ELIZABETHTOWN — Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson promised he’d announce his intent to enter the 2015 gubernatorial race after this weekend’s Fancy Farm Picnic.
He didn’t wait long.
Abramson, one of many discussed as potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates, said Tuesday he will not seek the state’s highest office during a speech to the Elizabethtown Rotary Club. Education will be his primary focus once his term as lieutenant governor ends, but he provided no specific jobs he’ll seek.
“The bottom line for me was focus,” Abramson said after his remarks. “If you run for governor, then you’re involved in this issue and that issue and the eastern issue and the western issue and all these issues which are all very important to make a significant difference to people in their lives.
“Education is where I have my passion; education is where I think I need to be.”
His remarks may have been a signal that his 23-year political career is winding to a close. Abramson, Louisville’s longest-serving mayor before his election alongside Gov. Steve Beshear in 2011, said he doesn’t have his sights on another elected office “at this point.”
“I want to make the decision now because I’ve got a lot of friends around the state who are all very excited about what’s going to happen in 2015, and I want them to be able to go out and engage in the process,” he said during his speech in front of about 50 at Stone Hearth Restaurant.
“A lot of good people are already talking about running for governor. I wish them all well. That’s not what I want to do with the next chapter of my life.”
Abramson said he discussed his decision with his wife, Madeline, and others close to him. The announcement has nothing to do with his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year, he said, noting she has undergone treatment and is “in great shape.”
The condition of Kentucky’s education system was a central theme of Abramson’s address Tuesday.
He lamented the state’s budget woes, which have caused funding cuts for new public school textbooks and professional development for teachers. Funding for schools in general has remained flat and tuition at public universities has risen considerably since the economic downturn, he said.
Abramson, 66, chaired Beshear’s commission on tax reform and said updating the state’s tax code will be a central issue in the 2014 legislative session.
Abramson has more than two years remaining in office, giving him time to consider other career options before a new administration takes office.
“If you’re asking me what I’m applying for, check my resume in about two years — I’ll be looking for a job,” Abramson told reporters.
Abramson is the first highly visible Democrat to officially bow out of the 2015 gubernatorial race.
Other names that have been floated as possible Democratic candidates include former state Auditor Crit Luallen, Attorney General Jack Conway, current Auditor Adam Edelen and former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, former Louisville mayoral candidate Hal Heiner and former gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett have been discussed as potential Republican candidates in 2015.