More than 14 months before that primary election, and with the U.S. Senate race at the forefront of many Kentucky voters' minds, former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner announced that he will run for governor in 2015.
Heiner and running mate K.C. Crosbie, a former Lexington council member, became the first to formally declare for the 2015 Republican nomination after Heiner's announcement Tuesday in Lexington. They said their 20-month campaign will allow them to spend more time traveling the state and building personal connections with voters.
"I'm a firm believer in marathon campaigns," Heiner said Wednesday afternoon at The Paducah Sun. "I'll be able to talk with Kentuckians about items on their minds and hear their perspectives, and then share with them where I feel Kentucky can go."
The 62-year-old founder of Capstone Realty said his business background has given him perspective on what it will take to make Kentucky economically competitive.
"My goal is to make Kentucky first in job attraction, to bring the best jobs here," he said.
He acknowledged that Kentucky consistently ranks poorly in personal income - where it's 46th in the nation - as well as employment and general well-being.
"Kentucky right now is built on a government platform that has stayed stagnant for a very long time, while states around us are building new platforms that are much more attractive to business," he said.
"(Companies) see our government debt, our unfunded pension liability, and as they think about Kentucky, they see it as a 20-year-plus investment," he continued.
Heiner also cited tax reform, school choice in education, and "right-to-work" legislation - which limits collective bargaining - among the "tough issues" that he believes the commonwealth needs to address in order to move forward.
"Kentucky has been at the bottom of lists we want to be at the top of," he said, "and both K.C. and I are committed that Kentucky can be first."
This marks Heiner's first race since he narrowly lost the 2010 Louisville mayoral election to Democrat Greg Fischer. He served on the Louisville Metro Council from 2003 to 2010.
It's also Crosbie's first bid since seeking the office of state treasurer in 2011, which she lost to incumbent Democrat Todd Hollenbach. Crosbie, 44, took over as finance chairwoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky following that race, and was elected as the Republican National Committeewoman in 2012.
Although Heiner can't officially file until November, he's already framed what he believes will be the big question in Kentucky's gubernatorial race: "Is it time to bring in someone from the outside?"
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.
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