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The Next Generation of Kentucky's Political Leadership

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Come on up for the rising
~ Bruce Springsteen

In 1980, David Broder wrote Changing of the Guard, an influential book about the upcoming generation of leaders in Washington.

Bringing the concept forward 30 years later, I asked a number of people in the "political know" of Kentucky the question. "Who do you see emerging as the next leaders of Kentucky?"

When we get to 2014 and 2015 (when a U.S. Senate race and Governor's race will be taking place) who are some of the names we will be talking about?

Political predicting can be tricky. If we had asked the question a year ago, Rand Paul would not have received much notice. Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo, neither whom will be seeking office in the near future, would have been on everyone's list.

Thus, many did not want to go on record. But some brave souls did.

Some of the names were long-time political veterans.

Several, including Covington attorney Phil Taliaferro, mentioned Louisville's "Mayor for Life," Jerry Abramson, who is running for Lt. Governor on a slate with incumbent Governor Steve Beshear. Lexington attorney Bill Garmer, a former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, was among many who mentioned State Auditor Crit Luallen.

Three names were frequently mentioned as "up and comers" on the Republican side. State Representatives Jamie Comer from Tompkinsville, Alecia Webb-Eddington from Kenton County and incoming State Senator Jared Carpenter of Richmond are all Republicans to watch.

Tiffany Nash, President of the Madison County Republican Women, noted Carpenter's tender age -- 33 -- and believes he has unlimited upside potential.

Louisville talk radio host, Joe Elliott, (970-AM WGTK) said that several of his Republican guests call Comer, who is running for Commissioner of Agriculture, as "the real deal." Webb-Eddington showed up on several lists, including that of Joni Jenkins, a Democratic state representative from Louisville. Jenkins (who was also mentioned, herself) was one of many who touted Democrat Sanny Overly as a person to watch.

Legendary Kentucky journalist and former head of the Appalachian Regional Commission (under Jimmy Carter) Al Smith joined Garmer and former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III in mentioning Lexington's incoming Mayor, Jim Gray. Garmer and Brown also noted incoming Louisville Mayor, Greg Fischer.

Smith touted three young people with considerable pedigrees: Clay Barkley, great grandson of Vice President (under Harry Truman) Alben Barkley, State Representative Martha Jane King of Logan County, granddaughter of Western Kentucky political powerhouse Rayburn Smith, and Jamie Emmons, 30, the son of political consultant Dale Emmons.

Jamie "made his bones" by managing Jim Gray's successful campaign for Lexington Mayor.

Dale Emmons and Bob Babbage mentioned Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Lexington attorney who is the daughter of former Kentucky Democratic party chair, Jerry Lundergan.

Although more as a behind the scenes player than a political candidate, Al Smith was high on Lexington technology guru Ben Self (and on his wife Rebecca) who was one of the key players in President Obama's internet fundraising operation.

Jim Gray had his own pick -- Craig Greenberg, 36, a Louisville attorney and a founding partner in the 21c Hotel group.

Like Greenberg, many of the names are of people who have not held political office. Republican state representative Bill Farmer, of Lexington, thought that Bill Samuels Jr., President of Maker's Mark Distillery, and Bill Farish, son of the Ambassador to England, might be potential candidates.

Former Secretary of State Bob Babbage mentioned several people, including Adam Edelen, who is running for State Auditor, a position Babbage once held. Babbage and several others touted former Kentucky Democratic Party chair, Jennifer Moore, who is a Louisville trial lawyer.

John Y. Brown III noted Luther Deaton, the CEO of Central Bank in Lexington.

Babbage, Garmer and several others mentioned Louisville attorney Morgan McGarvey as someone to watch.

From the western part of the state, outgoing Madisonville Mayor Will Cox was frequently mentioned. But Cox, himself, likes Henderson County Attorney Steve Gold and state representatives John Tilly (Hopkinsville) and Will Coursey (Benton).

Award winning author and Republican power broker Rick Robinson sees the future of Kentucky's Republican Party in Lexington attorney Blake Brickman. Brickman is the grandson of a former Democratic governor, Ned Breathitt, and is a former aide to Senator Jim Bunning.

State Senator Ray Jones, of Pikeville, and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer were names from the eastern part of the state.

Although Mongiardo, Trey Grayson and Jonathan Miller are sitting out the next election cycle, few people believe that they are out of politics permanently. Each is expected to come back in the future.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC of Richmond Kentucky is an award winning columnist and Huffington Post contributor. He is the founder of McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement consulting firm and author of two books, including Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners Losers and What to Do When you Win the Lottery. McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

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