House GOP taps Rep. Jonathan Shell for new campaign-centric leadership position

01/07/2015 03:07 PM

FRANKFORT — House Republicans picked a slate of three minority leaders for the next two years Tuesday, but the caucus also chose state Rep. Jonathan Shell for a newly created post as chairman of the House GOP campaign committee.

The post isn’t recognized by the Legislative Research Commission as part of the chamber’s leadership organization, but Shell said Wednesday that House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover decided to create the position after last year’s election cycle.

Shell, R-Lancaster, said he earned recognition from U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, congressional Republicans and leaders of his caucus and of Senate Republicans for his role in the House GOP’s fundraising and field organization last fall.

Despite failing to pick up the nine seats necessary to retake control of the House for the first time since 1921 as Democrats retained their 54-46 majority in the fall elections, Shell said the House Republicans raised “an unprecedented” sum, about $500,000 more in 2014 than 2012, through their caucus campaign committee and the Republican Party of Kentucky’s House trust.

“After the election cycle Leader Hoover appointed me to head up a recruitment effort and through further thought on his part and consideration, he decided to make it a formal position that would be elected by the caucus so that it would have greater authority in making phone calls to potential candidates, potential donors and showing them a new day in the state Kentucky House of Representatives,” Shell said in an interview with Pure Politics.

As chairman of the House Republican campaign committee, Shell said his primary focus will be the 2016 election cycle and being the point person for fundraising and candidate recruitment for his caucus. Shell ran unopposed for the position and was confirmed via acclimation, he said, adding he sees his new role as “an opportunity not only to succeed, but also to fail.”

“At this point it’s going to be a lot of work,” he said. “We have a lot of things to do to get ready for the 2016 cycle to ensure that House Republicans are in the best position possible to gain the majority so that we can finally put in the policies that we need for Kentucky to actually succeed, and hopefully that’ll result with a Kentucky governor, a Kentucky state Senate that is completely secured in their position as a majority and hopefully to do the same thing for the House of Representatives for the Republicans.”

Hoover, R-Jamestown, said caucus members had “many discussions” about creating the new position with an emphasis on electing Republicans to the state House. Shell had “taken the lead on the whole issue of campaigns,” making him a top choice for the post.

Shell “is a very hard worker” who “has an extremely strong interest in helping us reach the goal of becoming the majority,” he added.

“He’s actually taken the initiative on many occasions to do things with regard to candidates and fundraising and whatnot, and our caucus recognized his efforts and chose to establish this position upon my recommendation and they elected him unanimously,” Hoover said.

Shell’s increased role in campaigns won’t necessarily improve the chances that Democrats field a candidate in the two-term incumbent’s 71st House District, but like others, he shouldn’t rest on his laurels, said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, adding “I think we’ve all got targets on our backs” in the General Assembly.

“That’s actually a district which we’ve considered competitive in the past, and we’ll be taking a look at it I’m sure as they will our districts,” Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said. “He’s not from a district that is totally safe.”

Stumbo also offered some tongue-in-cheek political well wishes for his colleagues across the aisle as they expand their leadership team.

“I hope they have the same success they’ve had in the past,” he said, smiling.

While he conceded it would take “a Goliath effort” to overcome the Democrats’ majority in the next election cycle, Shell said he’s ready to face the challenge.

“I’m not one for predictions, but we’re going to make sure that we’re put in the best place possible to be able to take the majority in 2016 so that we can elect a Republican speaker,” he said.

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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