Hoover says historic Monday could be coming for House of Representatives

01/07/2016 10:35 PM

LEXINGTON — “Kentucky Tonight” host Bill Goodman apologized to the record crowd of 1,500 at Thursday’s annual Kentucky Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Lexington Convention Center as his cell phone rang.

What seemed like a violation of emcee etiquette was actually a setup for one of several shots at an absent House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who was traveling out of state for a legal case. House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, spoke in his place.

“It’s Morgan and Morgan,” said Goodman, referring to Stumbo’s employer before putting the phone to his ear.

“No sir, I don’t think there’s going to be an equal time. No sir. Right. Well, (House Minority Floor Leader Jeff) Hoover says you need to be here for the people,” he said, drawing laughs and applause.

Stumbo may have chuckled at that punchline, but he likely wouldn’t have laughed at Hoover’s conclusion in his remarks to the audience.

“It’s going to be an interesting weekend coming up, and next Monday could be an historic day in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Hoover said.

He declined to elaborate after the event, but he did say he was referencing the state’s House of Representatives in his comment.

Hoover, R-Jamestown, also declined to say whether he has spoken with House Democrats about changing their party affiliations, although he joked at the onset of his speech that he was delayed in reaching the podium because some in the majority caucus “stopped me, gave me their phone numbers and said, ‘Call me tonight.’”

“I can’t clarify that and I can’t add anything to it right now,” he told reporters.

House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins said he wasn’t sure what Hoover meant in his final words, saying he was optimistic that none of the 50 members of his caucus would defect to the GOP.

Reps. Jim Gooch and Denny Butler joined the Republican ranks after last year’s constitutional elections, ultimately leaving House Democrats with a 50-46 majority in the chamber. Four special elections in open House districts will be decided March 8, and Republicans are looking to wrest control of the chamber away from Democrats for the first time since 1921.

“I think the people we’ve got in our caucus are strong,” Adkins, D-Morehead, told Pure Politics. “I think they’re entrenched. I think they’ve got one thing on their mind during this budget session, and that’s doing the people’s business and working together the best we can to move Kentucky forward.

“In the political arena we’re recruiting candidates hard, and we’re going to be very competitive in these four open seats. We’re going to try to win all four of them, we’re going to have top-tier candidates, and … we’re going to try not only to maintain our majority, we’re going to try to grow our majority in the future.”

The political battle for the state House provided fireworks during the chamber dinner, but Gov. Matt Bevin and legislative leaders stressed the need for bipartisan work in enacting meaningful laws that would help Kentucky’s growth.

Bevin also offered a glimpse at his upcoming budget proposal, which he said would be “realistic” and “more austere.”

“We must get our financial house in order,” he said. “We have to shore up the foundation. We need to stabilize our economy. We need to send a message to our credit-rating agencies that we are serious here in Kentucky because everything else we care about — the schools and the roads and the pension plans and everything we hold dear — is dependent upon whether or not we can afford these things and whether we have a credit rating that allows us to be able to borrow in those times when it is prudent to do so.”

Bevin urged the audience to be patient as he works to enact his campaign platform, which included a right-to-work law, school choice and tort reform, over the next four years.

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.


Subscribe to email updates.

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