- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Alison Lundergan Grimes will run for re-election as Kentucky’s secretary of state, ending months of speculation about the former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate’s political plans for 2015.

The decision likely clears the way for Attorney General Jack Conway to become the party’s nominee for governor. The filing deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday, and nearly every other potential major Democratic challenger has announced plans not to run.

Grimes spent more than $18 million in 2014 trying to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell in a race that garnered her national attention. That prompted speculation that Grimes might run for governor in 2015 or rekindle a decades-old political rivalry and run for attorney general against Andy Beshear, son of Gov. Steve Beshear, who has feuded with Grimes‘ father in the past.

But a 15-point drubbing at the polls in November likely limited her options in 2015.

“Only the good Lord upstairs knows what’s meant to be,” Grimes told reporters after announcing her decision. “We’re here today and excited about filing papers for re-election.”

Grimes has kept a low profile since losing to McConnell in a race that saw the 30-year incumbent win not just a record sixth term in office but become the majority leader of the Senate after a wave of Republican victories across the country. Her silence left many to wonder whether she would stay in politics following such a bruising campaign.

But on Monday, Grimes announced her decision in front of about 100 supporters, including former governor and current state Sen. Julian Carroll and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, at the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center in Lexington. At one point, she admonished the crowd for being too quiet and urged them to cheer.

“Many might think that over the course of the past 18 months I would be discouraged. I’m not,” Grimes said. “And some might think that the millions of dollars in negative, nasty ads - over $71 million - that it has silenced me. It has not. I’m only stronger for it.”

Grimes ran negative ads too during last year’s U.S. Senate race, one of the most closely-watched campaigns in the country. But Grimes said she views her re-election campaign as running for an office as opposed to running against someone or against a party. Two Republicans have filed for the seat, Michael Pitzer of Louisville and former Erlanger City Councilman Stephen Knipper. Charles Lovett of Louisville has filed as a Democrat.

State lawmakers return to work next week, and Grimes announced an aggressive agenda for the final year of her first term. It includes passing a law that would allow people to register to vote online, much like a similar law Grimes pushed that allows military and overseas voters to register electronically. As the state’s top election official, she endorsed a law that would restore voting rights for some felons convicted of nonviolent crimes. And she called for the state to update its laws regarding nonprofits, but did not reveal specifics.

In a news release, Conway - the Democratic candidate for governor - said Grimes and her family were “longtime friends” and said “her energy and talents will be an asset to our efforts this fall.” Grimes declined to endorse Conway on Monday, saying she would wait until after Tuesday’s filing deadline. Conway campaigned for Grimes across the state during her Senate run and said after the election that he would be surprised if she ran for governor.

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