A businessman overcame the stigma of personal bankruptcy to win the Republican nomination for state auditor on Tuesday in a bid to become Kentucky's chief financial watchdog.
John T. Kemper III, a residential developer from Lexington, embraced the theme of a "debt-free Kentucky" on his campaign website but had to explain his own bankruptcy after a real estate development went bust. Kemper filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009.
The financial setback didn't derail Kemper's campaign as he defeated state Rep. Addia Wuchner by a wide margin for the GOP nomination. Kemper said his candor about his financial woes paid political dividends with Republican voters.
"I think people understand things happen that are beyond our control," Kemper said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "And that if you act responsibly and try to fight through things _ which we're doing with the Chapter 11 restructuring trying to sell off assets _ I think people appreciate that rather than people who just throw in the towel."
Kemper will face Democrat Adam Edelen in the November election. Edelen, a former chief of staff to Gov. Steve Beshear, was unopposed in the primary.
"Like a lot of families across Kentucky and the country, John is going through some tough times," Edelen said in wishing his opponent "the best" in trying to overcome his financial issues
"Now is not the time to get into how his personal financial problems relate to his ability to do the job of state auditor," Edelen said in a statement. "There's plenty of time between now and November for this debate and others."
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Kemper had 70,772, or 57 percent of the vote, to 52,824, or 43 percent, for Wuchner.
Kemper, a tea party enthusiast, said he would use the auditor's office to downsize government if elected in November.
He and his wife are making quarterly payments as part of a five-year restructuring plan to pay off debt, which totaled more than $3.4 million to their 20 largest creditors, according to the filing.