Democratic Candidates for Governor Avoiding Ties to Clinton

After introducing Clinton as "the next president" in 2014, Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway dodged a question about the presidential race in a debate Wednesday.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, September 10, 2015.  (Scott Olson AFP/Getty)

As Hillary Clinton battles the perception that she's struggling to win over support in the 2016 presidential race, Democrats running for governor in 2015 are avoiding association with her as they finish their campaigns.

In a debate Wednesday morning, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democrats' nominee for governor in the state, declined to say who he would support for president next year. Conway suggested he might consider backing Vice President Joe Biden if he joined the race, citing his friendship with Biden’s son, the late Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.

“I’m going to say this. Out of respect for my dear friend, the former attorney general of Delaware, I’m going to say I intend to vote for the Democratic nominee. I just don’t know who that is yet,” Conway said.

That's not the tune Conway was singing in 2014. Conway introduced Clinton at a rally for Kentucky Democrats' Senate nominee, Alison Lundergan Grimes, last year, where Conway said: "I have a distinct honor tonight. I stand here on this stage where soon you will hear from the next president of the United States." America Rising, the Republican opposition research group, captured the moment on video.

But Clinton’s stock has tumbled since then—when some Democrats were musing that she could help the party recover in conservative areas that had drifted away during President Obama's administration. Clinton has struggled to deal with the controversy over her private email server and fight off a sharp rise in the primary polls by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Clinton so far has no events planned to help Democrats in Kentucky this year.

Democrats' leading gubernatorial candidate in Louisiana has also taken steps to avoid Clinton. State Rep. John Bel Edwards cited a scheduling conflict earlier in September that prevented him from appearing at a Clinton fundraiser in Baton Rouge—an excuse we've heard often from some Democratic candidates dodging appearances with President Obama in recent years.

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