UK Unforgettable runs for Lt. Governor

By Patrick Sullivan

[email protected]

While UK basketball favorite Richie Farmer had terrific range on the court, he now hopes to expand that range beyond hardwood.

Farmer, a member of UK’s “Unforgettables,” announced Wednesday in Frankfort that he is running as Lt. Governor in Republican senate president David Williams’ 2011 gubernatorial campaign.

“Because of what Kentucky has done for me, I feel I must give back through public service,” Farmer said. “I am proud of my service and feel strongly that I have even more to offer people of Kentucky.”

A Manchester, Ky. native, Farmer played shooting guard for the University of Kentucky from 1988 to 1992, where he posted career averages of 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Farmer and teammates Deron Feldhaus, Sean Woods and John Pelphrey were known as “the Unforgettables.” UK retired his No. 32 in 1992.

Farmer received a Bachelor of Science with a double major in agricultural economics and agribusiness management. Eleven years after his UK basketball career ended, Kentucky elected him Commissioner of Agriculture in 2003. He was re-elected to another four-year term in 2007.

Despite spending seven years in state government, some are skeptical of his experience, but Farmer said he will be prepared when the election arrives.

“You can always learn more about state government,” he said. “My record as commissioner speaks for its self though.”

Williams defended his running mate, saying that Farmer is a unique politician who has tremendous ability and potential.

“Not every athlete at UK receives a double major,” Williams said. “I hope everybody underestimates him because he’s always been underestimated.”

Born in Burksville, David Williams has served in the General Assembly since 1985.  His first two years were in the House, then he entered the Senate in 1987. He has been Senate president since January 2000 after Republicans gained a majority in that chamber for the first time in history.

After much experience in state government, Williams believes the state is adrift and in need of a positive agenda centered around jobs.

“That will move this state forward and put us in competition with the other states,” Williams said. “Especially those states in the south that have been far more successful than we have been in creating jobs and making prosperity happen.”

Despite confidence in Farmer, the Williams-Farmer campaign faces skepticism. Democratic politicial professional Dale Emmons said he believes Williams, a UK graduate, put Farmer on his ticket for his name, not his legislative prowess.

“Richie Farmer is a bona fide celebrity,” he said. “He has earned measured loyalty from all of Kentucky. People know his name.”

Emmons said that Farmer’s personality differs greatly from Williams’. He described Williams’ leadership style as combative and confrontational, but said Farmer’s charismatic attitude and basketball pedigree may mask Williams’ behavior.

“He put Farmer on his ticket to give his campaign viability,” Emmons said. “David Williams wants to distract the discussion from him.”

John David Dyche, a columnist for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, had more confidence in the campaign.

“It’s a solid ticket,” he said. “Williams is skilled politician and Farmer is a proven vote-getter.”

Dyche said that Farmer’s stardom will attract many votes, but that is not his only contribution to the campaign. Williams put Farmer on the ticket to get votes and clean up Kentucky, Dyche said.

To get more than just UK Basketball fan votes, Farmer will have to demonstrate what he can do in office, UK journalism professor Al Cross said.

“He’ll have to prove a modicum of knowledge to win this,” Cross said.

Like Dyche and Emmon, Cross said that Farmer will attract many votes thanks to his glory days at UK.

“Kentuckians like to be represented by someone who they are proud of,” Cross said. “Richie Farmer is a Kentucky icon. His pedigree is mythical.”