MOREHEAD, Ky. (KT) – “Rocky Top” isn’t always a welcome tune in Kentucky.
But for one night in Morehead, the Tennessee anthem seemed fitting.
Longtime eastern Kentucky state legislative leader Rocky Adkins made the official announcement Wednesday of what everybody already knew: He will be seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor.
Adkins and running mate Stephanie Horne, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education, were warmly welcomed.
A bluegrass band played “Rocky Top” at the end of a raucous campaign kickoff at the Morehead Conference Center in front of a packed ballroom who chanted “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!” as he came from the back of the room to the front following some spirited endorsements.
Adkins was all in and confident with an announcement many have been waiting for years to happen.
He joins Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear in the May primary that could become more crowded before it’s over. Former state auditor Adam Edelen is expected to announce around Thanksgiving, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has shown interest as has state Rep. Attica Scott of Louisville.
Amy McGrath, who had a good showing in a loss to Andy Barr for the U.S. Congressional seat, has been mentioned by her campaign manager as a potential candidate.
But this night belonged to the 59-year-old Adkins, who has been a state legislator since he was 26 years old and served 14 years as the Majority House Leader until the Republicans took over the House two years ago.
Gov. Matt Bevin has said he will be seeking re-election although he has yet to file the papers that aren’t due until January.
“I want to make a promise to you with every one of you as my witness,” Adkins said to the crowd in his opening remarks. “As governor, I will work hard day in and day out, not for myself, not for the special interests, but for you.”
Republican Party Communicans Director Tres Watson had this reaction to Adkins entering the governor’s race.
“Rocky Adkins spent 14 years as House majority floor leader, passing eight budgets, all of which underfunded state pensions. We look forward to hearing his plans to fix the massive pension problem he was one of the leading causes of but, in the meantime, Governor Bevin and our Republican supermajorities will continue our work protecting the funding pensions for teachers, public workers and first responders.”
Adkins, a native of Sandy Hook, described himself as a Kentuckian “from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.” He considers himself a moderate Democrat who can win votes in some of the Republican counties in rural Kentucky, a key to wrestling the seat away from Bevin.