- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - It’s a low-profile job running an office some lawmakers want to abolish, yet five Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to serve as Kentucky’s treasurer - the most crowded field for any statewide office in this year’s primary.

The lineup features state Reps. Jim Glenn of Owensboro and Rick Nelson of Middlesboro; ex-lawmaker Richard Henderson of Mount Sterling; Louisville business executive Neville Blakemore and Louisville real estate agent Daniel Grossberg, who has ties to local and state Democratic politics.

“There’s a lot of us, which is really a surprise,” Glenn said.

Perhaps it’s such as a crowded field because the seat is open for the first time in eight years, he said.

All five candidates have tried to set themselves apart by touting their backgrounds and offering ideas for expanding the treasurer’s influence.

Nelson, a retired teacher, would like to get out of the office occasionally and teach financial literacy classes at high schools to highlight the importance of money management. Grossberg wants to consolidate the Department of Revenue into the treasurer’s office. Henderson wants to recruit a network of statewide volunteers to help return unclaimed property to rightful owners. Glenn proposes a crackdown on predatory lending that straps borrowers with high interest rates. Blakemore touts his background in building a business that he said shows his management skills.

Blakemore opened up a decided campaign cash advantage, reporting $238,381 on hand as of mid-April, three times more than the combined bankroll of his opponents. Blakemore loaned his campaign about $52,000. On Friday, Blakemore launched his first TV ad, a 30-second spot that depicts him as a super hero before touting his background as a small business owner.

The primary is May 19. The winner will face the survivor of a three-way Republican contest. The incumbent state treasurer, Democrat Todd Hollenbach, is in his second term and can’t serve again because of term limits.

The treasurer balances the state’s checkbook, collects and returns unclaimed property and handles other financial duties. The treasurer runs an office with about 30 employees and a yearly budget of $3.1 million. The treasurer is also a member of the state lottery board, the State Investment Commission and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System board of directors.

Those board positions give the treasurer a chance to help shape policy, the candidates said. Hollenbach used his position on the lottery board to help lead the push to start keno.

Grossberg said he would use his post on the teachers’ retirement system board to push for changes to the struggling pension system.

“I’d be the most vocal person on the board, and I would have quite a big soapbox as a statewide constitutional officer,” Grossberg said.

The treasurer’s office is seen by some in Frankfort as unnecessary. In 2014, the GOP-run Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have let Kentuckians decide whether to abolish the office. The measure fell short.

Supporters of shuttering the office say the treasurer’s duties could move to the Finance and Administration Cabinet.

The Democrats running for the job say an elected state treasurer serves as an independent watchdog overseeing state finances.

Each candidate says his background gives him an edge.

Glenn, 67, in his fifth term as a state representative, has taught business classes during his long career at Owensboro Community and Technical College.

Nelson, 60, said his nearly 30-year teaching career would give him special insight as a board member helping oversee the pension system for teachers.

“That would be a good, strong statement to have a retired teacher on that board looking after their money,” he said.

Henderson, 44, served four terms in the state House until his defeat last November. He is a former mayor of a small town in Montgomery County. As the owner of a small masonry company, he calls himself “the blue-collar guy in this race.”

“I understand budgets,” Henderson said.

Blakemore, 45, touts his experience as chairman of Great Northern Building Products, which makes products for the construction industry.

“You have to know what it’s like to work in a small business, to take a nickel and stretch it,” he said.

Grossberg, 36, has served on the executive committees of both the Jefferson County and statewide Democratic Party, but portrays himself as an outsider wanting to bring change to state government.

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