An advisory opinion by the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission Monday could complicate a potential 2019 political campaign for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The advisory opinion comes in response to complaints filed after it was revealed that Grimes’ staffers in the Office of the Secretary of State have access to voter registration data and information about precinct workers.
The commission warned that the Kentucky Board of Elections’ decision to grant Grimes’s staff access to sensitive voter data and to give her day-to-day oversight of the board’s staff means that Grimes can no longer rely on a prior opinion by the commission that said a secretary of state can run for statewide office while simultaneously serving as chairman of the State Board of Elections.
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In 2010, the commission advised then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson that he could run for U.S. Senate without recusing himself from his role as chairman of the elections board.
On Monday, the commission warned that recent decisions by the State Board of Elections could change their opinion if Grimes runs for office in 2019. She has been considering a run for governor or attorney general.
“The change in circumstance discussed above may have implications in the event that a person holding the office of Secretary of State decides to file as a candidate for a future election while also serving as the Chair of the State Board,” wrote Christopher Thacker, the chairman of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. All five members of the commission were appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican.
Grimes responded Tuesday by calling the opinion “highly inappropriate.”
“I think Executive Branch Ethics is attempting to try to justify their use of taxpayer dollars to have interference with this board; I think it’s an opinion of which the board should disregard,” Grimes said Tuesday during a meeting of the State Board of Elections. “I think it is highly inappropriate that an all-Republican appointed board by Governor Bevin, that they would endeavor into an area that is outside wholly of their jurisdiction. And it is complete pontification.”