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Kentucky Secretary of State Forms Senate Exploratory Committee

Updated: 8:42 p.m.Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) has formed an exploratory committee to run for Senate, a move that would appear to indicate that a retirement announcement from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) is imminent.In making the announcement, Grayson reiterated that he has “no plans to run against Senator Bunning— — and one Republican political strategist confirmed Thursday that Bunning did in fact give Grayson the green light to open up an exploratory committee, a clear signal that he does not plan to seek another term in 2010. A second GOP source said Grayson was likely to run now, even if Bunning decides not to retire after all.But late Thursday, Bunning’s office said Grayson’s decision would not affect the Senator’s re-election plans. Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard said Bunning “has every intention of running” for re-election.Kentucky Republicans have been speculating that Bunning would make his retirement announcement May 9 at the state’s Lincoln Day Dinner.Grayson met with Bunning and other Members of the the Kentucky delegation this week before forming his exploratory committee. One of those meetings was with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has been a political mentor to Grayson.In their meeting McConnell “wished [Grayson] luck,— said McConnell’s chief of staff, Billy Piper.Grayson has hired McConnell’s pollster, Jan van Lohuizen.Bunning, meanwhile, has continued to insist he was running for re-election, and has lashed out at McConnell and other Republican leaders in recent months for what he believed to be their lack of support for his campaign. Another target of Bunning’s wrath has been National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas).NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said Cornyn would support Bunning “in whatever he decides to do.—In a statement Thursday, Grayson said: “I have formed an exploratory committee to allow me to formally raise and spend funds as I seek support for a bid for U.S. Senate. This exploratory committee will allow me to travel the Commonwealth, meet with potential supporters and lay the foundation for a campaign.—John Stanton and David M. Drucker contributed to his report.

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