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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

David Williams/Richie Farmer Campaign Replaces Campaign Manager Scott Jennings With TEA Partier, Luke Merchant.

Williams looks to tea party for campaign manager

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- A week after a lackluster win in Kentucky's gubernatorial primary, Republican David Williams replaced his campaign manager on Tuesday with a Florida tea party operative.

Luke Marchant, who served as political director in tea party darling Marco Rubio's successful U.S. Senate race last year in Florida, replaces Kentucky GOP insider Scott Jennings. Jennings will continue to serve as general consultant and senior policy adviser to Williams.

Jennings said the Williams campaign needed additional manpower, and Marchant's experience with the tea party made him a natural choice for a campaign against Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and independent candidate Gatewood Galbriath.

"There's no doubt that Luke has a tremendous amount of experience organizing people who identify with the tea party," Jennings said. "Luke is a guy who has that very recent and very successful experience harnessing tea party activism and turning that into a very positive force in a campaign."

The Williams campaign termed Marchant's hiring a staff expansion, not a shakeup. Jennings said plans are to hire additional personnel to bolster what was a lean primary campaign staff.

"After meeting with Scott and Sen. Williams, I am more convinced than ever that this is the right ticket to get Kentucky's economy back on track," Marchant said in a statement. "They have the ideas and passion to deliver prosperity to Kentucky families, and I'm coming to help achieve that goal."

All three candidates have been reaching out to Kentucky's tea party groups since their favored candidate, Louisville businessman Phil Moffett, lost to Williams in a three-way race. That loss left some Moffett supporters bitter and threatening to support Beshear or Galbraith or to sit out the November general election.

Marchant previously served as political director for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and as campaign manager for Texas Congressman Pete Olson.

"This will likely not be the last expansion of the campaign," Jennings said in a statement. "There is serious national interest in this race and people across the country have taken an interest in electing a solid, conservative ticket in Kentucky."

The Williams campaign had raised and spent $1.2 million for the primary race, and won with 48 percent of the vote against Moffett who spent only about $120,000 and received 38 percent of the vote and Holsclaw who spent about $30,000 and received 14 percent of the vote. Now Williams faces the well-funded Beshear, who has raised more than $5 million and, as of his last financial disclosure report, still had more than $3 million in the bank.

Jennings said Williams has been working to replenish his campaign bank account. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will be in the Lexington on June 16 to host a fundraiser for him.

During the primary campaign, Jennings, a longtime political consultant, had been involved in every aspect of the race, managing staff, handling press, even shooting photographs on occasion.

"It is a natural thing for successful primary campaigns to expand as they head into statewide general elections," Jennings said. "We are excited to get an operative with Luke's experience, talent and reputation to come here and add to what we have already built."

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