Jack Conway (politician)

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Jack Conway
49th[1] Attorney General of Kentucky
Assumed office
January 7, 2008
Governor Steve Beshear
Preceded by Greg Stumbo
Personal details
Born John William Conway
(1969-07-05) July 5, 1969 (age 45)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Davenport
Children 2
Alma mater Duke University
George Washington University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Government website

John William "Jack" Conway (born July 5, 1969) is an American politician from Kentucky. Conway is a member of the Democratic Party and has served as the Attorney General of Kentucky since 2008. Prior to his election as attorney general, he was the nominee for Kentucky's 3rd congressional district in the 2002 elections, narrowly losing to Republican incumbent Anne Northup.

Conway was the Democratic nominee in the 2010 U.S. Senate election, seeking the seat of the retiring Republican Senator Jim Bunning. He lost the general election to Republican nominee Rand Paul on November 2, 2010.[2] He won re-election to a second term as Attorney General in 2011 with 55% of the vote.[3]

Conway is running for Governor of Kentucky in the 2015 gubernatorial election, with State Representative Sannie Overly as his running mate.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Conway was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to a Catholic family,[5] the eldest of four siblings. His parents are Tom, a Louisville lawyer, and Barbara Conway.[6] A graduate of St. Xavier High School,[6] Conway earned a bachelor's degree in public policy studies from Duke University in 1991.[7] From 1991 to 1997, he worked as legislative aide to the U.S. House Banking Committee. He graduated with a Juris Doctor from George Washington University Law School in 1995.[8]

On May 20, 2006, Conway married Elizabeth Davenport and they have two daughters named Eva and Alex.[9][10]

Conway and his father are partners in thoroughbred racehorse Stately Victor, named after Jack's childhood best friend who died at age 23. On April 11, 2010 the colt won the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes and later ran in the Kentucky Derby.[11]

Political career[edit]

Conway joined Paul E. Patton's gubernatorial campaign in September 1995.[12] After being elected, Patton employed Conway as legal counsel to his executive cabinet and his chief energy advisor.[12][13] Conway was the primary architect of the Kentucky Higher Education Reform Act of 1997, one of Patton's signature legislative accomplishments.[14] On August 3, 1999, Patton appointed Conway deputy secretary of his executive cabinet, serving under secretary Crit Luallen.[12] Conway was responsible for drafting Patton's 2000 legislative package to the General Assembly.[12] He also co-chaired task forces charged with investigating changes to the state's regulation of electrical utilities and the exposure of workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant to radioactive plutonium.[15]</ref>[16]

Campaign for U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Anne Northup defeated Conway in the 2002 congressional elections.

Republican Conway announced his resignation from Patton's cabinet in May 2001 amid speculation that he would seek the 3rd district congressional seat of incumbent Anne Northup.[13] Conway believed Northup's vote to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998 made her vulnerable in the Democratic-leaning district.[14] Washington, D.C.-based Roll Call also listed Northup among the ten most vulnerable incumbents entering the 2002 elections.[17]

After leaving state government, Conway joined the law firm of Conliffe Sandman Sullivan.[5] On June 18, 2001, he officially announced his candidacy for Northup's seat.[18] Later that week, Patton named Conway chair of the newly formed Kentucky State Energy Policy Advisory Board.[18] The move angered state Republicans; state party chair Ellen Williams said that Conway's appointment "injected hard-core partisan politics" into the issue of the state's energy future.[18] In May 2002, Conway resigned from the board, citing his election campaign.[19]

The race also affected the General Assembly's ability to pass a reapportionment bill in 2002. The state Senate's Republican majority proposed adding Republican-leaning Oldham County to the 3rd district, while the Democrat-controlled state House resisted the plan, resulting in an impasse for much of the legislative session.[20] Ultimately, the Assembly passed a plan that kept the 3rd district entirely within Jefferson County, adding several politically conservative suburbs of Louisville instead of Oldham County.[21] Even with the addition of these areas, however, Democrats held a voter registration advantage of nearly two-to-one in the district.[22] Both Conway and Northup expressed support for the approved district boundaries.[20] Despite an extended filing deadline, neither candidate faced a challenge in their respective party primaries.[23]

Conway portrayed Northup as an ineffective legislator who would not protect Social Security and healthcare benefits.[24][25] Northup countered that, at 33 years old, Conway lacked experience, and said not being married had deprived him of "a responsibility to somebody else".[22] She also attacked Conway for his ties to Governor Patton, who had become embroiled in a sex-for-favors scandal.[26] Northup's campaign raised and spent almost twice as much money as Conway's – aided by fundraisers featuring President George W. Bush (twice) and Vice President Dick Cheney – allowing her to run more television ads on the district's four network television stations.[22][27][28] Conway countered with a rally at the headquarters of the local chapter of the United Auto Workers – who gave him their endorsement – featuring Democratic House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.[25][29] Gephardt promised that, if Conway was elected and Democrats gained control of the House, he would appoint Conway to the powerful Appropriations Committee, of which Northup was then a member.[25] In the November 5 general election, Northup defeated Conway with 51.6% of the vote to Conway's 48.4%.[30] Patton later told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he thought the scandal in his administration cost Democrats several legislative races, including Conway.[31]

Political interim[edit]

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to convince Conway to run again for the same seat in 2004, but he declined, saying another loss could damage his nascent political career.[32][33] He was also nominated as chairman of the state Democratic party, but withdrew his name from consideration, saying the position would take too much time from his law practice.[34] In September 2004, Conway was named chairman of John Kerry's presidential campaign in Kentucky.[35]

After State Auditor Crit Luallen and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson declined to seek the 2007 Democratic nomination for governor, Conway told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he would "step up and look at the race", although he conceded he would need to move quickly to raise enough money to run a competitive campaign.[36] In November 2006, Conway announced that former Governor Brereton Jones had asked Conway to consider being his running mate if Jones sought the nomination; Conway said he would consider Jones' proposal while continuing to explore his own gubernatorial bid.[37] When Congressman Ben Chandler, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2003, announced in late November that he would not seek the nomination, Conway said he was seeking a running mate and lining up support for a gubernatorial campaign, estimating that he would need to raise a minimum of $2.5 million to be competitive.[38] In early December, Democratic leaders believed that Jones and Conway would run as a ticket for governor and lieutenant governor, but the deal fell apart days later when Jones announced he would not seek the office.[39] A week later, State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, who had also discussed forming a ticket with Conway, announced he would seek the gubernatorial nomination with Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze as his running mate instead of Conway.[40] In late January 2007, after Bruce Lunsford named sitting Attorney General Greg Stumbo as his running mate in the gubernatorial contest, Conway said it was "highly likely" that he would seek that office in lieu of a gubernatorial bid.[41]

Attorney General of Kentucky[edit]

On January 30, 2007, Conway officially announced his candidacy for state attorney general at a rally at the Capitol Rotunda.[42] His opponent in the Democratic primary was former Assistant Attorney General Robert Bullock.[43] Conway stated that, as attorney general, he would prioritize a crackdown on drug and computer crimes and secure additional resources for local prosecutors such as county and commonwealth's attorneys.[43] Bullock's campaign cited Conway's inexperience, calling him an "inexperienced candidate – one who embraces style over substance".[44]

Conway's campaign raised over $320,000, more than the five other attorney general candidates – Republican and Democrat – combined.[7] The paper's editorial board endorsed Conway, although it opined, "Democrats can't go wrong Tuesday when they pick a nominee for attorney general."[45] Conway also received the endorsements of several labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the United Auto Workers, and the IUE-CWA.[46][47] Conway criticized Bullock for accepting the endorsement of the politically conservative Freedom's Heritage Forum, who issued the endorsement, in part, because Bullock opposed state universities' extension of domestic partnership benefits to its employees.[7] Conway secured the Democratic nomination, winning the primary with 71.8 percent of the vote.[48][49]

Conway's opponent in the general election was Lexington's Stan Lee, the minority whip in the state House of Representatives, who the Lexington Herald-Leader referred to as an "arch-conservative".[50] Conway won the general election on November 6, 2007, with 60.5 percent of the vote to Lee's 39.5 percent.[51] As attorney general Conway created a cybercrimes unit and forensics laboratory that prosecutes internet crimes and trains prosecutors and police officers.[8] Conway led a state investigation into price gouging at Kentucky gasoline stations before Hurricane Ike made landfall in September 2008, resulting in seven stations paying settlements.[52] He also prosecuted Medicaid fraud cases[8] and renegotiated gas rates increases.[53]

In August 2009, Conway launched the Prescription Drug Diversion Task Force, targeting prescription drug trafficking, overprescribing physicians, and illegal out-of-state pharmacies. The Task Force also conducted police training statewide.[54]

In November 2009, Conway asked Governor Steve Beshear to set execution dates for three men on death row. This was criticized by opponents of the death penalty. The Kentucky Supreme Court decided to stay executions until the Kentucky Department of Corrections follows mandatory administrative procedures.[55]

2010 Senate election[edit]

On April 9, 2009, Conway announced he was running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jim Bunning. Conway became the third member of the Democratic Party to enter the race, following Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo, who announced his candidacy in January, and former U.S. Customs agent Darlene Fitzgerald Price.[56] Conway consulted with Democratic Congressman Ben Chandler and state Auditor Crit Luallen about running for the seat. Due to Conway's large margin of victory in his state-wide campaign for attorney general, his fundraising ability, and the age difference between Conway and Bunning, Conway was described as a viable candidate.[57]

In May 2010, Daniel Mongiardo filed an ethics complaint against Conway alleging Conway received more than $70,000 in donations from utility company lobbyists for which he approved a $22 million rate increase from Louisville Gas & Electric.[58] The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that in a case about Atmos Energy "Conway announced March 12 that he had reached an agreement that reduced by 38 percent the company's original request for a rate hike of $9.4 million, cutting it to $5.9 million".[59] Conway's spokeswoman stated that Conway has saved ratepayers "$100 million dollars by forcing proposed rate hikes to be lower in 18 cases before the PSC since 2008".[59] Mongiardo alleged that Conway benefited from the rate increase because Conway owns assets in Kinder Morgan, a partner of Atmos Energy.[60] On July 14, 2010 the ethics complaint against Conway was dropped and the Kentucky ethics panel stated "campaign contributions aren't considered gifts under the ethics code, and as a result the ethics commission doesn't have jurisdiction."[61]

Conway at Fancy Farm 2011

On May 18, 2010, Conway narrowly won the primary election to secure the Democratic nomination.[62] After Bunning decided to retire, Conway faced Republican nominee Rand Paul for the Senate seat in November 2010.[62]

Following the primary election Conway criticized Paul for his position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[63] He first claimed Paul wanted to "repeal" it and later stated that Paul rejected and would have opposed inclusion of a "fundamental provision of the act". Conway criticized Paul for a 2002 letter in which Paul opposed the Fair Housing Act.[63] Paul had stated that "a free society" should allow discrimination by private businesses even if he disagreed.[63] Conway argued that Paul held a "narrow, rigid philosophy that government shouldn't deal with businesses at all".[64]

As of July 15, 2010, Conway had received $3.4 million in campaign contributions and loaned his campaign $525,000, surpassing Paul in available funds.[65] Conway had been criticized by Paul for appearing at a fundraising event with a group of U.S. trial lawyers in Canada.[65]

On October 15, 2010, in the wake of news coverage of Rand Paul's alleged activities in college, Conway began running a TV ad asking why Paul joined a group at Baylor that mocked Christianity and told a classmate his god was "Aqua Buddha." The ad triggered an angry response from Paul, who claimed Conway was questioning his Christian faith.[66] The ad was controversial, but the Conway campaign continued to run it, saying that it questioned Paul's judgment, not his faith.[67]

Political positions[edit]

A July 2010 review of Conway's public statements over the last decade by The Courier-Journal found that while he does have liberal views on some issues such as reproductive rights and health-care reform, his outlook is conservative or moderate on others, including the death penalty. He told the interviewer, "I consider myself a political moderate. Fiscally, I can be pretty conservative. I'm pretty conservative, I think, on the 2nd Amendment."[68]


Conway supports legalized abortion that "should be as rare as possible, but should be kept safe and legal." He opposes late-term abortion, and opposes a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.[69] In his October 25, 2010 debate with Rand Paul, he reiterated his earlier statement that abortion should be rare but also safe and legal.[70]

Animal welfare[edit]

In March 2014, Conway joined Kentucky to a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster against California's egg production standards. In October 2014, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting the states' challenge to Proposition 2, California's prohibition on the sale of eggs laid by caged hens kept in conditions more restrictive than those approved by California voters in a 2008 ballot initiative. Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled that Kentucky and the other states lacked legal standing to sue on behalf of their residents and that the plaintiffs were representing solely the interests of egg farmers, not "a substantial statement of their populations." [71][72][73][74]

Civil liberties[edit]

In 2002, Conway expressed support for some provisions of the Patriot Act. In 2010, he expressed satisfaction that the act had been amended to provide more judicial restraint of surveillance by federal agents.[68] On February 27, 2014, AG Conway filed for a 90-day delay on District Court Judge John Heyburn's February 12, 2014 ruling, stating the ban on Kentucky recognizing same-sex marriages from other states unconstitutional as Conway contemplated appealing the ruling.[75] On March 4, Conway announced he would not appeal the ruling, saying that it had been decided correctly in his opinion. Governor Beshear announced he would retain outside counsel to pursue the appeal.[76]

Energy policy[edit]

Conway opposes "cap and trade" legislation favored by the administration of Barack Obama, but stated he could support a version that includes protections for coal industry and consumers of Kentucky.[77] In a letter written by Conway to the Environmental Protection Agency, he stated that "Coal is an integral part of Kentucky's economy and an important domestic energy resource" and that he supported "environmentally-conscious mining and [was] concerned that a series of new waivers to existing regulations [would] lead to the potential for abuse or arbitrary enforcement".[78]


In a 2002 Project Vote Smart survey, Conway stated, "I support the 2nd Amendment--and believe there is nothing wrong with owning a gun for personal protection or recreation." Conway supported maintaining and strengthening current federal legislation, such as required background checks at gun shows and child safety locks, but opposed raising the legal age from 18 to 21 and also opposed requiring a license for gun possession.[79]

Fiscal responsibility and budget deficits[edit]

Looking at the federal budget during the 2010 campaign, Conway identified $430 billion in potential savings over the next ten years. He believed nearly half this amount could be saved by letting Medicare negotiate prices for drugs with pharmaceutical companies, and Conway says this would be the first piece of legislation he would introduce if elected. He also believed another $100 billion could be saved by reducing Medicare fraud using state-based agencies, just as Conway was able to reduce Medicaid fraud in Kentucky. He also wants to close corporate tax loopholes that encourage businesses to move factories and jobs overseas.[80]

Foreign policy[edit]

Conway stated in 2002, during his congressional campaign, that he supported George W. Bush's foreign policy and would have voted to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[81] In 2010, Conway told the Courier-Journal that he now opposes the Iraq War because the Bush administration overstated Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, adding that "In this case, they trumped up the intelligence and then they didn't have a plan for winning the peace".[68]

Health care[edit]

Conway supported the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama.[82] Following passage of the health care act, Conway refused to join other state attorneys general in a constitutional challenge stating, "during the worst economic crisis in a generation, I will not misuse the resources or power of my office to pursue litigation that is without merit".[83]


Conway supports a pathway to legalization for some illegal immigrants, but said that preference should be given to those here legally. He has called for action against businesses that employ illegal aliens. He believes that "If you're born on the United States soil, then you're a United States citizen," and opposes breaking up families by deporting parents of children born here.[68]

Jobs and the economy[edit]

Conway proposes a hometown tax credit to reward companies and small businesses that create jobs in Kentucky. Employers who prove they've boosted employment over the previous year by creating new jobs, increasing paid hours, or raising wages, would qualify for a 20% tax credit. The total benefit would be capped at $500,000 per firm. Conway says such a tax credit would be fully paid for by repealing foreign income and interest deductions, and closing offshore tax loopholes.[84] Conway's jobs plan also calls for the creation of a Small Business Loan Fund that will put $30 billion of new capital toward lending for small businesses through community banks and credit unions.[84]

In 2002, while running for the U.S. House of Representatives, Conway supported the Bush tax cuts. During the 2010 primary for the U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky, Conway told the editorial board of The Courier-Journal that most of the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire. In early August 2010 Conway told CN|2 Politics, "I don't think that a recession is any time to raise taxes. So I think the Bush tax cuts ought to be extended for some period of time, especially the individual taxes, the estate tax provisions, keeping the capital gains tax at 15 percent. I think they ought to be extended".[85]


Conway was a supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. In a 2010 debate, Conway said that employees should be able to unionize if over 50% of them signed a card.[86]

Medicare and Social Security[edit]

If elected to the Senate, Conway says the first piece of legislation he will introduce would repeal what he calls a "sweetheart deal" for the pharmaceutical industry that currently prohibits Medicare from negotiating for lower prices on prescription drugs. Citing a report from the National Committee on Social Security and Medicare, he says that this alone would save the federal government $200 billion.[87]

Conway opposes privatizing Social Security and thinks these benefits should be maintained and protected from any outside risks associated with the financial markets.[88] In his 2002 run for Congress Conway stated that raising the retirement age and cutting benefit levels "to save Social Security" has to be considered, but retracted these comments by November 2002.[89][90]

War on Drugs[edit]

Conway has stated that ""We need a United States senator who understands that we need federal funding for treatment, we need federal funding for law enforcement investigators, and we need a collaborative approach of federal, state and local (resources) to deal with the drug problem"[91] in Kentucky where prescription drug abuse is of particular concern.[92][93] Conway has pledged his steadfast support of Operation UNITE,[94] an anti-drug initiative in Kentucky that receives the majority of its funding at the federal level.[93] He has also called for the creation of a network of prescription pill tracking systems across the United States, where each state would adopt a prescription pill tracking program similar to the KASPER system in Kentucky.[95]

When asked if he was in favor of hemp farming for Kentucky, Conway replied: "It's a law enforcement issue. The problem with hemp is, when you're trying to eradicate marijuana, which is a major law enforcement issue in Kentucky, I know how difficult it can be for law enforcement to make the distinction, and so I think we need to leave that issue to those in law enforcement who are advising us on it. If there's a difficulty in distinguishing between hemp and marijuana then we shouldn't have hemp farming in Kentucky, because it's more of a law enforcement issue about making certain we don't let a gateway drug get into the marketplace."[96]

Conway indicated in a 2002 Project Vote Smart survey that he does not support decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.[79]


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  76. ^ Loftus, Tom; Kenning, Chris (March 5, 2014). "Beshear: Kentucky to appeal gay-marriage ruling despite AG Conway's refusal". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved March 6, 2015. (subscription required)
  77. ^ Gerth, Joseph (May 9, 2010). "Top Senate candidates from Kentucky oppose Obama's cap-and-trade proposal". The Courier-Journal. Archived from the original on June 17, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010. 
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  82. ^ "Editorial | Conway is best Senate choice for Democrats". The Courier-Journal. April 18, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015. 
  83. ^ Conway, Jack (April 5, 2010). "Debate: Health Care Suits Waste of Time and Money". AOL News. Retrieved May 30, 2010. [dead link]
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  91. ^ Amanda Van Benschoten (September 1, 2010). "Conway talks drug enforcement with local officials". Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  92. ^ ""Prescription drug abuse ravages state's youth" (July 6, 2009)". MSNBC. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
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  95. ^ Colston, Kenny (September 22, 2010). "Jack Conway says he wants to see prescription pill tracking in every state". CN2 Politics. Archived from the original on September 28, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2010. 
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External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Eleanor Jordan
Democratic nominee for Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 3rd district

Succeeded by
Tony Miller
Preceded by
Daniel Mongiardo
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Kentucky
(Class 3)

Most recent
Legal offices
Preceded by
Greg Stumbo
Attorney General of Kentucky