Secretary of State Elaine Walker, appointed as Kentucky’s chief elections officer in January, was denied a full term when Alison Lundergan Grimes won the Democratic nomination for the job Tuesday.
Walker also lost Franklin County by a margin of 17 percentage points – she had 3,475 votes (42 percent) and Grimes received 4,872 (58 percent), according to an unofficial tally by Franklin County Clerk Guy Zeigler.
On the Republican side, Bill Johnson narrowly defeated Hilda Legg. The two candidates were separated by about 1,100 votes out of more than 131,000 cast. Johnson is a former Navy officer and BP executive who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate last year
In Franklin County Johnson had 880 votes (49 percent) and Legg had 930 (51 percent).
Grimes, a Lexington lawyer and the daughter of former state Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan, capitalized on her political connections to stake out a big fundraising advantage that overcame Walker’s abbreviated incumbency.
“We were more than just lines on a resume,” Grimes said in a phone interview. “We were a campaign that was about a vision ... and a plan on how we’re going to move the office of secretary of state forward.”
Walker, former mayor of Bowling Green, was appointed to the post by Gov. Steve Beshear when Republican incumbent Trey Grayson resigned to become director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Walker said Tuesday night she entered office as a relative unknown statewide.
“We had very little time to run a campaign,” she said.
Walker said she had no regrets about taking the job she’ll keep for several more months.
She said she still has work to accomplish as secretary of state, including implementing a one-stop website for businesses to file government paperwork. Undaunted by her setback, Walker said there’s a good chance she’ll run for political office again.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Grimes had 85,563, or 55 percent of the vote, to Walker’s 69,077, or 45 percent.
Johnson said late Tuesday that he had not spoken with Legg, but that she left him a voice mail indicating she would wait until Wednesday before commenting on the outcome. Johnson said he was confident his lead would hold.
Legg’s campaign did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Johnson had 66,429, or 50.4 percent of the vote, to Legg’s 65,332, or 49.6 percent.
In Kentucky, candidates can ask for a recanvass, which essentially involves double-checking math and looking for human errors in data entry. Counties pick up the minimal expense of a recanvass, which isn’t the same as a recount. Recounts are done only on the order of a judge, and the candidate requesting the recount has to pay the costs.
Legg was seeking the statewide job after considerable experience in the federal government, having formerly headed the federal Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Rural Utilities Service.
Johnson touts a voter identification measure that would require voters to present a photo before gaining access to the ballot box.
Grimes said she would run a campaign against “building up barriers to the ballot box, but breaking them down.”
The Democrat said she supports placing voting machines in veterans’ hospitals and veterans’ nursing homes to expand voting access. She talked of updating the state’s nonprofit laws to encourage people to do charitable work in Kentucky.
Johnson touted his business experience, saying “we need our state to be more business friendly.”
State Journal Staff Writer Paul Glasser contributed to this story