Ken Carroll, the son of retiring state Sen. and former Gov. Julian Carroll, wants to take his father’s place.
Ken Carroll, 65, filed last week to run as an independent in the state Senate District 7 race.
Since independent candidates do not run in a party primary, the deadline to return their petitions of nomination for the 2020 election was Tuesday.
“I just felt like with my experience and background and education, I can bring value to the district and help folks in the district as well as the commonwealth find solutions,” Ken Carroll said.
Once a registered Democrat, Ken Carroll changed his voter registration to independent nearly six years ago.
“Basically, I just could no longer identify as a Democrat and I felt like both parties had become polarized in their positioning,” Ken Carroll said. “And things that were being done in the legislative bodies, whether it be federal or even state, seemed to be pointed to what was best for the party rather than what was best for people.”
Although Ken Carroll is running to take his father’s place in the state Senate, he will not receive his father’s endorsement.
Julian Carroll had already endorsed current 56th House District Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, the lone Democrat seeking the Senate seat.
On Thursday, Julian Carroll told The State Journal that his son expects him to keep his promise to Graviss.
“You know, he actually has told me for several years he’d like to run for my old seat,” the elder Carroll said. “... I said, ‘Well son, I have already endorsed Joe Graviss,’ and he said ‘Yes, and I expect you to keep your word.’”
Ken Carroll said he made his decision to run after his father had already announced he was retiring and would endorse Graviss.
“Matter of fact, when I told Dad, I said, ‘Would you please call Mr. Graviss and let him know my decision?’” Ken Carroll said. “Out of respect for him and my dad, I wanted to make sure they were aware and heard it from me, basically. My dad’s a man of honor and his word is his bond, so I said ‘That’s fine. I understand clearly you have endorsed Joe and I have no problem with that.’”
On Thursday, Graviss told The State Journal he welcomes as many people who want to be involved.
“He is new and late to the scene and I hope he is willing to stick around when it's over,” Graviss said. “My strategy has always been to work incredibly hard, to respond to people’s concerns, advocate for their interests and do it 24/7. My whole strategy is built around hard work and persistence and involvement. This is not a part-time job.”
Graviss said he is extremely grateful for Julian Carroll’s endorsement.
As for how an independent candidate will impact the election, journalist, professor and director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues Al Cross said Ken Carroll's candidacy could split the Democratic vote and lead to a Republican winning the seat.
"It remains to be seen how good a candidate Ken will be, since he has not played that role before," Cross said. "His father’s political punch has been greatly diminished by the passage of time and the controversy that marred his final term, but the name still brings recognition and a degree of credibility, which will be useful."
The controversy Cross is referring to occurred in 2017 when Julian Carroll was accused of sexual harassment and assault. Senate Democrats stripped him of his leadership position.
As for how he sees Franklin County voting, Cross said he's not 100% confident in predicting how the electorate will vote.
"I think there's still a lot of regard for Julian Carroll and Kenny might get more votes because of that than Joe will for getting Julian's endorsement," Cross said.
Senate District 7 covers Anderson, Franklin, Gallatin, Owen and Woodford counties.
According to state election data, there are 25,465 voters registered as Democrats, 10,625 registered Republicans and 1,162 registered independents in Franklin County.
In Anderson County there are 8,892 registered Democrats, 8,249 registered Republicans and 500 registered independents. In Gallatin County, there are 3,484 registered Democrats, 2,525 registered Republicans and 164 registered independents.
In Owen County, there are 4,631 registered Democrats, 3,154 registered Republicans and 228 registered independents. And in Woodford County, there are 11,069 registered Democrats, 8,836 registered Republicans and 843 registered independents.
"If the Republicans were able to capture this seat, it would be a tremendous coup," Cross said. "This seat is presumed to be a Democratic seat because of Franklin County."
Right now, there are no independent state senators, Cross said. The last independent in the state Senate was Paducah's Bob Leeper, who represented the 2nd District.
Cross said Ken Carroll is not the usual independent candidate.
"I would expect he would be able to raise the sort of money it takes to run a real campaign, but you never really know about things like that," Cross added.
Ken Carroll has lived in Frankfort since 1972 and is a graduate of Frankfort High School and Western Kentucky University, where he has a double degree in speech and government.
His background includes more than 20 years in state government, where he’s been a legislative committee staffer, a research and policy development analyst and a bill drafter with the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission among other roles in the legislative and executive branches.
Ken Carroll is also the current president and CEO of Advanced Manufacturing Professionals Inc., a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to facilitate talent solutions for companies.
If elected, Carroll said he plans to work on improving Kentucky’s pension system. He would like to see an extensive audit of the system. He also plans to focus on economic and tourism growth.
“In terms of careers for individuals, I think we need to give more focus to technical careers and I’m not just talking about manufacturing and service support,” Ken Carroll said. “There’s a lot of great careers in health care, logistics, energy, and we need to really focus on that and let people know what the pathways are to get there.”
He said he would also like to work on creating efficiency and savings in the health care industry.
Graviss, a Democrat, is running unopposed in the June 23 primary and will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.
Calen Studler, Cleaver Crawford, Katie Howard, Adrienne Southworth and Linda Thompson are vying for the Republican nomination.