By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Hal Heiner thinks Kentucky needs a new plan, “a new plan to make Kentucky first.”
The Louisville real estate developer and Republican traveled the state Tuesday with his running mate for lieutenant governor, K.C. Crosbie, telling people in Lexington, Hazard and here that it’s time Kentucky had a chief executive with business experience.
“Kentucky is at a crossroads, in desperate need of strong leadership and innovative thinking,” Heiner said to around 150 inside Jordan Technologies, which is housed in a building constructed by Heiner’s company.
Heiner, 62, who served on the Louisville Metro Council from 2002 to 2010 and lost a narrow election for Louisville mayor in 2010, is a champion for charter schools and touts his ability to create jobs.
“This will be a campaign about big ideas and lofty goals,” Heiner said. “If we bring innovation and a change of culture to Frankfort, I know for certain that we can make Kentucky economically competitive, create jobs and make our education system the envy of the nation.”
Those big ideas sounded a lot like standard Republican prescriptions for what ails the state and country.
“We need to get government out of the way and let – the creativity and work ethic of Kentuckians take over,” Heiner said.
Neither Heiner nor Crosbie took reporters’ questions – Heiner said Tuesday was about announcing his campaign and, “We’ll have lots of position papers.” But after Heiner specifically mentioned three states – Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee – that elected “pro-growth Republican governors,” it wasn’t too difficult to imagine he was talking about right to work laws in those states.
Heiner said the state also needs “a new plan that gives parents a choice in education for their children,” presumably meaning charter schools.
Bill Stone, a Jefferson County Republican activist and president of Louisville Plate Glass Company, described Heiner as Wisconsin Gov. “Scott Walker with style.” Walker took on unions in his state and lowered taxes.
“He’s got all kinds of guts to do what is needed,” said Stone.
Heiner is the first official entrant into the 2015 governor’s race which has been overshadowed thus far by the 2014 election for the U.S. Senate. Incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear is in his second and final term.
But Heiner isn’t the only one openly talking about running to succeed Beshear. Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he plans to decide soon but won’t formally enter the race until after the November elections determine if incumbent U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell holds onto his seat and whether Republicans can wrest control of the state House of Representatives from Democrats.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Latvia Cathy Bailey of Louisville says she is also exploring a race. On the Democratic side Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen, former Auditor Crit Luallen, and former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo have indicated an interest in running.
Kentucky campaign law requires candidates for governor to have a running mate before raising money.
Crosbie, 44, is Kentucky’s Republican national committee woman and treasurer of the Republican Party of Kentucky. Some Comer supporters have suggested Crosbie should resign those positions but RPK Chairman Steve Robertson has said there is nothing in the party’s by-laws which prevents Crosbie from running while holding the party positions.
Crosbie lost a narrow race to Democratic state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach in 2011 and like Heiner she has experience in urban government, having served on the Lexington Metro Urban Council. Between them, they represent the two largest cities in Kentucky.
“Changing leadership, the direction of Frankfort will be tough,” said Crosbie. She said Democratic “insiders” will work hard to hold onto “their strangle-hold on power.”
“Our goal during this campaign will be to make the status quo uncomfortable, offering fresh ideas on fixing problems,”Crosbie said.
Crosbie said she’d been in discussions with Heiner for “several months,” but he only asked her to join his ticket “several days ago.” She came to see him as “a man of faith who has led by example,” Crosbie added.
Heiner is a graduate of Atherton High School in Louisville and the University of Louisville who founded Capstone Realty. He was a member of the Louisville Metro Council from 2002 to 2010. He is chairman of the Kentucky Charter Schools Association and Christian Academy of Louisville.
Crosbie is a graduate of the University of Kentucky who is married to one-time Lexington Mayoral candidate and attorney Scott Crosbie.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.