise some money.” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Charlie Borders, a Republican who represents a labor-rich district, said, “As far as bringing both issues, I’m afraid that was such a threat to the labor people that they really felt like, ‘Are they out to get us?’ So I wish we’d only dealt with the prevailing wage and left the right to work alone.”

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, never one to shy away from controversy, is sponsoring two bold bills. House Bill 43 is a constitutional amendment that allows state representatives to serve four-year instead of two-year terms; House Bill 103 increases the 26-cent tobacco surtax to 71 cents per pack. The latter measure is intended to discourage smoking.