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Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger confirmed Thursday night that he would be seeking the Republican nomiation for state Agriculture Commissioner in 2011. He had announced on his Facebook page earlier Thursday evening that he would eschew a run for the governor’s office in 2011 and instead seek the office being vacatedf by Richie Farmer. In response to an E-mail from The Sentinel-News, he said, "I can confirm I will be running for Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner.". Rothenburger, who long had been speculated as a potential candidate for this position, had said two weeks ago that he was “exploring” a run for governor against Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear, and as late as Wednesday he told The Sentinel-News that he was “undecided” and expected a decision “within 48 hours.”
But the formal announcement Wednesday that state Senate President David Williams and Farmer would join forces to pursue the nomination opposite Beshear and his new running mate, Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, may have spurred him to make an earlier disclosure.
“I’d like to let all my friends now that today I officially filed my letter of intent to run for Commissioner of Agriculture for the commonwealth of Kentucky,” Rothenburger said on Facebook. “After weighing all my options for various offices that are available next year state-wide, I felt in my heart that Commissioner of Agriculture was the most suitable office for me.”
He has been judge-executive since 2002, and he is unopposed this November. It is not known if Rothenburger plans to resign his current job to campaign.
Because the filing deadline has passed, no new candidates can enter the race, and should he decide to resign, a new judge-executive would be appointed before a new election could be held.
Though he never has pursued statewide office, Rothenburger’s interest in running for a bigger political position has not been a secret. Some were surprised when he declined to pursue the open state Senate seat long held by Republican Gary Tapp. Tapp is retiring.
His evaluation of the governor’s race has drawn widespread support from follow leaders in Shelby County.
Magistrate Tony Carriss, a Democrat, was behind him in August and said Thursday that has not changed.
“I wish him well in whatever he decides to do, whether it’s running for governor or some other office,” he said. “Because I do feel like that he is interested in going on to the next level.”
Magistrate Mike Whitehouse, also a Democrat, said he was hoping Rothenburger would decide in favor of running for governor.
“I hope he decides to go for it,” he said. “We’ve already had one governor from Shelby County, and it would be great to have another one.”
Carriss and Whitehouse both said they would not support the Farmer/Williams team. “I feel that Beshear and Abramson would be a much better choice to lead Kentucky forward,” Carriss said.
Williams, 57, an attorney from Cumberland County and a decade-long Senate leader, and Farmer, 41, a two-term agriculture commissioner and former University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball player, announced their intentions at a news conference at Williams’ Frankfort home.
But they already have opposition for the GOP primary in May from Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and Rep. Mike Harmon of Boyle County.
Moffett announced this summer he would be running for governor, with Harmon as his lieutenant governor.