House Democrats caucus for first time since Trump tsunami swept them out of majority

11/16/2016 04:00 PM

FRANKFORT — Still reeling after losing 17 seats and giving up their majority for the first time in 95 years, House Democrats on Wednesday caucused for the first time since last week’s elections.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo was among those swept out of office, but he told reporters after the hour and a half meeting that Democrats will adjust to their new position as the minority party in the lower chamber.

“The Democratic caucus is going to be an accountable caucus,” he said, noting that Democrats also talked about this year’s election results.

“They’re going to hold obviously the majority to the accountability standards that one would expect for the minority caucus, and it’s a new role for them. We talked a little bit about that.”

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, chalked up his and other Democrat’s losses in Kentucky to President-elect Donald Trump’s nearly 30-point win in the state on Election Day. Democrats entered Nov. 8 with a 53-47 majority, but Republicans ultimately walked away with a 64-36 supermajority.

“We got hit by a tsunami named Hurricane Donald, and if you look at the results in district by district by district, it’s pretty apparent that a lot of new voters came out and a lot of voters who came out that were registered Democrats that probably had been traditional Democrats by and large were voting for Donald Trump and voting the straight Republican ticket,” he said.

Stumbo also touched on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s comments on the coal industry, which were used against him in television ads by the Republican State Leadership Committee.

He noted that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said whether the industry will rebound depends on the private market once federal regulations are repealed. Voters should hold those in power accountable if jobs in the coalfields don’t return, he said.

“If those commitments come true, then obviously it’s a feather in their cap,” Stumbo said. “If they don’t, then I would expect the people of Kentucky would be upset about that.”

The House committee investigating Gov. Matt Bevin’s handling of a Jessamine County road project will continue, according to Stumbo, who hopes it can complete its work by the first week of January.

Whether Stumbo’s political career will continue is another story. Stumbo, who thought his campaign as Bruce Lunsford’s running mate in the 2007 gubernatorial primary would be his last, said “never say never” in politics.

His immediate plans include spending time with family and refocusing on his legal practice. Stumbo, a longtime legislator and one-term attorney general, is a partner at Morgan & Morgan.

“We’ll see what happens, but at my age it’s probably less likely,” Stumbo said. “There are rising stars in our party. There are rising stars in Kentucky, and I think the future’s bright.”

Stumbo, who said he would not be giving up his customized cowboy boots or license plate that identify him as House speaker when he hands the gavel to Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover, also had choice words for Bevin, who said “good riddance” after the House speaker lost his re-election campaign by 6 points.

Stumbo said he had “been called a lot worse things by a hell of a lot better men than him.”

“I could care less what Matt Bevin thinks about me,” he said. “I don’t think very highly of him either.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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