Insisting she is not a surrogate candidate for her spouse, Martha Wilkinson has entered the race to succeed her husband, Kentucky Gov. Wallace Wilkinson (D), who is barred from a second consecutive four-year term.
"I am running for governor because I made my decision to run for governor," she said.
But Wallace Wilkinson, who unsuccessfully tried to push through legislation allowing him to serve a third term, will not leave the scene if his wife is elected. She said she plans to hire him as her economic development secretary.
Other Democrats in the May 28 primary are Lt. Gov. Brereton Jones, who has promised that his wife will never try to succeed him; Lexington's three-term mayor, Scott Baesler; Floyd Poore, who left the Wilkinson administration after alleging that his capitol telephone had been bugged; and attorney Gatewood Galbraith, who argues no new taxes would be needed if the state legalized marijuana and regulated it.
Jones, the front-runner, is a millionaire horse breeder who has raised more than $3 million for his campaign. Martha Wilkinson has $2.5 million in her campaign fund. Baesler has raised $1.1 million, saying, "If this election can be bought, I can't afford it."
Kentucky has no primary runoff; a candidate in a five-way contest could win the nomination with just over 20 percent of the vote.
On the GOP side, the race promises to be the most competitive since 1967, the last time a Republican won the governor's office. Seven-term Rep. Larry J. Hopkins seemed assured of the nomination until longtime GOP operative Larry Forgy entered the race.
Forgy, who ran Ronald Reagan's campaigns in the state, pulled out of a gubernatorial bid in 1987, citing a distaste for raising money. Forgy said this time he will accept contributions of $300 or less. He wrote Hopkins, asking him to put his $665,526 congressional campaign treasury in a trust.
Hopkins, who said he probably would not read Forgy's letter, said of his rival, "He's never finished a race and I've never quit one."