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After a disappointing loss in his first statewide race, Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said he is not planning a comeback anytime soon, instead concentrating on what he said he does best.
“My plans are to provide one-hundred percent of my attention to Shelby County,” said Rothenburger, who lost the Republican nomination for agriculture commissioner to state Rep. James Comer on Tuesday. “That’s my primary focus at this point.”
And in Shelby County, the focus of him and most everyone now turns squarely – as it has throughout the state – to the race for governor, in which Republican nominee David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith will challenge Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear.
As you might expect, with just less than six months for the campaigns to develop, optimism is rampant in both parties.
“I think that definitely the Republicans have the strongest top-to-bottom ticket they’ve seen in years, and that’s definitely going to be a factor this fall,” Rothenburger said.
Williams, the state senate president, carried 48 percent of the vote statewide in the primary, but he was not the favored choice in Shelby County (where Phil Moffett outpolled him, 44-39) and in many of the larger metro areas of the state.
Still, Republican leaders in Shelby County say they like Williams’ chances against Beshear.
“David Williams is very capable, but I think anytime you’re challenging an incumbent you have a tough race on your hands,” state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) said. “I think he has a tremendous grasp of the issues, and I think for the most part he’s right on his policies.
“I think he has a bit of a perception problem with the public and the media, and I think he has to work on that, but I think he can do that, and I expect a pretty close race in the fall.”
Williams won with 48 percent of the vote statewide.
State Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) expressed optimism.
“I think that when people see the insight and the vision that Williams has for the state of Kentucky, they will realize that he is a much better choice, and they will see their way clear to vote him in as the next governor of the commonwealth,” he said.
But the Democratic view of the governor’s race in Shelby County reflects an equally rosy view, which you might expect, given Beshear’s incumbency.
“It’s a little early to say yet, but I believe that Steve Beshear is out to win,” said Fielding Ballard III, the Shelby County Democratic chair, “based on his record, and taking into account that Beshear has had a fairly tough three years with the economic hand that he’s been dealt.
“He has also tightened his belt and balanced the budget, and to say the least, he’s not gotten any cooperation from David Williams in doing it.”
Ballard said he thinks education will play a part in voters’ decisions.
“We haven’t made any cuts in education, where other states have laid off teachers to balance their budget,” he said. “Kentucky is poised to be an area of economic growth, and you’ve got to have an educated workforce to be receptive to what’s on the horizon.”
Hornback echoed Ballard’s opinion that economic development issues will play a part in the governor’s race.
“The vision for the future is to make Kentucky a more business friendly state, a state that is truly in balance as far as the budget, and get this state running like it should be,” he said.