GOP Sens. Givens, Higdon elected to Senate leadership posts

11/25/2014 07:04 PM

Kentucky Senate Republicans elected two new faces to its leadership team, as Sen. David Givens went unopposed in his bid for president pro tem and Sen. Jimmy Higdon ousted Sen. Brandon Smith for majority whip.

Senate Republicans met in Frankfort Tuesday for leadership elections, and only two spots were contested. Aside from the Higdon-Smith race, Senate Majority Caucus Chair Dan Seum of Louisville fended off a challenge from Sen. Paul Hornback, a Shelbyville Republican who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Senate President Robert Stivers said he’s happy with the leadership team assembled, although Tuesday’s pair of contested elections are not reflections of animosity within the GOP ranks.

Stivers, a Manchester Republican who was unchallenged for the top Senate leadership post, said he and Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican who was also unopposed, approached Tuesday’s elections with inclusiveness and “a team approach” in selecting the next slate of leaders for the state Senate.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of anybody being for or against anybody or having any type of adversarial relationship,” Stivers told Pure Politics in a phone interview. “It’s just that people like to have differing roles, and we saw two people who wanted to have a differing role. One of them was successful; one of them wasn’t.”

He added, “The thing that Dan Seum said when he came out was that he was going to call Paul up and take him out to dinner. Paul accepted, so there’s not anything personal to this, and Sen. Smith’s comment was that he was going to help Jimmy transition in as quickly as possible.”

Higdon, a Lebanon Republican who chairs the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, said he appreciated the show of support from his caucus. He unsuccessful ran for majority whip two years ago, he said.

Higdon called Smith “a class act” and said the Hazard Republican offered his help in any way, including some fundraising information he wanted to share.

Higdon said his pitch to the caucus centered on the time he could dedicate to the leadership post as well as his trustworthiness.

“Leadership takes a lot of time,” Higdon said in a phone interview with Pure Politics. “… I don’t have any place that I have to show up and punch a clock at every day. I had two businesses that did tie me down quite a bit, and I’ve sold both of those businesses, and so I have time to devote to the leadership position, and like I said, I’m a person they can trust.”

Smith, who was elected whip in 2012, told Pure Politics that “there are no sour grapes” in his loss, “only solidarity.”

“For those of us who choose to live in the world of politics, we assume inherent risks, defeat being chief among them,” he said in a text message. “While I lost my bid for reelection as whip, there is little effect on the tremendous momentum we as Senate Republicans have generated. In truth, any member of our caucus has the capability to step up and move our cause forward.”

Givens, R-Greensburg, did not return a call seeking comment late Tuesday.

Retiring Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, counted the votes in Tuesday’s elections, and Stivers said totals were not announced. Stivers and Givens must be confirmed by the full Senate, which Republicans will hold with a 26-seat majority in January.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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