The Democratic field for Kentucky governor is taking shape with former State Auditor Adam Edelen becoming the third high-profile candidate in the party to officially to enter the contest.
In his opening pitch, the co-founder of the New Kentucky Project sought to position himself as the candidate of the future, contrasting his ideas with policies he described as carrying "the stale scent of incrementalism and nostalgia."
"We choose to build a new Kentucky, a modern Kentucky, one in which our people embrace the future rather than fear it," the newly-minted candidate announced.
To bring that message home, the former state auditor hit notes sure to please Kentuckians who lean left – promoting efforts to combat climate change through renewable energy opportunities in struggling coal communities, promising to appoint a cabinet made up of at least 50 percent women, endorsing affordable health care as a right, pledging not to accept PAC money, and backing medical marijuana while leaving the door open to recreational usage.
But Edelen also wants to run against labels, a strategy that Democrats had hoped would propel former retired fighter pilot Amy McGrath to Congress last year but ended in defeat to three-term Republican Andy Barr.
"Will there be some issues that I'll be on one side of the spectrum and others where I'm on the other? Yeah. Because that's who I am," the former top state financial watchdog said.
On pensions, Edelen favors some ideas put forth by his fellow primary rivals, including expanded gaming, but acknowledged the state lacks a silver bullet and vowed not to lose focus of the bigger picture.
"I am not somebody who's going to sit around and insist on drilling a dry hole," he told reporters. "And I, unlike others, will not hang the entire success of my administration on expanded gaming. It is part of the solution... but not the entire solution."
After a bruising upset to Republican Mike Harmon in 2015, Edelen went on to form a business consulting company that’s been instrumental in promoting alternative energy in Eastern Kentucky, including a major coalfield-to-solar project that could bring thousands of solar panels to a reclaimed strip mine in Pike County.
"This is a real project, not some politician's imaginary economic development proposal that evaporates in the light of day," the Democrat said, promising jobs for out-of-work coal miners and hope for the future.
While Attorney General Andy Beshear and House Minority Leader Rocky Adkinshave both selected running mates designed to appeal directly to educators, Edelen chose Louisville businessman, film producer, and author Gill Holland to share the ticket.
Remaining potential candidates, including Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, have just weeks to file their paperwork.