Democratic leaders to meet next week to talk future of state party, Stumbo says

11/07/2015 05:39 PM

FRANKFORT — His party in flux after Republicans won five of seven constitutional offices in this week’s elections, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday Democratic leaders will discuss the Kentucky Democratic Party’s future sometime next week.

Stumbo said Friday that based on events following former Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s election in 2003, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway’s pick for KDP chairman, Patrick Hughes, may leave the post “at some point in the short future.”

Conway lost to Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin by 9 percent Tuesday.

“Gov. (Steve) Beshear, I know, wants to have that, some of those meetings next week with Alison Grimes and with Andy (Beshear) and others about how to move forward on that,” Stumbo told reporters after a House Democratic caucus meeting at the Capitol Annex.

It’s the second time since 1967 that Democrats haven’t won a gubernatorial election here, and Fletcher’s victory laid bare old divisions in the party’s ranks with the chairmanship up for grabs without a clear elected leader among Democrats.

Stumbo, the state’s attorney general at the time, sided with former KDP Chairman Jerry Lundergan and former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry against then-Auditor Crit Luallen, then-Treasurer Jonathan Miller and Steve Beshear, serving as the party’s general counsel at the time.

Lundergan assumed the top KDP post in January 2005 after the resignation of Lexington attorney Bill Garmer. That prompted Beshear to step down due to Lundergan’s past conviction for violating state ethics laws against lawmakers accepting no-bid contract work, which was later overturned.

Lundergan blamed Beshear’s decision on his support for former Gov. Wallace Wilkinson over Beshear in the 1987 gubernatorial election, according to a report by The Courier-Journal.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the next chairman will ultimately be selected by the KDP State Central Executive Committee, and he doesn’t expect there will be much contention among elected leaders within the party.

“If history tells us anything, if there were a battle that might be true,” Stumbo said when asked whether Attorney General-elect Andy Beshear would have an advantage with the committee given his father’s eight years as governor.

“But I don’t think there’s going to be a battle. I mean, I’ve talked to Alison, I’ve talked to Andy, talked to the governor, talked to Jerry yesterday. We’ve talked among ourselves, and I don’t foresee that there will be a big battle over that.”

Stumbo also addressed the prospects of losing members of his House caucus, whether through changing party affiliation or accepting positions in state government.

He said he has personally spoken with House Democrats frequently mentioned as targets of joining the Republican ranks or taking a government job, and “nobody has said that they’ve been approached.”

Democrats hold a 54-46 majority in the House, which is the last Southern legislative body in Democratic hands. After Fletcher’s election, Democrats lost seven seats in the 2004 presidential cycle.

“What they don’t understand, and I did remind them today, that’s an at-will job, and you may have a job today but you may be gone tomorrow,” Stumbo said. “… There’s no guarantees that if you do take a job that you’re going to have it the day after tomorrow or the next day or the next day.”

“If John Doe switches or takes a job in the administration, we’ll be there fighting for that seat,” he continued, noting he wouldn’t be surprised to see members of the GOP caucus joining Bevin’s administration.

Bevin, asked about the prospects of Democrats in the House changing their party affiliations, said he’s keeping his focus on his transition into office.

“These things, the makeup of the House and Senate, will be determined as time proceeds on any number of fronts, primarily the people themselves at the ballot box,” he said during a Capitol press conference Friday.

Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly identified former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and former Lt. Gov. Steve Pence.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.