- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republican Matt Bevin jumped into Kentucky’s biggest political campaign for the second straight year, joining the crowded field of GOP candidates vying to wrest the governorship away from Democrats.

Hoping to capitalize on name recognition from his failed 2014 primary challenge against now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Bevin was the final entry into a four-way GOP gubernatorial primary.

Bevin, a Louisville businessman, drew slightly more than one-third of the vote as a political newcomer running against McConnell, who went on to win a sixth term in November.

Bevin introduced Jenean Hampton, a tea party enthusiast, as his running mate Tuesday - the last day for candidates to file for this year’s slate of statewide elections. Hampton, of Bowling Green, faced her own uphill campaign last year, losing to former state House Speaker Jody Richards in a legislative race.

Bevin, who has drawn tea party support, said Hampton brings “a wealth of experience” to the ticket from the private and nonprofit sectors. Both also served as military officers.

Bevin didn’t immediately delve into issues but sounded themes reminiscent of his Senate campaign.

“We are fiscally responsible … and we are individuals who believe that there is a better, more efficient way to manage government,” Bevin told reporters at the Capitol.

Hampton said she was honored to be on the ticket.

“I’m very excited at the prospect of helping Kentucky move forward and be truly prosperous,” she said.

Bevin called it a “very historic moment” as Hampton, who is black, stood at his side as they filed as a slate. Currently, no African-American holds a statewide-elected office in Kentucky.

Bevin said the GOP gubernatorial primary will be a “four-month sprint” to the May 19 primary election.

The other Republicans running for governor are state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner and former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott.

The others welcomed Bevin to the campaign.

“The Kentucky GOP primary just became more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” said David Adams, Scott’s campaign manager.

Heiner spokesman Doug Alexander said Heiner has been leading the discussion among Republican hopefuls on creating jobs, improving education and changing the political culture in the state Capitol.

“Everyone is welcome to the debate,” Alexander said.

In the Democratic primary for governor, two-term state Attorney General Jack Conway will face former congressional candidate Geoff Young. Conway already seemed to be looking ahead to the general election.

“We are going to win in November because we have the best record of service and the best plan for the future,” Conway said in a statement.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is in his second term and can’t serve again because of term limits.

Beshear’s son, Andy, drew no Democratic opponent in his bid for attorney general. Two Republicans are in the race - state Sen. Whitney Westerfield of Hopkinsville and Lawrence County Attorney Michael Hogan.

The race for state auditor will pit Democratic incumbent Adam Edelen against Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon of Danville. Neither candidate drew a primary opponent.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, who lost to McConnell in last November’s Senate race, drew one Democratic challenger, Charles Lovett of Louisville, in her bid for re-election as secretary of state. Two Republicans are in the race - Stephen Knipper of Independence and Michael Pitzer of Louisville.

The most crowded race is for state treasurer - with three Republicans and five Democrats running for the open seat.

State Reps. Richard Heath of Mayfield and Ryan Quarles of Georgetown will square off in the GOP primary for state agriculture commissioner. The lone Democratic candidate is Jean-Marie Lawson Spann of Union.

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