GOP caucus to vote Saturday for Senate president

11/05/2010 10:33 AM

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has called the Republican Senate caucus to Elizabethtown on Saturday to vote on the leadership team, including whether he or Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, should be the next president.

The Republican caucus — now with 23 members including independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah — will meet in a private caucus meeting before the Republican Party’s state central committee meeting Saturday morning.

Williams has locked up support from a few senators who had been coy, publicly at least, about their votes, including Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville.

“It’s my personal opinion the caucus will certainly re-elect Senate President David Williams as the president of the Senate,” Buford said Saturday morning. “It’s hard to doubt your leader when you’re having success.”

The Senate Republicans had a net gain of two seats in Tuesday night’s election. Despite losing state Sen. Elizabeth Tori of Hardin County, Republican candidates defeated two Democratic incumbents and picked up the open seat in Central Kentucky formerly held by the Democrats’ Senate leader. And the GOP held open seats in Spencer, Shelby and Bullitt counties.

Buford, who is out of state, said he e-mailed his vote for Williams in Thursday night. Buford initially held back picking a side when Denton announced she would run against Williams for Senate president.

Denton, who has served in the Senate since 1994, announced her challenge to Williams in June, two months before Williams jumped into the 2011 race for governor. Democrats have criticized Williams for seeking re-election for the Senate presidency at the same time as running for governor.

Denton did not return a message left by cn|2 Politics on Thursday.

The election of the majority caucus’ leaders has generally taken place at a caucus retreat in early December.

But Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said it’s not unusual for it to be moved up.

“They’ve been done earlier and later,” he said. “There’s no set time. There has been an announced challenge to a member of leadership. The decision was made in consultation with the members that it’s best to get this behind us quickly so we can begin working on the agenda for the next session.”

Thayer has been an outspoken supporter of Williams’s re-election as president.

And Buford said the caucus could come together at any time to take up leadership votes.

“It’s happened in the past,” he said. For instance, Republicans got together in the middle of a session in the late 1990s to decide whether to retain Sen. Dan Kelly as the GOP floor leader.

Technically, the entire Senate must vote on the president. But getting the support of the majority caucus is the real race.

Several of the Republican freshmen elected early this week say they’re committing to Senate President David Williams, as well.

Mike Wilson, who unseated Sen. Mike Reynolds of Bowling Green, told cn|2 Politics that Williams helped him with his race and he hadn’t heard from Denton.

Incoming freshman senator Jared Carpenter of Richmond also said he appreciated Williams’ support during his race.

Joe Bowen of Owensboro, another new GOP senator, declined to comment.

- Ryan Alessi with additional reporting by Kenny Colston


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