Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Speaker Richards eyes governor's job

By Charles Wolfe
Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — House Speaker Jody Richards on Monday announced formation of an exploratory finance committee, the first step in a run for governor.

        He said he considered himself “the best prepared person to be governor,” explaining: “I know every nook and cranny of state government.”

        Mr. Richards, of Bowling Green, is the third Democrat to stake out a starting spot in what seems likely to be a crowded primary in May 2003.

        He said he would accept public matching money for a campaign, but would run anyway if the existing campaign-finance system were overturned. He said he would not run for lieutenant governor.

        Mr. Richards has been the chief defender of public campaign financing during a contentious special session of the General Assembly. Republicans say public financing should be repealed. The impasse has prevented passage of a budget.

        An exploratory committee enables a prospective candidate to raise and spend up to $90,000. The money typically goes for polling, travel expenses and other campaign groundwork. In addition, the candidate does not have to pick a running mate, which Mr. Richards said he would not do until November.

        Among Democrats, Louisville businessman Charlie Owen and Attorney General Ben Chandler also have formed exploratory committees.

        Lt. Gov. Steve Henry also is expected to run. Secretary of the Cabinet Crit Luallen is considered a possible candidate.

        On the Republican side, Jefferson County Judge-executive Rebecca Jackson was the first to form an exploratory committee. State Rep. Steve Nunn of Glasgow and state Sen. Virgil Moore of Leitchfield soon followed. U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher of Lexington is considered a possible entrant.

        Mr. Richards, 64, owns a company that sells library books to schools and public libraries. He said he does not sell within Kentucky.

        Mr. Richards has been in the House since 1976 and has been speaker since 1995. He said he would run for another term as speaker in January, gubernatorial aspirations notwithstanding.

        Mr. Richards was born in Louisville and grew up in Adair County. He is a graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College. He also holds a master's degree from the University of Missouri.


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