Independent Sen. Leeper won't seek Democratic votes for Senate presidency

11/12/2012 11:53 AM

The emergence of independent Sen. Bob Leeper into the Senate presidency race has further confused the post-David Williams outlook in the state Senate — a picture that already resembled a Jackson Pollock painting.

Leeper, a former Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent from Paducah, said he plans to win the Republican nomination for Senate president during the Dec. 13-14 GOP caucus retreat. And he said he has no plans to court Democratic votes to win the presidency when the full chamber votes for its leader at the start of the 2013 General Assembly in January.

“No, not at all. I intend to come out of caucus with the most votes,” Leeper told Pure Politics by phone on Sunday before meeting with a Republican senator in western Kentucky. A bipartisan coalition picked Sen. Larry Saunders as Senate president in 1997, paving the way for Republicans to take control after Sen. Dan Seum, now the Republican Senate caucus chairman, and Leeper switched parties to join the GOP ranks in 1999.

Leeper is running against Sen. Robert Stivers of Manchester, who has served as the Republican floor leader. They’re vying to replace Williams, who served 12 years as Senate president before accepting an appointment as circuit judge.

Stivers already received public endorsements from key senators such as Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine and both Republicans running for GOP floor leader: Sen. David Givens of Greensburg and Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown.

The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jack Brammer first confirmed Leeper’s interest in the Senate presidency last week.

Leeper, in his pitch to Republican senators, has been positioning himself as the change candidate, considering Stivers served as Williams No. 2 for the last three years.

“It’s a basic difference in styles,” Leeper said.

Leeper said he also doesn’t expect Republicans running for other leadership positions to form slates.

Several other Republican Senators have emerged as potential candidates for leadership.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon confirmed to Pure Politics he is running for Republican whip. Sen. Mike Wilson of Bowling Green, Sen. Brandon Smith of Hazard and potentially Sen. Carroll Gibson of Lietchfield, the incumbent GOP whip, also could seek that office.

And it’s possible that another candidate for Senate presidency could still emerge.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or ryan.alessi@twcnews.com.

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