Beshear defends Thayer and accuses Williams of subverting gambling effort

01/31/2012 04:48 PM

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear turned to a familiar foil — Republican Senate President David Williams — and accused Williams without proof of trying to undermine the Republican senator who is likely to carry the gambling legislation.

Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican, has been in talks with the governor since December about sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would allow expanded gambling in Kentucky.

On Monday, a Frankfort pastor questioned whether Thayer might have a conflict of interest by sponsoring the gambling measure, according to the Herald-Leader’s John Cheves.

Thayer used to work in the horse industry and now runs a communications and consulting firm. But he declined to release the names of his clients or whether those clients might benefit from expanded gambling, Cheves reported Monday night. The pastor, Rev. Hershael York of Buck Run Baptist Church, said he would continue raising the questions. Earlier this month , York turned his prayer before the governor’s budget address into an argument against gambling.

Beshear was asked Tuesday whether he suspected Williams was responsible:

Thayer pledged “to lead” on the issue of gambling.

And he distributed to reporters a letter from the Legislative Ethics Commission that said he could legally sponsor a constitutional amendment that would pave the way for expanded gambling that could benefit “horse racing and other areas.”

Williams, however, told reporters he was not pleased to be drawn into the discussion.

He said he opposes gambling. But he said the governor is “disparaging me personally” and said he is trying to put the 2011 governor’s race behind him.

So far, neither Thayer nor the governor have revealed details of the expanded gambling proposal.

A constitutional amendment requires support of 23 senators and at least 60 votes in the House to pass. Beshear said he’s been meeting with Republicans and Democrats to lock up that support.

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