Jack Conway

Republican candidates for Kentucky governor say presumptive Democratic nominee Jack Conway isn’t fit to serve because he would not fight a challenge to the state’s same sex marriage ban.

Conway refused to defend the ban last year, saying the law is discriminatory. Gov. Steve Beshear hired outside counsel to defend the law.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, one of four Republicans seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination, said not wanting to defend a law shouldn’t matter.

“It doesn’t matter if you agree with the constitution or not. When you take that oath to uphold the constitution, you represent the people of Kentucky,” Comer said.

Louisville businessman and Republican frontrunner Hal Heiner said that Conway should have been required to defend the constitutional amendment.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway won’t attend President Obama’s visit to Louisville on Thursday.

He’s instead scheduled to be in Eastern Kentucky for meetings about heroin and prescription drug abuse. But a political scientist says it’s unsurprising that a Kentucky Democrat would skip a visit to the state by the party’s national leader.

Obama, who will talk about the economy in Kentucky’s largest city,  has been unpopular in Kentucky and state Democrats have distanced themselves from the president in recent years.

State politicians distance themselves from the president to avoid losing favor with more conservative Democrats across the state, said Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville.

“If you’re trying to attract them then clearly you’re going to have to portray a face to them that’s not cozying up to the so-called liberal bastions in the party starting with President Obama,” Clayton said.

Obama overwhelming lost to his rivals in Kentucky in the last two presidential elections. The state tends to skew toward the GOP in federal elections and elects mostly Democratic candidates in statewide races. The state’s governor is a Democrat and the state House is controlled by the party, but Republicans make up seven of eight members of the state’s federal delegation.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

On the last day of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 session, Attorney General Jack Conway called on legislators to pass a bill to deal with the state’s growing heroin problem.

“I hope here on the final day of the legislative session that the legislature gets its act together,” Conway said during a news conference.

So far, lawmakers have been squabbling over differing versions of the bill. A heroin bill died in the final minutes of last year’s session.

Conway, a Democrat who is also running for governor, said the bill should include tougher penalties for major heroin traffickers and more funding for treatment. He also called for a bill that would make an overdose-reversing drug called naloxone more available. His stance is the same as House Democrats.

“Four simple provisions that are relatively non-controversial that need to be passed, that need to be passed by midnight tonight because people are dying, because law enforcement officials are having trouble dealing with the problem and prosecutors need help in trying to rid our streets of this scourge,” Conway said.

A committee headed by Conway and First Lady Jane Beshear has distributed 2,000 naloxone kits to the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Northern Kentucky.

The total cost for the kits is over $100,000. The kits were funded as part of a $32 million settlement between the state and two pharmaceutical companies. The settlement money has also gone to fund nonprofit treatment programs across the state and provide users with “scholarships” to treatment programs.

Kentucky has joined a multi-state and federal fraud lawsuit against Cincinnati-based Omnicare Inc., alleging that the company billed the state’s Medicaid program almost $6 million over nine years for drugs that were given to nursing home patients for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to papers filed by Attorney General Jack Conway in federal court in Abingdon, Va., Omnicare received “millions of dollars” in kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories for promoting the use of Depakote, an anti-seizure and mood-disorder drug, for dementia patients who were agitated or aggressive. The suit says Omnicare defrauded state Medicaid programs by billing for the illegally administered drugs.

The complaint is Conway’s third kickback case against Omnicare, which moved its headquarters from Covington in 2012. Omnicare spokesman Patrick Lee did not return a phone call Monday.

The company paid $98 million in 2009 to settle claims it took kickbacks from drug makers Johnson & Johnson and IVAX. It paid $8.2 million in 2014 to settle claims it paid kickbacks to nursing homes in return for their pharmacy business.

Abbott Labs settled the Virginia case by paying a $1.5 billion settlement in 2012, about $3 million of which went to Kentucky. Another institutional pharmacy operator named in the case, Louisville-based PharMerica, has agreed to settle out of court for an unspecified amount.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

The new leader of Kentucky’s Democratic Party believes avoiding a hotly-contested gubernatorial primary will benefit Democrats in November.

Patrick Hughes told WKU Public Radio Tuesday his party is rallying behind Attorney General Jack Conway, the only high-profile Democrat running to succeed Governor Steve Beshear. Hughes thinks Conway’s experience running for state-wide office gives him advantages over whoever wins the Republican primary in May.

“Jack is able to get the financial support necessary to run a statewide election, he’s able to get the political support to win a statewide election. So, if anything, those elections that he didn’t win only made him stronger because they built his network.”

Conway has served as Attorney General for two terms, and lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Rand Paul. He also ran unsuccessfully in 2002 against 3rd District Republican U.S. Rep. Anne Northup.

The only other Democrat on the primary ballot is retired state engineer Geoff Young.

With Kentucky’s gubernatorial primary four months away, candidates are beginning to line up endorsements.

Kentucky’s AFL-CIO chapter officially endorsed Democratic candidate and Attorney General Jack Conway Tuesday. Republican candidate and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has been endorsed by former Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning.

Another GOP candidate, former Louisville Council Member Hal Heiner, this week aired the first television ad of the 2015 election cycle.

The spot touts Heiner’s experience in private business and says he would fight against federal mandatessuch as Obamacare and the Common Core educational standards.

Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott is also running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Secretary of State and former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes says she’s considering several options, including running for governor, attorney general , and a second term as Secretary of State.

WKU Public Radio

Democrat Jack Conway has officially filed to run for governor.  The Attorney General filed candidacy papers with the Secretary of State's office Monday morning.

Conway announced his candidacy several months ago and has raised more than$1.3 million. But today’s filing officially puts him on the ballot for the May 19 Democratic primary. 

Conway is the second person to file for Kentucky governor.  Former congressional candidate Geoff Young filed in December. It's unclear if other top Democrats will challenge Conway for the nomination. House Majority  Floor Leader Rocky Adkins is considering a run but has not made a decision.

Candidates have until Jan. 27 to file for the race. At least three Republicans have said they will run, but none has filed yet.

Conway Has Surgery To Repair Herniated Disc

Dec 3, 2014

Democratic Attorney General and 2015 candidate for governor Jack Conway has had successful back surgery.

The procedure on Wednesday at Baptist Health Louisville was to help stop persistent pain caused by a herniated disc, according to a news release from the Attorney General's Office. A spokeswoman said Conway will have a limited schedule for the rest of the year but will hit the ground running in 2015.

Conway is finishing his second term as Kentucky's attorney general. He announced his candidacy for governor in May and has been raising money this year along with running mate Sannie Overly, a state representative from Paris who is also chairwoman of the House Democratic caucus. Geoff Young, a Democrat from Lexington, has also filed to run for governor as a Democrat.

Conway Cleared To Use State Workers For Security

Nov 10, 2014

Attorney General Jack Conway can use state employees on state time for security purposes at private or political events during his campaign for governor, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission ruled Monday.

Conway asked for an advisory opinion after a review from his office recommended he have protection at public or publicized events. The review cited recent instances where people have approached Conway and threatened him and one instance of someone showing up at Conway's house and harassing his family.

The review did not say why Conway was threatened. In March, Conway received national attention when he declined to appeal a judge's ruling ordering Kentucky to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. A spokeswoman in Conway's office did not immediately return requests for comment.

Conway is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

What’s next for Alison Lundergan Grimes? It’s a question some have been asking since the Secretary of State’s loss Tuesday night to incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.  A Bluegrass Poll taken a week before the election suggests voter enthusiasm is tepid with regards to Grimes running for Kentucky governor next year.  The poll found 33 percent of respondents wanted her to run.  Fifty percent did not and 17 percent said they weren’t sure.

Attorney General Jack Conway is the only Democrat to enter the race so far.  Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and businessman Hal Heiner have entered the race on the GOP side.

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