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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Political Hired Guns Descend On Kentucky For 2011.

Political hired guns look to Ky. governor's race

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Political consultants from across the country are beginning to get involved in a GOP gubernatorial primary race in Kentucky that pits a well-financed, establishment Republican against an obscure outsider with tea party backing but little money.

In past years, the race would have been considered no contest. But after a year in which well-known Republicans went down to defeat in primaries, people are paying attention.

Consultants fresh off the high-profile U.S. Senate campaigns of tea party darlings Sharron Angle of Nevada and Christine O'Donnell of Delaware enlisted Monday to help long-shot candidate Phil Moffett, a Louisville businessman making his first run for public office. Other out-of-staters have signed on with Burkesville lawyer David Williams, the state Senate president who is widely considered one of the most powerful politicians in Kentucky.

With no federal races scheduled in the coming year and only Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi electing governors, some of the nation's top political consultants could bring fresh strategies to state elections.

Phil Laemmle, a retired University of Louisville professor, said the dearth of elections nationally could be a boon for state-level candidates who have a larger pool of top consultants to draw from.

"In any race with any visibility, I don't think you can succeed unless you have competent consultants and campaign advisers," Laemmle said. "From a campaign standpoint, they're irreplaceable."

The most recent consultants to get involved in the Kentucky governor's campaign are the Prosper Group's Zack Condry and Kurt Luidhardt, online fundraisers from Indianapolis whose previous clients include Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts as well as Angle and O'Donnell.

Already, Moffett had contracted with Florida fundraiser Teresa Dailey, who helped raise money for Republican Marco Rubio's successful U.S. Senate race bid earlier this year and who previously helped raise money for the re-election campaign of then-President George W. Bush.

Williams tapped Virginia-based pollster Brian Gotlieb to do public opinion research early in his campaign. He also brought on Florida-based Phil Vangelakos, owner of Brushfire Digital, to oversee his campaign Web site and bolster his online strategies. Vangelakos also was involved in the successful re-election campaigns this year of U.S. Reps. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Tom Rooney of Florida.

Williams campaign manager Scott Jennings said in an e-mail Monday that "many people from across Kentucky and across the country have expressed an interest in helping the campaign."

The Williams campaign reported a strong fundraising kickoff in November, generating about $500,000 from a single event. The campaign has given no updated totals since then.

"We will report next week, and I think you will find that we have crushed our primary opponent," Jennings said.

Moffett campaign manager David Adams declined to say how much his candidate has raised. At last accounting, Moffett had put $30,000 of his own money into the race.

"Phil Moffett is on his way to becoming the most compelling candidate in the country in 2011, but very few people know him now," Adams said.

Luidhardt said Moffett will likely have to depend on online fundraising for his primary campaign, as many 2010 tea party candidates did. An example is U.S. Sen.-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Bowling Green eye surgeon who overcame long odds to win the primary and general elections against established candidates.

"In 2010, the worst guy to be, not only across the country but even in Kentucky, was an elected official running for office," Luidhardt said. "I think voters are still looking for people who are new ... That's why I think somebody like Phil has a lot of potential."

Republican activist Larry Forgy, a Lexington attorney and two-time Kentucky gubernatorial candidate, said voters got behind conservative candidates like Williams in the most recent election, and will do the same in the coming election.

"He is precisely what the people of this state need," Forgy said of Williams. "He's a conservative candidate who also has sense enough to deal with the problems the state is facing."



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